Meat ad insulting to Hare Krishnas, appeal board rules

An advertisement featuring a group of dancing, chanting butchers praising red meat was “extremely derogatory and insulting to Hare Krishnas“, the Advertising Standards Complaints Appeal Board has ruled.

The New Zealand Beef and Lamb Marketing Bureau appealed the original decision in March 2003 by the Advertising Standards Complaints Board on grounds that too much weight had been given to the number of complaints (which included a petition), without any consideration of their individual merits.

The act allowed for “humorous and satirical treatment of groups within the community”, the advertiser argued in a letter to the chairman in May last year.

There was no independent evidence to support the link drawn by the board “between the chanting and singing the praises of red meat as belittling both followers of Hare Krishna and vegetarians’ belief in not eating meat”, the submission read.

“The current Kiwi Bacon advertisement is far less subtle in its view of vegetarians.”

However, the chairman refused to overturn the ruling and rejected the application for an appeal.

A solicitor from the Meat Industry Association, acting for the advertiser, then appealed the chairman’s ruling, claiming it was “in the interests of natural justice that a person other than the person who made or partly made the initial determination should decide whether grounds for an appeal are met”.

But the Appeal Board’s ruling, released today, said the board could rule even if only one complaint had been received.

Research in Australia, showing a positive response by consumers to the advertisement, had no relevance in New Zealand, it said.

Previous decisions to uphold complaints showed there was “a difference between New Zealand and Australian attitudes as to what constituted offensiveness”.

“The Appeal Board was in no doubt that the intonation, rhythm, chanting and instrumentation of the butchers dancing down the street was evocative of the Hare Krishna movement….

“Taking into account that Hare Krishnas had vegetarian dietary habits and considered the cow to be a sacred animal, the advertisement… was extremely derogatory and insulting to Hare Krishnas.”

Accordingly, the Appeal Board upheld the Complaints Board’s decision that the depiction was “not saved by humour”, and ruled that the appeal be dismissed.

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