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Hindu activist calls on Louis Vuitton to pull 'highly inappropriate' leather yoga mat

A Hindu activist is calling on luxury goods maker Louis Vuitton to pull a yoga mat made partly from cowhide leather, calling it “hugely insensitive”.

Rajan Zed, president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, said in a statement today that the mat is “highly inappropriate” to practising Hindus, who regard cows as sacred symbols of life.

“The scenario of yoga — a profound, sacred and ancient discipline introduced and nourished by Hinduism — being performed on a mat made from a killed cow is painful,” Zed said.

Paris-based Louis Vuitton did not immediately respond today to messages from The Associated Press seeking comment.

The company's yoga mat, made mostly of canvas with leather details and a cowhide carrying strap, retails for NZ$3550 online.

In an email to AP, Zed called on Louis Vuitton executives to apologise and adhere to its corporate code of conduct, which includes commitments to ethical and social responsibility. The company “should not be in the business of religious appropriation, sacrilege, mocking serious spiritual practices and ridiculing entire communities,” he said.

The Universal Society of Hinduism, which is based in Reno, Nevada, has led several recent campaigns targeting what it considers the commercial misuse of sacred symbols.

Zed’s organisation is part of an interfaith coalition that’s recently called on Anheuser-Busch InBev to rename its Brahma beer line — which shares its name with a Hindu god, but isn’t named for the deity, the beer giant says — and also urged nightclubs to stop using sacred Buddhist and Hindu imagery as decor.

In August, online home goods giant Wayfair pulled a towel depicting the Hindu deity Lord Ganesha after the coalition objected.