Social Media Claim

"Mayor refuses canteen pork ban" post reheats and repeats an old, false story

A January 2020 post transfers a false tale of a mayor's refusal to ban pork to Joondalup, Western Australia and makes an incorrect about insulin.

The Statement

A Facebook post from January 19, 2020, which begins with “WAY TO GO AUSTRALIA”, tells a tale of “the mayor of the Perth suburb of Joondalup” refusing supposed demands from Muslim parents that pork be removed from “all the school canteens”.

The lengthy post goes on to say the town clerk “sent a note to all parents to explain why” before relating the supposed contents of that note.

Beginning with “Muslims must understand that they have to adapt to Australia, its customs, its traditions, its way of life, because that's where they chose to immigrate”, the purported note includes phrases such as “it’s not the Mayor of Joondalup who welcomes foreigners, but the Australian people as a whole”.

Accompanying the text is a photograph of a pig with a caption that begins: “Did you know that insulin used for diabetics is sourced from pig meat”.

The post has been shared more than 300 times, attracted 150 reactions and more than 40 comments.

A Canadian news site reported in 2018 about the resurgence of false claims made in 2015, attributing the letter to the mayor of the City of Dorval, Quebec.

The Analysis

The story of a major refusing to bow to demands from Muslim parents that pork be banned from school canteens has appeared in many variations over a long period, each time attributed to a different mayor in not only a different city but also many different countries.

AAP FactCheck determined that variations of the post have been circulating on social media and in emails for about seven years.

It has been attributed to mayors of Ath in Belgium, Dorval in the Canadian province of Quebec, Harrow in England and Maryborough in Queensland as well as Joondalup.

The post has been debunked and denied multiple times.

Fact-checking website Snopes checked and found false the Ath, Belgium version in 2014, noting that the mayor of Ath had himself issued a public denial in May, 2013, labelling the post “a lie”.

In 2015 the Canadian city of Dorval, Quebec, denounced the same hoax after it was attributed to their mayor.

Canada’s iHeart Radio included a screenshot of the City of Dorval’s 2015 denial when it reported on a recurrence of the false claims in 2018.

Dorval's 2015 denial says in part: “For a number of weeks now, false news has been circulating on social networks, as well as via a string of emails, about the Mayor of Dorval having allegedly refused to follow up on a request from Muslim parents asking him to remove pork from the city’s school cafeterias."

“The City of Dorval wishes to denounce the false article and resents this identity usurpation.”

Despite the denial, AAP FactCheck discovered the claim was still being attributed to the mayor in a Facebook post circulating in July 2018.

A near-identical claim was attributed to the mayor of the London borough of Harrow on January 14, 2016, shared on a UK-based Facebook user’s page.

The earliest example found by AAP FactCheck of the post claiming to take place in Australia is a November 27, 2015, example from a Queensland, user who posted it on the Seven Network’s Sunrise Facebook page. That version assigns the claim to the “mayor of Maryborough”.

There are towns called Maryborough in Queensland and Victoria and, while the post does not indicate which it intends to claim, neither town has a mayor as they are part of larger regional councils.

Maryborough Queensland is part of Fraser Coast Regional Council.

Maryborough Victoria is part of Central Goldfields Shire Council, where the mayor at the time was Geoff Lovett. The Maryborough District Advertiser reported on February 26, 2016, that Mr Lovett denounced the post from the mayoral chair during a Tuesday night council meeting.

Debunking website Hoax Slayer addressed the Maryborough claims in a December, 2015 article, describing the post as “a revamped version of an older hoax that appeared in Belgium”. Hoax Slayer also addressed the Belgium version of the tale in 2014.

The earliest Joondalup version of the story found by AAP FactCheck is an April 20, 2017, post by a Sydney-based user that attracted 11,000 likes, more than 3,000 comments and 17,000 shares.

Following the initial attribution to Joondalup, a spokesperson for the mayor of the City of Joondalup Albert Jacob told fact checkers at AFP FactCheck in May, 2019 that “the email and Facebook post you are referring to is a work of fiction and he is not affiliated with the author nor is he in any way associated with the person/s circulating this material".

AAP FactCheck contacted the City of Joondalup about the 2020 resurrection of the claim and a council spokesman said the organisation stood by the denial of 2019.

“Nothing has changed. The story has been circulating for years - it wasn’t true before and it’s not true now,” the spokesman said.

AAP FactCheck also examined the claim that insulin “is sourced from pig meat” and found it to be false.

Australian Diabetes Society chief executive Sof Andrikopoulos told AAP FactCheck in an emailed response:

“The manufacture of insulin for use in people with diabetes sourced from pig pancreas (not pig meat, as such) was stopped in 2005 and has not been in use since then.”

Associate Professor Andrikopoulos said pig pancreas-derived insulin products were delisted from Australia’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme in April, 2005.

“Since the mid-1980s, when recombinant human insulin was produced commercially in bacteria, the vast majority of people with diabetes who were commenced on insulin therapy have been using human insulin,” he said.

The Verdict

Based on the evidence, AAP FactCheck found that the post to be false. Near-identical versions of the story have been attributed to mayors in various locations around the world for at least seven years and have been repeatedly denied by those claimed as the source or debunked by fact checkers. The claim that insulin is sourced from pig meat is also false.

  • False - The primary claims of the content are factually inaccurate.

First published January 22, 2020, 19:52 AEDT