MLA’s meat-eating Ganesha ad cleared by advertising watchdog

Meat and Livestock Australia’s controversial lunch-of-the-gods ad has not breached any rules, the Advertising Standards Board has decided.

The ad, created by The Monkeys, depicts gods, goddesses, religious figures and aliens all sharing lamb in an atheist’s backyard, and aims to position the lamb as the meat which more people can eat.

However it was not well received by many upon launch, with the MLA receiving instantaneous reaction for putting lamb on Hindu deity Ganesha’s plate – as believers see him as a vegetarian.

The ad saw The High Commission of India in Australia make a “demarche” to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Department of Communications and Arts and Department of Agriculture.

And Christian, Hindi, Buddhist and Jewish leaders joined together on what they described as a “remarkable interfaith gesture”, urging MLA to think again.

Some of the complaints made to the ASB included:

  • “Seeing someone like our Lord Ganesha being offered meat is highly offensive as it is considered a sin to offer meat to God. The tradition has been developed several thousand years ago and has been going on generations after generations.”

  • The ad makers show sensitivity towards Muslim sentiments by NOT SHOWING Muhammad, how can then they fail to acknowledge the offense they caused by linking Hindu and Buddhist gods to meat.”

  • “As a devout Christian, I personally found the depiction and discussion of Jesus Christ highly offensive and saw no humour in using Him to sell a product or incorporated into the idea of all faiths coming together to have a meal.”

But MLA stood its ground.

It argued allegations the ad “discriminates or vilifies” people were unfounded, with the video celebrating religious diversity.

The lamb ad “celebrates religious diversity”, according to the ASB

“The guests at the dinner table are clearly intended to be symbolic of modern day people who follow different faiths such as Christianity, Hinduism, Scientology and “no religion” in the case of the dinner party host. The Advertisement portrays that, while there are many topics upon which different religions diverge, maybe lamb can bring everyone together,” said the MLA submission.

The company added it had undertaken “appropriate research” and consulted with two external experts in the field of multi-faith religious studies from Australian Universities.

Commenting specifically on the offensiveness to Hindus, they wrote: “Our understanding is that the Hindu faith does not forbid meat eating and that, while many Hindus abstain from eating beef (given the sacred nature of the cow to the faith), lamb is not similarly characterised.

“Whilst some members of the Hindu community may have taken offence to the depiction of Ganesh at a table with other gods (including those that are eating meat and drinking alcohol), the underlying message of the Advertisement is that lamb (unlike other meats) is something that can be enjoyed as a matter of choice by people of various religions.

“We respectfully submit that any offence which has been taken is not the result of any contravention of the Code,” it said.

The statement “elephant in the room” was argued to be a humorous reference to Ganesh and a tongue in cheek reference to the fact some topics (such as potentially religion) are not discussed at dinner parties. According to guidelines, the ASB does not prohibit the use of religious concepts in advertising, MLA pointed out.

On the topic of offending Christians, MLA said Jesus converting wine into water was a “humorous” tongue in cheek reference to the first miracle attributed.

It added: “Importantly, the scene does not portray Jesus in a negative light or suggest that any of his “miracles” are trivia to Jesus.”

While some complainants had pointed out discrimination and vilification, MLA said the advertisement did quite the opposite.

“All of the guests at the table are depicted poking fun at each other in a manner consistent with what a group of friends might do at a social gathering, with no particular person being treated more or less favourably than a person with another religious belief.”

The company also said the ad did not incite hatred towards, or contempt of any particular religious group.

“Historically, the ASB has considered advertisements that make light of religious concepts. In those cases, the ASB has considered that “irreverent, light-hearted use of religious concepts is generally not in breach of the Code, even though the Board accepts that some members of the public are likely to be offended by such use,” MLA added.

It considered the depiction of Lord Ganesha was “symbolic” of the Hindu faith, and his inclusion was part of the message for an inclusive “multi-faith meal.”

The Board also considered the depiction of Jesus, but said light-hearted use of religious concepts is generally not in breach of the Code.

After considerable discussion, the Board cleared MLA on all accounts, with the majority deciding the overall tone of the advertisement was light-hearted and humorous, and intended to be inclusive “in a manner which promotes a harmonious and multi-faith environment.”


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