• Lord Ganesh among other deities are depicted in the new Meat and Livestock advertisement about lamb. (YouTube / We Love our Lamb)
Australia's Advertising Standards Bureau (ASB) will investigate complaints made about an 'insensitive' lamb campaign that has angered the religious community.
By
Louise Cheer

6 Sep - 12:52 PM  UPDATED 6 Sep - 5:58 PM

Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) came underfire this week after they launched its latest marketing campaign featuring actors portraying Jesus, Lord Ganesh, L. Ron Hubbard and Buddha.

So far the ASB has received about 30 complaints about the ad, which will be discussed by the board at their next meeting.

An ASB spokesperson told SBS World News most people who complained about the ad cited discrimination and vilification on the grounds of religion.

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But Meat and Livestock Australia said it had never intended to offend anyone with its new campaign.

"Lamb is the meat that brings people together. Our 'You Never Lamb Alone' campaigns have promoted the value of unity and inclusivity. This latest campaign instalment is no different," MLA Group marketing manager Andrew Howie said.

“The campaign features gods, prophets and deities from across a wide range of religions alongside atheism, in a clearly fantastic nature, with the intent of being as inclusive as possible. To achieve this we undertook extensive research and consultation.

“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.”

Mr Howie also pointed out Ganesh was sitting across the table from Buddha who was another vegetarian.

"Neither of them are eating meat or drinking wine but they were willing participants at the party which we would hope everyone can come together and celebrate their difference," he said.

One of the groups in uproar over the campaign is Australia's Hindu community.

Hindu Council of Ausralia spokesperson Balesh Dhankhar said they were "very hurt and angry about this ad campaign".

"The reason being the Hindu community cannot imagine their deity, Lord Ganesh in this case, as eating meat," he told SBS World News.

Mr Dhankhar said most people who follow Hinduism were vegetarians and seeing Lord Ganesh in this manner was "very insulting".

He said the Hindu community was one of the fastest growing in Australia and seeing the deity depicted in this manner went against the country's values.

"It creates a backlash and… it's against the multicultural and multiethnic fabric of Australia," Mr Dhankhar said.

"All in all this is very un-Australian and against the principles of Australia and creates a divide in different communities."

Others echoed Mr Dhankhar's sentiments online.

"This is a disrespect to Hindu Religion, hurting our sentiments and a senseless campaign. Your team has got it to Totally wrong by implying Lord Ganesha is having Lamb at dinner table with other Gods," Anuj Gupta wrote on MLA's Facebook page.

"For your information Hindu Gods and meat do not go together. I demand an unconditionally apology and you revoke this campaign immediately."

"This is very low and disheartening that you would hurt the religious sentiments of others just to promote your business. I suggest you remove this advertisement and post an apology," another viewer Charles Thomson said.

But there were some people who defended the ad, saying they did not find it offensive.

"As a millennial Hindu... this advert is perfectly fine," Abhi Sen said.

"But yes some older and more conservative members of the Australian Hindu community would not like it... if they had their way they would want to make all of us vegetarian."

"I think it's fresh and entertaining. Nice work MLA," Kati Jenkins wrote.

Mr Howie said the reaction on social media to the campaign had been "overwhelmingly positive" but the backlash was not something he had planned on.

"We are seeing well over a million views and several thousands [of] shares of the content," he told SBS World News.

"The backlash is somewhat unexpected. We did spend a lot of time consulting and aiming to be respectful of the range of religions we have depicted."