Australia's Advertising Standards Bureau is reportedly investigating complaints about the above video from boating/camping/fishing retailer BCF. In an attempt at humour, the clip asserts that the pandemic happened because "somebody ate a bat" while showing a bloke biting into a bat sandwich.
The video, part of a campaign by The Monkeys that launced in December, is only viewable on YouTube, where it has 275,000 views, and Facebook. The bat reference has been edited out of a version airing on television, according to media reports.
It's unknown how many complaints the ad standards body received, or their exact nature. People may have been outraged that the ad smeared Chinese people by referring to the idea that consumption of a bat from a Wuhan wet market sparked the pandemic. But it's equally possible they just thought the sandwich looked gross.
BCF, which has fairly frequently been the subject of complaints to the watchdog, issued a statement defending what it called a light-hearted campaign. "Over the years BCF has established a tradition of irreverent campaigns in the spirit of good-natured fun," the spokesman added. "They will have their detractors and we recognise that."
So the company has clearly calculated that a little controversy probably pays off in the end. And looking at all the media coverage it's now getting, you can't argue.
We agree the bat reference is pretty distasteful, because it perpetuates a view that's rooted in cultural prejudice. Plus, there's no evidence for it. And it's not funny.
Moreover, while we're no fan of humans killing and eating woodland creatures, the whole 'somebody ate a bat' idea vastly oversimplifies the complexity of virus evolution through non-human-animal reservoirs. Spoiler alert: The animals aren't to blame, you people are, with your climate change and your habitat destruction. People would be well advised to better understand the reality.
Come to think of it, a retailer of outdoor products would be in a good position to spread knowledge and even help ignite activism about those issues, if it really wanted to. But making cheap jokes is probably easier.
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