The depiction of the God Ganesha eating lamb in a Meat and Livestock Australia ad has angered Indian-Australians. (Youtube: MLA)
Members of the Australian Indian community are angry about a new lamb ad which depicts the Hindu God Ganesha eating meat, despite being widely considered a vegetarian by practitioners of the religion.
The ad depicts religious figures from many religions — including Jesus, Buddha, and Moses — eating together at a backyard barbecue.
At one point Buddha asks: “Should we address the elephant in the room?” to which Ganesha, who is depicted as a man with the head of an elephant and multiple arms, replies: “Not funny 2,500 years ago, not funny now”.
Mohammed calls in at one point apologising for not being able to make it, because he has to pick up kids from day care.
The depiction of Mohammed is considered highly offensive to some Muslims and has resulted in threats of violence against artists and cartoonists.
Indian Society of Western Australia spokesman Nitin Vashisht said the ad was insensitive.
“I don’t think they realise how revered a God Ganesha is within the Hindu community and by and large the Indian community,” he said.
“[He is a] vegetarian teetotaller, and that’s really God for us and most of the Indian community.
“He is shown as … eating lamb and looking for a new marketing strategy for himself [and that] is really very insensitive to the community.”
He said Ganesha was one of Hinduism’s most important gods.
“There is no Indian prayer … [that does not] start with invoking Ganesha first, and there is no Indian temple — it doesn’t matter for whichever god — which [doesn’t have] a Ganesha in there,” he said.
The association is calling for MLA to apologise to the Indian community and pull the ad.
People have also reacted angrily to the ad on social media.
“Ridiculous advertisement by Meat & Livestock Australia. Respecting others faith & culture is often ignored to create controversy and get their few minutes of fame,” Karthik Arasu posted on MLA’s Facebook page.
MLA says ‘intent never to offend’
MLA group marketing manager Andrew Howie said in a statement that the lamb ad campaign promoted unity and inclusivity.
“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,” the statement said.
“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 Vashisht said Australia was a multicultural community and MLA needed to understand how sensitive the issue was for the hundreds of thousands of Hindus living in the community, the majority of whom were vegetarian.
A chequered advertising history
This is not the first time MLA has got into hot water over an advertising campaign.
Earlier this year the group was criticised for depicting Aboriginal Australians celebrating Australia Day with a barbecue.
Last year it was referred to the Advertising Standards Board for an ad which featured high-profile newsreader Lee Lin Chin masterminding an operation to bring Australians home for Australia Day so they could eat lamb.
It included a SWAT-style operation where a vegan was “rescued” and his kale blowtorched.
The board found it did not incite violence against vegans.