MLA lamb ad complaints reach Australian government

Arvind Hickman
By Arvind Hickman | 11 September 2017
Lord Ganesha starred in the ad promoting lamb

The Australian government has received a complaint from the Indian High Commission over Meat and Livestock Australia’s controversial lamb ad.

The complaint is the highest escalation to date of a backlash against the ad’s depiction of Hindu god Lord Ganesha.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade told AdNews the Indian High Commission had raised concerns about what it feels is an inappropriate depiction of a revered Hindu god to sell meat.

In a statement, DFAT said: “The Indian High Commission has raised with DFAT its concerns about an advertisement produced by Meat & Livestock Australia. We understand the advertisement has been referred to the independent Advertising Standards Board (ASB) for review.

“The guidelines administered by the ASB focus on maintaining community standards in advertising. The ASB manages the complaint resolution process for the advertising self-regulation system in Australia.”

The ad has received dozens of complaints to the ASB and is being assessed to see whether it meets community advertising standards. 

The spot stars an L. Ron Hubbard look-a-like (founder of the Church of Scientology), Jesus, an alien, a Buddhist and other gods and goddesses assembled around a table enjoying a feast of lamb.

The inclusion of Lord Ganesha has riled up Hindus for associating the remover of obstacles with “mercantile greed”. Ganesha is also a vegetarian, adding considerable fuel to the fire.

The High Commission of India, Canberra, taking note of the protests of Indian community in Australia, have made a demarche to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Department of Communication and Arts and Department of Agriculture bringing to their notice an offensive advertisement by Meat and Livestock Australia that hurt the religious sentiments of the Indian community,” the High Commission of India in Australia said in a release.

“In a video advertisement released by Meat and Livestock Australia recently, Lord Ganesha along with other religious figures is found to be ‘toasting lamb’, which the Indian community consider to be offensive and hurting their religious sentiments.”

It’s not just Hindus calling for the ban.

Senior Greek Orthodox Christian priest Stephen R. Karcher, Buddhist priest Matthew T. Fisher and Jewish Rabbi in Nevada-California ElizaBeth Webb Beyer have joined Hindu statesmen Rajan Zed to denounce the use of religious figures to sell meat, which they say trivialises religion.

They join a chorus of worshippers to call for the ad to be pulled, while Zed would like to see MLA heads roll, demanding the resignation of board chair Michele Allan and managing director Richard Norton.

“With strong condemnation of this insensitive ad world over, MLA appeared to be harming it ‘core focus’ of delivering value to its 50,000 levy paying members by growing demand for red meat,” the president of Universal Society of Hinduism said in a strongly-worded statement.

In an interview with AdNews, MLA head marketer Andrew Howie said the ad was never intended to offend.

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