I welcome the decision of the Advertising Standards Board in finding that the Meat & Livestock Australia advertisement for lamb, depicting Lord Ganesha, breaches the Advertiser Code of Ethics on discrimination and vilification. The advertisement, which ran earlier this year, caused offence to many in the Hindu community for its depiction of Lord Ganesha. Like many others, I submitted a complaint to the Advertising Standards Bureau expressing concern at the deep offence the advertisement causes the Hindu community as well as at the potential breach of the Advertiser Code of Ethics.
The Advertising Standards Board initially voted to dismiss complaints about the advertisement however following the recommendations of an Independent Review process, which found the Board gave insufficient weight to some evidence, the Board decided to reconsider its original decision and ultimately determined that the advertisement breaches advertising standards.
The report of the Board’s decision states:
“Lord Ganesha is the only deity singled out for his physical characteristics. The majority of the Board also considered that Lord Ganesha had his physical characteristic singled out in the context of a negative reference ‘Elephant in the room’. … The majority of the Board therefore considered that the Elephant comment amount to a depiction or portrayal of material which discriminated against a person on account of their Hindu religion”. While there is a relatively high bar for a finding of discrimination or vilification in our country, which values free speech, it is important to raise awareness of religious values
in our multicultural society.
It is also commendable that the system of advertising self-regulation in Australia, administered by the Advertising Standards Bureau, adheres to best-practice with a process of independent review. The Hindu community has sent a strong message to advertisers and marketers and I hope to see greater sensitivity and respect for the Hindu community and Lord Ganesha in advertising and marketing communications in future.