Citation: Sharon Beder, ‘So where the bloody devil are you?’ Geelong Advertiser, 5 April 2006, p. 23

This is a final version submitted for publication. Minor editorial changes may have subsequently been made.

Sharon Beder's Other Publications

We've fertilised the ferns, had the garden watered, and pacified the Tasmanian devil. So where the bloody hell are you?

THE UK Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre recently stopped the airing of Australia's TV advertisements in Britain because they featured the word `bloody'. However while the use of a cutesy, old-fashioned, innocuous swear word is a calculated effort to garner publicity, the campaign includes a phrase far much more offensive, and unintentional, which seems to have gone unnoticed.

One of the print advertisements (and an image on the website), featuring a picture of a pristine forest, states: "We've fertilised the ferns, had the garden watered, And pacified the Tasmanian devil. So where the bloody hell are you?" The bad taste involved here may not be obvious unless you know the numbers of Tasmanian devils have been falling fairly dramatically since the late 1990s when they started getting an incurable facial cancer which prevents them from eating, so they starve to death.

Some argue the chemicals used in forestry are contributing to the cancer. Others that the cancer is contagious and spread when the devils bite each other. Those who hypothesise chemicals point to aerial spraying of pesticides and herbicides -- such as atrazine, which causes tumours in rats -- by foresters and their extensive use of 1080 as a poison. Devils are not direct targets of the poison, as they are carnivores, but they often eat dead animals, including possums and wallabies, and so are indirectly exposed to the poison.

Research by the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment supports the hypothesis that the cancers are contagious and infectious cells are transferred by biting. Its findings have yet to be confirmed by DNA studies of the tumours. Naturally, the forestry industry has hailed the DPIWE research as proof their chemicals are not the cause of the cancers. However, even if it is subsequently proved the cancers are contagious, it may well be that forestry chemicals have weakened the immune systems of the devils and made them vulnerable to cancers. It is highly unusual for cancers to be contagious in normal circumstances.

Given this ongoing controversy, the claim in the advertisements that the Tasmanian devil has been `pacified' is not only offensive but reflects badly on an organisation that depends on Australia's natural flora and fauna to attract tourists.