The Advertising Standards Bureau is fast-tracking an investigation into the latest Meat & Livestock Australia Lamb ad featuring Lee Lin Chin after it received dozens of complaint about the treatment of a vegan and the burning of his table in the ad.
Viewers have complained about the levels of violence in the ad
The annual campaign launched online over the weekend, runs on free-to-air and subscription TV from today, and promotes Operation Boomerang with the quirky SBS newsreader promising that no Australian will be forced to spend Australia Day trapped overseas.
In the ad by The Monkeys, a strike force of commandos led by “lambassador” Sam Kekovich fans out across the globe to rescue expats.
In one scene rescuers smash their way into the home of a man in New York reassuring him: “Don’t worry mate, in a few hours you’ll be eating lamb on the beach”.
Cowering on the ground the man cries “But I’m a vegan now”.
Commanders order the team to abort the rescue and the ad then cuts to a shot of one of the commandos burning the vegan’s table with a flame thrower.
By mid morning the ASB said it had received more than 50 complaints, some complaining that the ad was offensive to vegans, but the majority raising concerns about the levels of violence portrayed in the ad and the burning of the table.
Overnight, the number of complaints grew from 50 to more than 240 as concerns about the treatment of vegans, the flamethrower scene and the offence cause to indigenous Australians by the concept of Operation Boomerang celebrating what they have dubbed “Invasion Day”.
Previously the most complained about Lamb Australia Day ad in 2014 had drawn just 80 complaints.
“The violence is the main issue people are complaining about,” said a spokesperson for the ASB.
She said the bureau was fast-tracking a hearing into the complaints given the number that had been received and the short media schedule planned for the campaign.
The lamb Australia Day commercials have often courted controversy with attacks on vegetarians and vegans, with star of the very first ad, Sam Kekovich slamming then as “unAustralian” and declaring “the soap avoiding, pot smoking vegetarians may disagree with me, but they can get stuffed. They know the way to the airport”.
Meat & Livestock Australia marketing director Andrew Howie told Mumbrella last week the brand always liked to poke some fun at non-meat eaters.
The ASB said it would be working to review the complaints before the campaign completed its media run.
In 2014 the ASB dismissed complaints about the Australia Day ad featuring Kekovich which drew 80 complaints.