An annual “holly pig” festival in Taiwan where very big pigs are sacrificed and then displayed has been the target of complaints from local animal protection organisations, but although it has been in decline over the years, it is still taking place.
This festival is part of Taiwan’s Hakka community, being approximately 15% of the island’s population. The Hakka people are among the ethnic groups that settled in Taiwan from mainland China. The practice of sacrificing fattened pigs became more common during Japan’s colonial rule in Taiwan in the early twentieth century.
In this festival, local Hakka families compete to show off the largest pig, with the winner receiving a trophy, and then selected pigs are killed and offered to temples for good luck. In this year’s edition, 18 pigs were killed, including one weighing 860 kilograms, and their bodies were presented at Hsinpu Yimin Temple in northern Taiwan. The pig carcasses were shaved, decorated, and displayed upside-down with pineapples in their mouths. After the festival, those who kill them take the bodies home and distribute the meat to friends, family, and neighbours.
Lin Tai-ching, director of the Environment and Animal Society of Taiwan (EAST), complained about this festival because they say the heaviest pigs are subjected to force-feeding, sometimes in cramped cages, to the point they cannot stand anymore. Lin has observed the “holy pig” festival for 15 years and said the event is experiencing declining attendance, with a significant reduction in the number of sacrificed pigs (from over 100 pigs in the contest to only 37 this year. Some families are now giving rice packet representations instead of dead pigs, indicating a growing trend of rejecting animal sacrifices.