LONDON: India has lodged a diplomatic protest with Australia over an advert depicting the Hindu god Ganesha enjoying lamb.
The TV advert, by a meat industry lobby group, portrays figures from several religions sitting down to a meal.
It has caused anger within the Hindu community in Australia because Ganesha is never depicted eating meat.
The High Commission of India in Canberra said it had made a “demarche” to three Australian government departments.
It also urged Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) to withdraw the advertisement because many people considered it “offensive and hurting their religious sentiments”.
“A number of community associations have also registered their protest with government of Australia and Meat and Livestock Australia,” the high commission said in a statement.
The advert shows religious figures including Jesus, Buddha and Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard talking and eating at a table. It makes a brief reference that the Prophet Muhammad “cannot make it”.
Australia’s Advertising Standards Bureau said the advert had attracted more than 30 complaints relating to “a number of faiths”.
The Hindu Council of Australia said it was a “crude and deplorable attempt” to use images of Ganesha to promote lamb consumption.
One online petition to ban the advert has attracted more than 4,400 signatures.
Australian man Kapil Sachdeva told the BBC he had started the petition after seeing widespread anger on social media.
He also criticised the advert for being released days after the Hindu festival of Ganesh Chaturthi, which celebrates Ganesha’s birthday.
The MLA defended the advert last week, saying it had aimed to promote diversity and unity.
“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,” spokesman Andrew Howie said in a statement.
“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.”
Last year, the group drew controversy for an Australia Day advert criticised as offensive to both vegans and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.