Levy board Meat & Livestock Australia’s (MLA) advert, promoting lamb as an inclusive protein with the power to bring religious and spiritual groups together, has been taken off air.
After a review, Australia’s Advertising Standards Bureau ruled that the advert breached a clause in its code of conduct, which bans advertising that discriminates or vilifies people.
The bureau had initially ruled that the advert, as intended by MLA, was a light-hearted joke and did not breach its code of conduct.
In a report, it ruled: “The board recognised that the advertiser is known for presenting laid back advertisements with edgy Australian humour.
“However, the board considered that the advertiser had given inadequate consideration to how seriously some Australians take their religious views – and did not pay due attention to the level of offence about something important to those people.”
When the advert first aired in September, it incensed the Hindu community over the levy board’s portrayal of Ganesha, one of the religion’s most important deities.
What followed was mounting pressure on MLA, led by the Universal Society of Hinduism, which called for the resignations of the levy board’s highest-ranking officials, Dr Michele Allan and Richard Norton.
This did not happen. Instead, MLA refused to apologise for the controversial lamb ad, insisting it was never its intention to “offend” religious sensibilities.
Australians are also divided on whether the advert did overstep the mark. One GlobalMeatNews reader said in a comment to this site: “Everyone I’ve spoken to on this topic thought it was an ok ad and the religious offence was more funny than anything they cared about.”
Another reader disagreed, stating: “Religion and politics are two things to steer away from in any social interaction, as they are sensitive issues and you may hurt someone without even knowing you have… Looks like that was MLA’s error.”
In a statement to GlobalMeatNews, MLA said: “While we accept the Advertising Standards Bureau’s decision to overturn their initial dismissal of complaints against the latest Spring Lamb advertising campaign, we are disappointed by this most recent decision.
“The campaign, which has now concluded, sought to promote the value of unity and inclusivity. There was never an intention to offend, rather we wanted to ensure that we were as inclusive as possible. To this end, those religions that don’t typically eat red meat are not shown consuming Lamb in the advertisement, but are still invited to the table.
“Like previous Lamb campaigns, this latest once again sought to bring people together, regardless of beliefs, to share a meal and be unified. The campaign featured 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. The gathering was intended as a metaphor for the wonderfully diverse make-up of modern Australia, and there was never any intent to single out any one religion or deity.
“MLA develops all of its campaigns – including this latest Lamb campaign – with the positive intent of celebrating the diversity and inclusivity of Australia.
“MLA is a responsible advertiser and we always act with the intent of adhering to the Advertising Standards Code. While the overwhelming feedback to the campaign has been positive, we acknowledge that some community members have registered concerns and we respect that feedback.
“As with all campaigns that MLA conducts, this feedback as well as this decision from the ASB, will be considered in future creative development.”