Michelle Rowland MP’s Complaint to Advertising Standards Bureau

I have noted several objections made by members of the public, mainly those of Hindu faith, in relation to a recent advertisement by Meat and Livestock Australia. Having viewed the advertisement myself, I appreciate the nature of these objections. In my capacity as a local Member of Parliament who is privileged to represent a large and growing Hindu constituency, I have submitted a formal objection to this advertisement to the Advertising Standards Bureau. This objection has been drafted to address the specific criteria for complaint investigation. The text of my objection is set out below. It is open for any member of the public to similarly lodge a complaint if they wish. A complaint can be submitted online at adstandards.com.au.

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As the Member for Greenway, I have significant concerns about the latest advertisement by Meat and Livestock Australia for its insensitive portrayal of Lord Ganesha to promote the consumption of lamb. Ganesha is a revered religious figure for Hindus across Australia, including in my electorate. It is highly offensive to depict Ganesha as eating meat, and is particularly distasteful as Diwali approaches – a festival celebrated by Hindus, among others.

The Hindu population in Australia is fast-growing. The proportion of people with Hindu religious affiliation has more than doubled in my electorate of Greenway, in the state of New South Wales, and in Australia overall between the 2011 Census and the 2016 Census. Therefore, a significant and growing number of Hindu Australians will be offended by this advertisement. That said, it is important to note that Hindus are still a minority community in Australia, with under two per cent of the total Australian population being of Hindu
affiliation. For this reason, great care must be exercised in representing the Hindu religion in advertising.

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Aside from causing great offence to the Hindu community, the MLA advertisement may breach the AANA Code of Ethics by discriminating or vilifying the Hindu community on account of religion. By depicting Ganesha as consuming lamb, the advertisement may give unfair or less favourable treatment to Hindu Australians, by suggesting that Ganesha and/or Hindu Australians eat meat and do not take religious observances seriously. Further, the advertisement may humiliate Hindu Australians or expose them to ridicule in social situations – particularly if they do not eat meat.

While the advertisement may have been intended as a light-hearted depiction of religion, the attempt at humour fails and the advertisement risks trivialising the Hindu religion especially. I respectfully ask that you consider these concerns and the impact of this
advertisement on the Hindu community in Australia.