The Environment and Animal Society of Taiwan (EAST) and several environmental groups yesterday urged the few remaining temples that still conduct animal sacrifices to stop what they called “inhumane killing,” including 13 temples that prepare “divine pigs” for festivals.
At a press conference in Taipei, the groups showed video clips of sacrificial “divine pigs” — pigs grown to several times their normal size for competitions — including images of abnormally large pigs being force-fed with tubes, tied, hung up and having their throats cut in public.
The clips also showed sacrificial live fish hung up until they die at the same festivals.
“Do sacrifices to the gods have to be so cruel?” EAST director Chen Yu-min (陳玉敏) said. “We are not against religious rituals, but animal sacrifice can be made without causing so much suffering.”
She said the divine pigs were often force-fed until they were nine times their average weight, causing health issues and an inability to move.
Chen added the killing of divine pigs does not follow the law because the Animal Protection Act (動物保護法) states that animals should be rendered unconscious before they are slaughtered.
The groups said of the more than 1,600 public temples across the nation, only 13 insist on holding divine pig contests.
Citing recent media reports of a temple in Greater Tainan’s Sigang District (西港) that sacrificed live birds by stuffing them into sealed statues of deities, Chen said a public outcry prompted temple officials to apologize and say they would not use live birds again, showing that “traditional religious or folk rituals aren’t unchangeable.”
“Religious or folk rituals should keep up with the times,” she said, adding that the temples can use normal pigs or kill fish more humanely.
The EAST said it has reported the incidents to the Council of Agriculture and local animal protection bureaus using the video clips as evidence, but added that no punishments have been meted out so far.
In response, the council’s Animal Industry Department said the case of the live birds is now under investigation by prosecutors and the “divine pigs,” will be investigated by local bureaus.
The department also urged religious groups to modernize their practices and to keep in mind the concept of animal protection.