On August 27, legislator Szu-Yao Wu, legislator Jiau-Hua Chen, and attorney-at-law Odin Lin assembled to fiercely condemn the government’s breathtaking failure to halt the abuse of pigs in sacrificial Pigs of God weighing contests.
EAST filed a formal complaint about methods used to rear the pigs to the Taoyuan City government on August 29 last year. The complaint contained comprehensive photo and video evidence of the abuse of three pigs raised for in last year’s contest at Yimin Temple in Hsinchu County. However, in the 18 years EAST has campaigned to end the contest the authorities have absconded their duty to enforce the Animal Protection Act, instead pandering to the political might of participating temples.
In Pigs of God contests, pigs are reared to weights of up to 700 kilograms as temple-goers compete to raise the heaviest pig. The pigs are then sacrificed during annual temple festivities, with the owners of the ‘winning’ pigs awarded monetary prizes by temples and local politicians. The contest was originally established under Japanese rule as a way to boost pork production in Taiwan. Only a tiny minority of Taiwan’s thousands of temples continue to hold the cruel event.
EAST campaign researcher Fang Chu Chune slammed the government’s inadequate response to EAST’s complaint, explaining “EAST has raised this with the authorities year after year. But authorities have not only failed to enforce Taiwan’s existing animals protection laws, they have shamelessly come up with excuses to defend this egregious abuse.”
Official responses from the Taoyuan City government have excused the blatant cruelty with absurd and unsupported justifications including: “the pigs are eating willingly of their own accord,” “if there is no visible disability it cannot be considered abuse,” and “raising the pigs to the point of paralysis is simply maximizing the interests of the owner.”
Pigs raised for the Pigs of God contest are fed up to 30 kilograms of feed per day using metal tubes to force the feed into their mouth. EAST investigations have uncovered pigs being hit on the nose with the tubes when they attempt to rebuff force feeding.
Animal welfare expert Professor Donald Broom from the University of Cambridge previously dismissed the claim that the pigs are eating on their own accord, stating "No pig would eat so much food given the choice,” after viewing footage provided by EAST.
Under Taiwan’s Animal Protection Act, the definition of abuse includes causing an animal to be “unable to perform physical functions properly.” Pigs raised for the annual temple contests can reach seven to eight times their natural weight, spending years in enclosures so small they are unable to move. The three pigs documented in EAST’s complaint were already severely paralysed and unable to stand or walk due to their excessive weight and loss of organ function.
EAST attorney Odin Lin emphatically rejected the assertion that the ways pigs are raised for the contest is acceptable simply because it maximizes economic benefits for their owners. Mr. Lin pointed to a high-profile legal ruling in which local authorities ruled the practice of ‘hosing’—in which beef cattle are pumped full of water to increase their body weight, and thus the market price—fit the definition of animal abuse, resulting in hefty fines for those responsible.
The escalating calls for action come one year after an EAST campaign highlighted the experience of ‘A-yi’—a pig raised for the contest—reaching more than two million people on social media and triggering a groundswell of support to end the contest. To date, more than 50,000 people have signed a petition launched by EAST and AVAAZ in support of a ban.
“The government cannot continue to ignore public opinion on this issue,” warned Ms. Chune. “The time has come to take decisive action.”