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RMEF Elk Network video screenshot

A Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation video had its internet advertisements briefly disallowed by Google before being reinstated after protests by Montana's Sen. Steve Daines and Greg Gianforte.

In what may have set a record for customer scandal/service, Google restored a paid ad from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation it had initially rejected because of animal cruelty issues hours after it received a letter from Montana’s Republican congressional members.

The Missoula-based hunting advocacy group was notified April 25 that its ads were disapproved, according to RMEF spokesman Mark Holyoak. The group appealed to Sen. Steve Daines and Rep. Greg Gianforte, who sent a joint letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai on Friday. RMEF also contacted Democratic Sen. Jon Tester who sent a letter to Google, according to RMEF. Holyoak said a Google representative called on Friday evening rescinding the decision and reinstating RMEF’s ad.

The advertisement went to Google’s Ad Network, which places the sponsored results above any Google search. In an email provided by Daines and Gianforte, a Google Support representative states “any promotions about hunting practices, even when they are intended as a healthy method of population control and/or conservation, is considered as animal cruelty and deemed inappropriate to be shown on our network. I can imagine how displeasing this could be to hear as you would like to promote this video so that you can show hunting in a positive manner, however, we are also bound by our policies and protocols and according to Google's policies, promotions such as these cannot be allowed to run.”

The Missoulian reached out to Google for comment on Monday, but messages were not returned.

Holyoak said the ad promoted an 8-minute video about former RMEF board member Nancy Hadley, who participates in a muzzle-loader elk hunt in New Mexico and reminisces about growing up in a hunting family. The cover image of the video shows Hadley in camouflage holding an elk antler in the field. RMEF’s Elk Network media department produced the video.

“We’ve had a Google ad account for eight or nine years,” Holyoak said on Monday. “Like so many businesses and organizations out there, it’s an important part of our outreach.”

Holyoak said the video was one of several RMEF had promoted with Google ads in the past.

“We try to push out and promote responsible, ethical hunting,” Holyoak said. “It goes hand-in-hand with the emphasis on our mission to ensure future of elk, wildlife habitat and our hunting heritage. This was no different than any other piece we’ve put out.”

In their letter, Daines and Gianforte asked Google to “immediately change this policy interpretation to uphold our hunting and conservation heritage.” They also asked Pichai to meet with them “to discuss the importance of Montana’s and the United States’ hunting heritage.”

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Natural Resources & Environment Reporter

Natural Resources Reporter for The Missoulian.