USE of Lord Ganesha’s image in a colourful new lamb promotion campaign has ignited anger from a Hindu leader demanding Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) remove the offensive advertising immediately.
Lord Ganesha is considered one of most worshiped gods in the Hindu religion and most popular in India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Nepal.
But his image appears alongside other leading religious icons like Jesus, Moses, Aphrodite and Zeus in the new MLA advertising campaign, chatting and eating lamb at a fictional BBQ.
“So shall we address the elephant in the room?” Buddha says in the video commercial.
Lord Ganesha replies, “Not funny 2500 years ago – not funny now”.
Scientology also rates a mention while a woman featured in the advert with an Australian accent is asked what her religion is and replies “I’m no religion – which is the fastest growing religion in Australia based on recently published census data”.
In response, the Lord Ganesha character says “We really need a better marketing team”.
But President of Universal Society of Hinduism Rajan Zed said the new “You Never Lamb Alone” video seemed to make fun of Lord Ganesha who was meant to be worshipped in temples or home shrines and not used in selling lamb meat for mercantile greed.
“Moreover, linking Lord Ganesha with meat was very disrespectful and highly inappropriate,” he said in a statement that named and urged MLA Chair Dr Michele Allan and Managing Director Richard Norton to issue an official apology and withdraw the advert immediately.
“MLA should be mature enough to understand that ‘love united us and brought us together and not lamb meat’.”
Rajan Zed said inappropriate usage of Hindu deities, concepts or symbols for commercial or other agenda was not okay as it hurt the devotees.
He said Hinduism was the oldest and third largest religion of the world with about 1.1 billion adherents and a rich philosophical thought and it should not be taken frivolously.
“Symbols of any faith, larger or smaller, should not be mishandled,” he said.
“Such trivialization of a Hindu deity was disturbing to the Hindus world over.
“Hindus were for free artistic expression and speech as much as anybody else if not more - but faith is something sacred and attempts at trivializing it hurt the followers.”
But MLA Group Marketing Manager Andrew Howie said lamb was the meat that “brings people together”.
“Our ‘You Never Lamb Alone’ campaigns have promoted the value of unity and inclusivity - this latest campaign instalment is no different,” he said.
“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.
“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.”
The MLA lamb promotional strategy also includes in increased, direct advertising in January leading up to Australia Day which has also ignited recent controversy.
Rajan Zed also issued a media statement recently demanding an official apology from Unilever CEO Paul Polman for non-disclosure of beef in some of its products and an immediate recall of all such food items.
He said it was shocking for Hindus to learn that some Unilever food products, which they had been eating for years, may contain beef that wasn’t explicitly mentioned under the listed packaging ingredients listed, expressing concerns about the lack of guarantee on whether gelatin was derived from beef or pork.
“Consumption of beef is highly conflicting to Hindu beliefs,” a statement said.