THOUSANDS of worshippers flocked yesterday to a controversial holy pig festival in Taiwan which sees the carcasses of giant overfed swine on display, a custom deplored by animal rights campaigners.
The annual ritual, slammed by animal activists, marks the birthday of the Taoist god, Zushi, and is held in a square at the temple in his name in the northern district of Sanhsia.
Pig owners compete to display the largest porker and the winner takes home a trophy.
To a fanfare of traditional music played on gongs and horns, five pigs – killed the night before – were wheeled into the square. The heaviest weighed in at 714kg.
Their bodies, pinned with decorations, were displayed in bright vans and with pineapples stuffed in their mouths.
After the festival, the owners take them and share the meat with family and friends.
Animal activists said the pigs were kept in small enclosures.
“We strongly oppose holy pig contests,” Taiwan environment and animal society head Chu Tseng-hung said.
“Farmers have adopted inhumane methods to force-feed pigs to increase their weight.”
But Lee Kai-jui, a Sanhsia chief and the winner of this year’s contest, said: “Our pig was raised in a normal way. I never overfed it.”
It was the particular breed which made the pig so large and he was proud of it, he said.