The Matthew Shepard Foundation today strongly condemned an ad campaign by Snickers.

The campaign was launched during CBS television’s Super Bowl programming on Sunday and was watched by tens of millions of Americans.

It shows two mechanics eating from opposite ends of a Snickers bar and, after their mouths touch, ripping out their chest hair in an attempt to “do something manly.”

The Snickers website shows alternate endings for the ad, among them, a version called “Wrench” where one man grabs a wrench and uses it to bash the other, who responds by slamming the hood of the car down on his head.

Their latest web advert also features video of National Football League athletes reacting with prejudice and disgust to depictions of two men kissing.

The players’ reactions range from general amusement to non-verbal disgust to overt expressions of prejudice.

Judy Shepard, Executive Director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation, said she was outraged at the NFL and at the Snickers brand, which is owned by Mars and is the official chocolate bar sponsor of the NFL:

“This campaign encourages the same type of hate that led to the death of my son Matthew.

“It essentially gives ‘permission’ to our society to verbally or physically harass individuals who are gay, lesbian or bisexual,” she said.

“In particular, I am dismayed that these players, who are role models to our young people, would participate in perpetuating such discrimination and prejudice.”

The Matthew Shepard Foundation was founded by Mr and Mrs Shepard in memory of their 21-year-old son, Matthew, who was murdered in an anti-gay hate crime in Wyoming in October 1998.

Mars is asking visitors to vote on this and three other endings to the commercial to determine which version will air during a Fox TV broadcast of the Daytona 500 race in a few weeks time.

The Gay Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) is also angry at the advertising campaign.

“That Snickers, Mars and the NFL would promote and endorse this kind of prejudice is simply inexcusable,” said GLAAD President Neil G. Giuliano.

GLAAD claim the advertising agency that devised the commercial at first asked them for an analysis of the ad, then withdrew the request.

They are calling on Mars to apologise and pull the campaign.

“We want to sit down with both Mars and the NFL to address our concerns and give them an opportunity to raise public awareness about the destructive impact of these kinds of anti-gay images and comments,” said Guliaino.