The Indian government has intervened in the controversy over an Australian marketing campaign for lamb, lodging an official diplomatic complaint.
The Indian high commission in Canberra has made a "demarche" to three government departments - Foreign Affairs, Communications and Agriculture - over the Meat and Livestock Australia ad that features the Hindu deity Ganesha eating lamb.
The ad that was meant to promote inclusivity has backfired by angering Australia's Hindu community, who call it "ignorant and insensitive".
It features religious figures such as Jesus, Buddha, Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard and Greek goddess Aphrodite enjoying a lamb lunch. Ganesha is depicted digging in despite being considered vegetarian by followers of the religion.
In a statement, the Indian high commission said the ad was "offensive" and "hurt the religious sentiments of the Indian community".
"The consulate general of India in Sydney has taken up the matter directly with Meat and Livestock Australia and urged them to withdraw the advertisement," the high commission said. "A number of community associations have also registered their protest with [the] government of Australia and Meat and Livestock Australia."
The president of the Council of Indian Australians, Mohit Kumar, said the Indian government was reacting to the strong concerns of the Indian community.
"They're trying to nip it in the bud so it doesn't blow out of proportion," he said.
"I can totally understand they didn't mean to offend. I accept the premise of the ad was to show people of different beliefs can come together at the same table and have a meal - no issue with that concept at all.
"But the execution was very poor. It's not we don't have a sense of humour, we're all Australians at the end of the day. The issue is it's a matter of respect and this is a very disrespectful and insensitive depiction."
The ad has been reported on in Indian publications including The Hindustan Times. Mr Kumar said there was a risk the ad could feed Indian perceptions - which he does not share - that Australians are racist or insensitive.
US-based president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, Rajan Zed, welcomed the Indian government's intervention but said MLA directors Michele Allan and Richard Norton should resign for "upsetting consumers".
Ganesha should not be used in "selling lamb meat for mercantile greed", he said on Monday.
If the ad was not taken off the air "Hindus might think of launching a worldwide boycott of Australian lamb meat", he said.
The ad has been referred to the Advertising Standards Bureau with the Hindu Council of Australia also calling on the MLA to take it off air.
The MLA has long stirred controversy with its marketing campaigns, including upsetting the Indigenous community with its 2017 Australia Day promotion and attracting complaints for depicting violence towards a vegan in a 2016 ad.
The MLA was contacted for comment about India's intervention.
It previously said the campaign was not intended to offend but to "promote inclusivity with the idea that people from diverse backgrounds can sit around a table and share a meal together".
Its marketing team conducted extensive consultation with religious experts before making the ad, the group said.
The story Indian government complains about Australian lamb ad first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.