News, Culture & Society

TV chef Peter Russell-Clarke who was the face of Coon faces slams decision to ditch cheese name

Pioneering Australian TV chef Peter Russell-Clarke has spoken out against changing the name of Coon cheese because of unfortunate racist connotations.

The cheese brand’s Canadian owners Saputo have confirmed the 85-year-old cheese brand – named after American dairy innovator Edward William Coon – will be replaced, following complaints from Aboriginal activists during the past two decades. 

Russell-Clarke, who was the face of Coon cheese in television advertisements during the early 1990s, has spoken out against ditching the name, which is a derogatory term for black people.

‘I think it’s ridiculous,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.

Peter Russell-Clarke, the 84-year-old former host of ABC-TV’s Come and Get It program, has a grandson of African heritage and said ditching the Coon cheese brand would do nothing to address racism

‘Are we going to change the name of the raccoon, do you think? 

‘Should we cut off the beaks of cockatoos to make sure the black beaks aren’t offensive to the white of the cockatoo?’ 

Russell-Clarke said Coon’s owners should be more concerned about maintaining the quality of their cheese than ditching a 85-year-old name to ‘suit the whim of the time’.

The 84-year-old former host of ABC-TV’s Come and Get It program has a grandson of African heritage and said ditching the Coon cheese brand would do nothing to address racism.

‘I don’t think blacks are any better than whites and I don’t think whites are any better than purple,’ he said.

‘I know some s**thouse black people and I know some s*** house white people.’

Russell-Clarke, who is now in COVID-19 lockdown as a resident of the Mitchell Shire north of Melbourne, joked that political correctness was now affecting his home cooking in isolation.

‘I make sure that I don’t burn any food because if it turns black then I’d have to be worried,’ he said. 

Russell-Clarke, who was the face of Coon cheese in television advertisements during the early 1990s, has spoken out against ditching the name, which is a derogatory term for black people

Russell-Clarke, who was the face of Coon cheese in television advertisements during the early 1990s, has spoken out against ditching the name, which is a derogatory term for black people

The cheese brand's Canadian owners Saputo have confirmed the 85-year-old cheese brand - named after American dairy innovator Edward William Coon - will be replaced, following complaints from Aboriginal activists during the past two decades

The cheese brand’s Canadian owners Saputo have confirmed the 85-year-old cheese brand – named after American dairy innovator Edward William Coon – will be replaced, following complaints from Aboriginal activists during the past two decades

The zany former TV personality and food industry spokesman was born in 1935, the same year the Warrnambool Cheese and Butter company launched Coon cheese.

Canadian dairy giant Saputo, which bought the Victorian company in 2017, released a statement on Friday confirming the long-standing name would be replaced.

‘After thorough consideration, Saputo has decided to retire the COON® brand name,’ it said.

‘We are working to develop a new brand name that will honour the brand-affinity felt by our valued consumers while aligning with current attitudes and perspectives.

‘We believe we all share in the responsibility to eliminate racism in all its forms and we feel this is an important step we must take to uphold this commitment.’

The American Black Lives Matter movement has gathered momentum since the death in May of African-American man George Floyd in Minneapolis, at the hands of a white police officer.

Canadian dairy giant Saputo, which bought the Victorian company in 2017, released a statement on Friday

Canadian dairy giant Saputo, which bought the Victorian company in 2017, released a statement on Friday

Russell-Clarke said Coon's owners should be more concerned about maintaining the quality of their cheese than ditching a 85-year-old name to 'suit the whim of the time'

Russell-Clarke said Coon’s owners should be more concerned about maintaining the quality of their cheese than ditching a 85-year-old name to ‘suit the whim of the time’

This led to global protests and social media campaigns to review names and pull down statues of colonial-era figures. 

Celebrities from Australia, including comedian Josh Thomas, have campaigned for the Coon cheese name to be ditched while the Nestle confectionery giant has scrapped the Redskins lolly name so Native Americans aren’t offended.

Russell-Clarke suggested a new statue of Captain Cook be put up to commemorate how he had been killed by indigenous residents of Hawaii in 1779, nine years after the British naval explorer had discovered the east coast of Australia.

‘I also don’t think we should pull down the statues of Captain Cook; maybe we should put up a statue and say that he was speared by people of colour,’ he said.

The Coon cheese commercial he fronted in 1994 featured a series of towns starting with Coon including Coonamble and Coonabarabran in New South Wales, Coonalpyn and Coonawarra in South Australia, and Coonooer Bridge and Coongulmerang in Victoria. 

There have been no moves to rename those towns, but places with the n-word in their name have been replaced in Victoria and Queensland. 

Celebrities from Australia, including comedian Josh Thomas (pictured), have campaigned for the Coon cheese name to be ditched while the Nestle confectionery giant has scrapped the Redskins lolly name so American Indians aren't offended

Celebrities from Australia, including comedian Josh Thomas (pictured), have campaigned for the Coon cheese name to be ditched while the Nestle confectionery giant has scrapped the Redskins lolly name so American Indians aren’t offended

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk