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Ad watchdog bans MLA’s religious lamb ad after ‘substantial flaw’ found in its initial decision

The Advertising Standards Board has banned Meat and Livestock Australia’s ad featuring a meat-eating Lord Ganesha despite initially deciding the ad had not breached any rules.

An independent reviewer was appointed to provide a secondary recommendation to the Ad Standards Board after it received over 200 complaints and Christian, Hindu, Buddhist and Jewish leaders urged for the ad to be banned.The Board has now upheld the complaint claiming MLA gave “inadequate consideration to how seriously some Australians take their religious views”.

The ad created by The Monkeys features gods, goddesses, religious figures and aliens all sharing lamb in a non-religious woman’s backyard. Islam’s Muhammad is noticeably absent from the backyard gathering, with Jesus questioning why the prophet can’t make an appearance.

It attracted criticism from the Hindu community with Rajan Zed, president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, said the ad “seemed to make fun of Lord Ganesha”.

“Lord Ganesha was highly revered in Hinduism and he was meant to be worshipped in temples or home shrines and not to be used in selling lamb meat for mercantile greed,” Zed continued.

According to the independent reviewer, the initial ruling by the ad watchdog showed “substantial flaws”. The Board had initially dismissed the complaints based on the Board’s view that vegetarianism wasn’t central to the Hindu faith, the fact that Lord Ganesha didn’t actually eat the meat in the ad and the belief that the ad was in a light-hearted and humorous tone.

The independent reviewer also noted there was a flaw “in the process by which the decision is made” as it relied on the internet for research and the Board doesn’t have the qualifications to make decisions about the Hindu faith.

“On all the information available I am satisfied that the Board has made a substantial flaw in its determination,” the reviewer concluded.

“After taking into account the Independent Reviewer’s finding that the Board gave insufficient weight to the views of complainants in regards to the Elephant Comment, the Board determined that the advertisement breached section 2.1 of the Code (Discrimination or Vilification Religion) and upheld complaints, the Board has now concluded.

Responding to the ruling MLA said it “respectfully disagrees” and reiterates “the advertisement was conceived and intended to promote religious inclusiveness in a light hearted and humorous manner”.

The ad has since been removed from MLA’s social channels.

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