An animal rights group yesterday called for an end to the “divine pig” contest held annually at New Taipei City’s (新北市) Sansia Tsushih Temple (三峽祖師廟), saying the method of raising and slaughtering the pigs was abusive and inhumane.
The annual contest is held on the sixth day of the first month of the Lunar New Year during the temple’s prayer ceremony to celebrate the birthday of Master Chingshui (清水祖師).
An award is given to the owner of the heaviest pig, which is seen as a symbol of future blessings, while the head and some of the body parts of the pig are put on public display during the ceremony.
The Environment and Animal Society of Taiwan said that among the 126 temples dedicated to Master Chingshui in Taiwan, the Sansia Tsushih Temple is the only one that has not put an end to the contest.
The winner of the temple’s “divine pig” contest this year was the owner of a pig that weighed 1,061kg — 10 times the normal weight of a commercially reared pig.
Showing photographs of large pigs being force-fed and confined in pens with so little space that it was difficult for the pigs to even turn their bodies, Environment and Animal Society of Taiwan director Chen Yu-min (陳玉敏) said: “These pigs have become so fat that their whole bodies are sick and paralyzed, so that they are unable to move at all.”
“We are not against religious worship, but we are strongly against the ‘divine pig’ weight contest. And we urge all the remaining temples that insist on holding this kind of contest to stop,” she said.
Some owners said they feed the pigs with good quality food, give them massages and even use fans to keep them cool in summer, but these measures are only to prevent the overweight pigs from dying suddenly and causing financial loss to the owners, Chen said.
The society said that although it had negotiated with the temple’s management a few years ago, the contest was still being held at the temple every year.
The group therefore called on the public to boycott the event as a protest against animal abuse.