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Religious group appeals to Australian ad watchdog over brewer’s use of Hindu gods on ginger beer labels

Brookvale Ginger BeerA religious activist group says it plans to complain to Australia’s advertising watchdog about a brewer that is using images of Hindu gods on its ginger beer bottle labels.

Aussie firm Brookvale Union, which uses the slogan “Quality nonsense”, apologised to Hindus offended by the labelling after receiving complaints in 2013, but the Universal Society of Hinduism has issued a new public complaint that the offending bottles are still on sale.

The bottles, which feature Hindu deities Ganesh and Lakshmi, carry the slogan “Spicy yet mild, dry but wet, smooth yet sharp, tight but loose”.

The group also says that the company has not removed the “objectionable images” from its website, which it had said it would when the issue was first raised two years ago.

The Universal Society of Hinduism’s president Rajan Zed called on Brookvale Union to recall all the beer carrying the images from the market, and “show some responsibility, respect and maturity and understand the hurt feelings of Hindu community” by saying sorry again.

“Hindus are for free expression and speech as much as anybody else if not more,” Zed said. “But faith was something sacred and attempts at trivializing it tormented the devotees.”

“Inappropriate usage of Hindu deities or concepts or symbols for commercial or other agenda is not okay as it hurts the devotees. Lord Ganesh and Goddess Lakshmi are highly revered in Hinduism and they are meant to be worshipped in temples or home shrines and not to be used in selling beer for mercantile greed.”

The group quoted a statement from Brookvale Union in November 2013 that read: “It seems we have unintentionally offended our Hindu friends with the imagery on our Ginger Beer packaging… Brookvale Union is about great tasting, fun beverages and not about disrespecting anyone or their beliefs”.

In the statement, the company apologised “for any distress caused” and said it would begin the process of removing the images from its website.

“We’re lovers, not fighters, we want to make it right… We are now focused on redesigning the Ginger Beer which hopefully all can be happy with!” the company wrote.

The company then ran a competition for “graphic designers, artists, and even doodlers” to come up with a new label design.

The Universal Society of Hinduism said it would be contacting Australia’s Advertising Standards Bureau, whose mandate the group quotes as keeping “general standards of advertising in line with community values”, to apply pressure on the brewer to remove the images.

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