Australia’s advertising watchdog is investigating a camping advertisement which shows a man eating a bat sandwich. Australian camping retailer Boating Camping Fishing store (BCF) released an advert designed to encourage people to explore their own backyard while there remain several travel restrictions around the world. In the video, a man jokes that the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic was caused by someone eating a bat.

A spokesperson for the Advertising Standards Bureau told the BBC that the ad watchdog has received several complaints about the BCF’s commercial. The spokesperson added that Ad Standards is in the process of assessing these complaints to see if they raise an issue.

A BCF spokesperson had earlier told Australian media that they understand the severity of the pandemic, adding that the camping commercial was a light-hearted marketing campaign. The YouTube video has garnered over 250,000 views so far but the bat sequence has been edited out for TV.

“Over the years BCF has established a tradition of irreverent campaigns in the spirit of good-natured fun,” the spokesperson said. “They will have their detractors and we recognise that.

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While the initial coronavirus outbreak was reported from a wildlife market in Wuhan, there has not been any definitive proof of how the virus originated. However, preliminary studies suggested that the bats could be the source since the coronavirus present in bats has a genome that is 96 per cent identical to SARS-CoV-2.

Australia was one of the first countries to a demand an independent inquiry into the origin of the coronavirus outbreak, triggering a decline in its relationship with China. China punished Australian beef producers and barley farmers in apparent retaliation and asked Chinese students to reconsider studying Down Under.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison maintained that the call for an inquiry into the coronavirus outbreak was reasonable and not meant to target any country. The call for a probe was followed by China launching another investigation into the alleged subsidies on Australian wine imports and, in November, Beijing imposed taxes on Australian wine of up to 212%. The commercial currently under scanner could further strain the bilateral relations.

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