The high street chain has adorned its storefronts with fake police tape saying “police have crossed the line”.
The campaign, which has been using the #spycops hashtag to promote itself on social media, features a model whose face is divided into being a police officer in uniform and an undercover activist. It is captioned with the slogan: “Paid to lie.”
Lush describes the campaign as an attempt to raise awareness of the “ongoing undercover policing scandal where officers have infiltrated the lives, homes and beds of activists”.
Since 1968 a number of women have had relationships with undercover police officers while remaining unaware they were adopting false identities to infiltrate the groups the women were part of. Towards the end of 2010 and during 2011 it was revealed a number of undercover police officers had in some cases proposed marriage or fathered children with protesters.
A public inquiry into claims of wrongdoing by undercover officers who infiltrated activist groups in England and Wales was established in 2015.
Police have criticised Lush for the campaign – with Greater Manchester police officer Sgt Mike Duzinkewycz saying he had worked for Lush before joining the police.
“I worked for @LushLtd for years before I joined the police, and I’m heartbroken by this,” he said. “Lush stands alone among many for its strong ethical foundation and the commitment of its staff, just like the police. We should be standing together.”
Christine Fulton, the widow of police constable Lewis Fulton, who was killed while on duty in 1994, said she was “appalled”.
“Who do Lush call when they have a shoplifter, their staff are abused or their stores broken into? Hang your heads in shame,” she said.
Lush, whose headquarters are in Poole in Dorset, sought to defend the campaign. “To clear this up, this isn’t an anti-police campaign, it’s to highlight the abuse that people face when their lives have been infiltrated by undercover police,” the company tweeted.
In a statement released on its website, the brand said: “Lush will be hosting a national campaign to raise awareness of the ongoing undercover policing scandal, where officers have infiltrated the lives, homes and beds of activists.
“The campaign will support the already active #SpyCops conversation and aims to highlight the current lack of progress of the Undercover Policing Inquiry and the granting of anonymity to key police witnesses.”
Lush has said its campaign was intended to urge the home secretary, Sajid Javid, to listen to campaigners who have accused the inquiry of endeavouring to protect officers.
Lush’s Facebook page has been hit with one-star ratings and the hashtag #FlushLush – a campaign to boycott the company – has gained increasing traction on Twitter. Its UK Facebook page has also been bombarded with negative reviews.
The Advertising Standards Authority said it was “assessing the complaints” made against the Lush campaign and the company is currently not under investigation.
The Independent contacted Lush for further comment.