Many Australians don’t support a name change of Coon cheese. Picture: supplied
Many Australians don’t support a name change of Coon cheese. Picture: supplied

Coon cheese name may change amid ‘racist’ claims

The debate over Coon cheese isn't over just yet.

According to The Australian, Saputo, the Canadian owners of Coon, are actively considering a name change and will investigate claims from Indigenous Australians that the dairy company's name is racist.

The news comes in the wake of the global Black Lives Matter movement, which has seen companies from food and beverage brands to football teams around the world change their names.

According to the company, Coon cheese originally took its name in 1926 from American Edward William Coon, who was responsible for the original product. This history has been challenged by some Australians.

Saputo took over Coon cheese in 2015 as part of its purchase of Lion Dairy and Drinks - Coon's parent company.

Indigenous Australians have been campaigning to have the name of Coon cheese changed for decades. Picture: Peter Ristevski
Indigenous Australians have been campaigning to have the name of Coon cheese changed for decades. Picture: Peter Ristevski

Last month, Australian businessman, diplomat and activist Dr Stephen Hagan appealed to Saputo to consider a name change on racist grounds, telling the company's chief executive, Lino Saputo Jr: "People of colour, especially First Nations people in Australia, are offended by that brand name in use in this country since November 1935, as it is a celebrated term used by our oppressors - many of which are found in government, corporate and civic leader ranks - to demean and subjugating us as a race."

Hagan also claimed the name should be "consigned to the past of outdated racist brands''.

A Saputo representative has since responded to Dr Hagan via email, saying, "One of our basic principles as an organisation is to respect individuals and groups of all backgrounds and to not condone discrimination in any shape or form,'' according to The Australian.

It continues: "This guiding belief applies to our brand names as well. We would never tolerate any behaviour, activity or branding that goes against these values. As such, we are currently examining this situation very thoroughly and commit to getting back to you with a response in the coming weeks.''

Dr Stephen Hagan has written to Saputo, the parent company of Coon, to request the cheese’s name be changed. Picture: Lenn Campbell
Dr Stephen Hagan has written to Saputo, the parent company of Coon, to request the cheese’s name be changed. Picture: Lenn Campbell

Dr Hagan previously complained to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission about the name in 1999, however his bid to see the brand dumped was unsuccessful.

Following the Black Lives Matter movement, Allen's has removed Chicos and Red Skins lollies from shelves, and on Friday, the US Red Skins football team official changed their name to the Washington Football Team.

Dr Hagan has said he is "heartened" by Saputo's response, telling The Australian, "First Nations people and people of colour shouldn't have to tolerate the visual ugliness of Coon cheese products positioned prominently in the dairy aisles in supermarkets."

"If they do the right thing and change the brand name, I hope conservative Australia accepts the decision and not allow their recalcitrant stance to the contrary define them as bigots holding fervently on to a relic of a racist past," Dr Hagan said.

Originally published as Coon cheese name may change amid 'racist' claims


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