Lush drops 'spy cops' campaign after backlash and 'intimidation from ex-police officers'

Chain store says its volte-face based on 'safety of staff' 

The Lush window displays are being taken down
The Lush window displays are being taken down

Cosmetics chain Lush has pulled its “spy cops” campaign against undercover policing “for the safety of staff” after complaints from customers, police officers and their families and friends.

The advertising drive was launched to raise awareness of what the company described as the “ongoing undercover policing scandal where officers have infiltrated the lives, homes and beds of activists”.

But five days after announcing they would review it, the firm said it would be dropped.

Shops were adorned with fake police tape and slogans such as “police have crossed the line” and “paid to lie”. Customers were asked to sign a petition and postcards calling for support for the women activists involved.

But the chain was heavily criticised. Some accused it of running an anti-police campaign, while others claimed it was unfairly targeting the vast majority of hard-working officers.

Within 24 hours, Lush, which prides itself on its ethical policies, accused former police officers of intimidating staff and said it would weigh up what steps to take.

“Whilst intimidation of our shop staff from ex-police officers and unhelpful tweets from those in high office are ongoing, not all of our shops feel able today to have the campaign window in their shops,” the company said last week.

“However, the campaign is still running for three weeks and we will be constantly weighing up what to do about the situation.”

Now all signs of the campaign, including posters, postcards, logos and mock police tape are being pulled from stores.

In an updated statement, Lush said: “For the safety of our staff, we have suspended the window.”

The company declined to say how many instances of intimidation staff had reported.

The campaign that coincided with a public inquiry into undercover policing, was intended to highlight that female activists on environmental and social issues were tricked by covert officers into having long-term relationships with men who they thought were just as serious about it as they were. Some of them had children together.

In some cases the undercover officers took the names of dead babies as part of their fake profiles.

The women involved are campaigning for more information on the officers to be released and want a panel of experts to assist the inquiry chairman.

Lush lent its backing to the women with its campaign, which it said was designed to urge home secretary Sajid Javid to listen to activists who believe the inquiry is protecting officers.

On social media, a #FlushLush hashtag became popular, in an attempt to convince users to boycott the store.

It also came under fire for allegedly deleting reviews on Facebook that were critical of the #SpyCops drive. One user said he was locked out of his Facebook account after leaving a negative review.

Another user, Sarah Michelle, wrote: “Turns out Lush deleted my review.... so I left another one! Let’s see who backs down first.”

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