2 June 2001
Imperial Cancer Research and Mahatma Gandhi
Around six months ago I received a phone call from a English lady who said to me that she had been an advert on TV in which Gandhi’s image was used by ICR to collect funds. ICR uses a substantial amount of its funds in conducting horrific experiments on animals in the hope of finding a cure for cancer.
Gandhiji was strongly opposed to the abuse on animals in this way. He has said, ”Vivisection is the blackest of all black crimes that human being perpetuate on animals”. I promised the lady to pursue this matter with ICR. After many telephone calls, I managed to speak to their PR person. She told me that they had obtained permission from a Delhi based Gandhi foundation and anyway they would probably stop using Gandhiji after their current adverts ran out. However after several months I received anther telephone call saying the adverts were continuing.
When I contacted ICR again I was told that the adverts to continue after all. At this stage many people (mainly English!) complained to the Independent Complaints Committee. Predictably, ITCC rejected the complaint. However a determined individual called Mr.Yoe wrote the Gandhi foundation in Delhi. The reply he received was that though they had granted permission to ICR they were unaware of the experiments being carried out on animals and had they been aware they would have thought twice before granting permission.
Having obtained a copy of this letter, I wrote to Channel 4 asking for an explanation. Channel 4 has passed on my complaint to a body called, ”Advertising Clearance Committee”, which clears all adverts before they appear on TV. Meanwhile Mr Yoe had approached Wembley based Gandhi foundation for support. I too met the current leaders of this group….their response was that the Indian High Commission should take this up! I then suggested that may be they should write to the High Commission….their response was that it would be better for us to that! It was clear that they had no interest whatsoever in the matter. Many years ago when the film, ‘Gandhi’ had become very popular many restaurants sprung up with the name ‘Gandhi’, although they were meat restaurants. At the time we persuaded one such restaurant to change its name. We had approached the Gandhi foundation at that time too and their response was that ‘Gandhi’ could be the surname of the restaurant owners!
In conclusion the good news is the Imperial Cancer Research has written to say they are removing Gandhiji from the advert. The moral of this is that in an era when multi national companies and globalisation are becoming all powerful we will have to be ever vigilant to protect and preserve all that we value.Next time when ICR comes asking for your money be aware of what they stand for. Next time you step into McDonalds try to think what you are supporting. Be an enlightened consumer for every product you buy, see if the company producing it is involved in exploiting animals or the environment or destroying forests and other natural resources of the planet.
Nitin Mehta MBE