In Depth

Australian lamb advert sparks diplomatic protest

India lodges formal complaint over ad’s depiction of Hindu god

India has made a formal diplomatic complaint to the Australian government over a “crude and deplorable” lamb advert featuring the vegetarian Hindu god Ganesha.

The ad, released by Meat and Livestock Australia, shows the elephant-headed deity sitting down for a lamb lunch alongside Jesus, Zeus and a host other religious figures. At the end of the advert, the various religious figures toast lamb as “the meat we can all eat”.  

Not so, say some members of Australia’s Hindu community. The faith generally portrays Ganesha as a vegetarian. Although the deity is not shown actually consuming meat in the advert, bare bones can be seen on his plate.

In a statement posted to Facebook, the Hindu Council of Australia said the  “crude and deplorable” advert had “outraged and angered the entire Hindu community in Australia and overseas” and urged Australian Hindus to contact their MPs.

However, some commenters objected to the council’s characterisation. “The entire Hindu community is NOT offended,” one commenter wrote, while another said the advert was “super funny”.

The advert has also attracted the displeasure of India, home to 1 billion of the world’s 1.15 billion Hindus.

The High Commission of India in Canberra said it had made a formal diplomatic representation - a “demarche” in consular jargon - to three Australian government departments, the BBC reports. The Commission said that showing Ganesha joining other deities in a toast to lamb, “hurt the religious sentiments of the Indian community”.

MLA spokesman Andrew Howie defended the advert, saying the various deities were depicted in “a clearly fantastic nature”.

“Our intent is never to offend, but rather acknowledge that lamb is a meat consumed by a wide variety of cultures and capture how the world could look if people left their differing views at the door and came to the table with open arms, and minds,” he said.

The Australian Advertising Standards Bureau said it had received around 50 complaints about the advert regarding “a number of faiths”, says News.com.au.

The ad also portrays Buddha, a Jedi knight and Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, while one character comments that the Prophet Mohammed “can’t make an appearance” - a reference to Islam’s strict prohibition on depictions of the Prophet.

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