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A beer bottle label has caused a row in Russia over its use of sado-masochistic imagery, exacerbated by the decision of a state agency to run an online poll for or against it.

The Kopytov Brewery in Barnaul, a city in the Altai region of Siberia, launched its new Pryanik Imperial Stout with a stylised close-up of a woman with a ball-gag in her mouth, designed to look like a traditional Russian pryanik honey cake, newspaper reports.

The brewery's lauds the craft beer as an "aromatic tsunami of cinnamon, clove, anise, black pepper and juniper, just like a real pryanik - but damned alcoholic".

But Yuliya Shlyakhova, a fashion designer formerly of Barnaul but now living in St Petersburg, complained to the Anti-Monopoly Service that the image "displays violence towards women, and is obscene and offensive".

The brewery, meanwhile, insists that it , has great respect for women, and favours "humour, art, and what is appropriate".

The Altai branch of the Anti-Monopoly Service then took the step of setting up an to see whether or not the public found the advert offensive, on the grounds that "a comprehensive review requires a study of social opinion".

The Altai branch has tried this method before over complaints of "fat-shaming" in two adverts by fitness clubs, according to the local news site, but it was not prepared for the scale or tenor of the response on this occasion.

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The idea of letting a poll play a role in a quasi-legal process has caused almost as much as a stir as the label itself, and it has all played out on the Service's social media account, where it opened a forum for the public to post their views.

"I'm amazed that enforcing the law has become a matter of online voting," Yuliya Shlyakhova told the Altai edition of the daily. "So whoever has the most friends on VK decides what's right and wrong?"

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