- Title: Holy pigs are presented to gods during controversial Hakka festival in Taiwan
- Date: 27th August 2021
- Summary: SCREEN SHOWING HOLY PIG CONSTRAINT BY METAL RODS TO RESTRICT MOVEMENT
- Embargoed: 10th September 2021 17:01
- Keywords: Hakka festival Taipei Taiwan holy pigs
- Location: TAOYUAN, TAIPEI, TAIWAN
- City: TAOYUAN, TAIPEI, TAIWAN
- Country: Taiwan
- Topics: Asia / Pacific
- Reuters ID: LVA002ES20APX
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text:An annual festival celebrating 'holy' pigs was staged in Taiwan on Friday (August 27) despite concerns over allegations of cruelty towards the animals by activists.
The pigs are tributes to deceased Hakka war heroes at Taoyuan's Yimin Temple, marking the Qing Dynasty in China, when Hakka militia men struggled to protect their families from hostile forces.
Those ancestors are celebrated in the pig festival each year as part of the so-called ghost month, a time to pay respect to deceased ancestors in Taiwan.
This year, the event was more subdued because of COVID-19 concerns, with only the ten winners of the competition - out of the more than twenty contestants that originally registered their pigs for the competition - allowed to bring their pigs to temple premises.
The pigs can grow up to five times the size of normal pigs, being force-fed over two years to provide ancestors with huge sacrifices.
Hakkas are a cultural sub-group of the Han Chinese, originating from southern China, which also emigrated throughout Asia and are represented in large numbers in Taiwan.
Chung Chun-liang who brought her children to the temple to witness their native Hakka culture, had mixed feelings about the practice.
"I am struggling quite a bit with this, especially we used to see the holy pigs getting killed when we were small, which made us feel quite shocked, to see this kind of images," she said, adding there could be ways to replace the practice while still respecting the ancestors.
The practice has drawn flak from animal rights groups over the years.
"They (the breeders) devised a special method to raise the pigs, constraining them in a small cage so that they have no way of moving. They can only open their mouth to eat, and then there is force feeding," said Chu Tseng-hung, executive director of Environment and Animal society of Taiwan (EAST), an animal rights group.
Temple officials deny this, urging animal groups to stop reiterating the same claims based on information from decades ago.
"It's different now. Because the believers that want to sacrifice holy pigs to the Hakka war heroes with the best intentions don't even insist on feeding the pig to an especially big size, it doesn't need to be that big," one official told Reuters.
According to Chu from EAST, the practice of force feeding the pigs to grow to exaggerated sizes has only developed starting 40 to 50 years ago. Before that, holy pigs used to be "only slightly bigger" than their normal peers.
(Production: Fabian Hamacher)
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