City News

Lamb advert meats hostility

Religious leaders unite in opposition to the Meat and Livestock Association's advert for lamb. Photo: Alex Eugene

BY ALEX EUGENE

Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) are being grilled again because of their latest “You never lamb alone” ad, which has caused deep offence to several religious groups, particularly Hindus and Indian Australians. The video depicted a barbeque attended by a group of religious leaders, prophets and Gods, and poked fun at various figures including Jesus, Buddha and the Hindu God Lord Ganesha.

The organisation has come under fire for its lamb ads before, first in 2016 for allegedly inciting violence against vegans, and again earlier this year with an Australia Day ad accused of trivializing colonisation.

The latest ad encouraged Australians to put lamb on the table because it was “the meat we can all eat,” but ironically, community leaders from Christianity, Buddhism, and Hinduism have come together to condemn the video.

A joint statement signed by Senior Greek Orthodox Christian Priest Stephen R. Karcher, Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, Buddhist Priest Matthew T. Fisher and Jewish Rabbi Elizabeth Webb Beyer said that “unnecessarily dragging religious figures, who are highly revered by the adherents of their respective faiths, to sell Australian lamb meat was very disrespectful, highly inappropriate and could be disturbing for some faithful.”

Mr Zed said Lord Ganesha is known to be vegetarian and that the ad could even go as far as affecting lamb sales internationally.

“Seeing the apparent stubbornness of [the MLA] continuing with its “You Never Lamb Alone” video ad…despite universal condemnation, Hindus may launch worldwide boycott of Australian lamb meat,” he said.

“Linking Lord Ganesha with meat was very disrespectful and highly inappropriate,” Mr Zed added.

The group statement urged the MLA to withdraw the ad immediately because it belittled important religious leaders.

The group also contacted the Australian Advertising Standards Bureau asking them to take action after several complaints were lodged about the ad, and the matter is now under investigation.

Anumpam Ghosh, a Haare Krishna (a religion which has its origins in Hinduism) said advertising should stay away from religion.

“It’s not right. If Krishna had been in the ad, I would be upset,” he said.

“Everyone gets upset when non-Christian religions are made fun of. But no one says anything when Christianity is ridiculed,” said Antoinette Zeane, a Christian woman from the inner west.

But Jagraj Singh, a Sikh and an Indian national living in Australia, says people get too worried about such things.

“In Sikhism, we don’t have any Gods. Our leader said not to follow idols. So no one can hurt us,” he explained.

The ad also attracted a backlash on Australian social media.

“I for one will be boycotting lamb because of your offensive puerile ad,” said one poster.

“This is absolutely disgusting and very offensive. Please remove the ad,” said another.

One Buddhist also weighed in: “As a Buddhist, I find this ad considerably inappropriate and can understand why this has been upsetting and offensive to many who are vegetarian as part of their spiritual practice.”

President of the Council of Indian Australians Mohit Kumar said: “If Meat and Livestock Australia had consulted properly, they would have been told that depicting Lord Ganesha in this way is highly inappropriate.”

To make matters even more cringeworthy, the ad was released in early September, which fell at the same time as the festival Ganesh Chaturthi. Mr Kumar said the timing made the ad particularly hurtful to the Hindu community.

But the MLA has defended their position, claiming that the lamb ad campaign promoted “unity and inclusivity.”

“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,” said a spokesperson for the organisation.

The spokesperson also said that they would be “taking up the matter at their next meeting” but did not provide a timeframe for when it would occur.

Nishit Vashisht, another high-profile Indian community figure, said: “I don’t think [the MLA] realise how revered a God Ganesha is within the Hindu community and by and large the Indian community.”

Mr Vashisht said the ad was extremely insensitive.

Despite the MLA making light of the situation, others have speculated that the organisation may have deliberately left the Islamic prophet, Mohammed, out of the ad, in case it sparked a backlash in the Muslim community.

The MLA did not respond when City Hub questioned them on whether they would issue an apology to the people offended by the ad.

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