A group of celebrities have initiated a campaign against Russia’s largest pork company Miratorg urging citizens to not purchase anything under the company’s labels as a result of several statements made by Viktor Linnik, Miratorg president in a recent interview to Forbes.
Mr Linnik enraged Russian consumers, calling them ‘balabols’, a rude word commonly used in Russia for people talking too much and doing too little. How did it get this far?
A request by the National Meat Association
The outrage began a few weeks ago, when Russia’s National Meat Association (NMA) called on Russia’s deputy prime minister Alexey Gorgeev. The association had the following request: citizens should not be allowed to take meat and milk products with them in hand luggage when travelling in or out of Russia.
The NMA justified the introduction of the new restrictions with the threat of various animal diseases, in the first place African Swine Fever (ASF).
For instance, Vadim Dymov, owner of the company Dymov, a member of the NMA just like Miratorg, explained that the aim of all these measures was to protect the domestic meat industry and not to further increase sales of the Russian meat manufacturers.
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Many Russians bring meat back
Currently, Russians are allowed to carry up to 5kg of meat and milk products per person during the custom clearance, even when they return from the European Union, or other countries subjected to the 2014 food embargo. Over the past few years, that has become a tradition as most Russians returning from Europe use that opportunity.
The proposal led to an outcry on Russia’s social media networks, where users claimed that “the authorities were trying to leave them without one of the few opportunities to taste some good quality food that is impossible to find in the country these days.”
Statements by Miratorg president
That was when Mr Linnik made his statements. He explained his phrases by saying that the “society must think about the development of the country and not about Iberian ham and or Parmesan cheese,” adding that “they [Russian citizens] got hysterical over nothing.”
Results: Boycott and criticism
A boycott to Miratorg meat products is currently gaining traction. Several celebrities are supporting the campaign and even Russian officials criticised Mr Linnik for his words, including Gennady Onishenko, a member of Russia’s parliament and a former chief sanitary doctor. In addition, a few Russian restaurants refuse to use meat manufactured by Miratorg.
So far, the company has not made any official statement in response to that campaign.