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Last Updated: Friday, 8 August, 2003, 21:44 GMT 22:44 UK
'Appalling plight' of super-fat pigs
The rearing of grossly overweight pigs in Taiwan for ritual slaughter has been condemned by animal welfare groups.

It takes two years to get the pig ready for competition
They said it was time to end the annual "Pigs of God" contests that revolved around the force-feeding of animals to see which could achieve the greatest mass.

Pigs weighing in excess of 900 kilograms have been reported.

The animals, which are incapable of standing, are dragged in front of thousands of people before having their throats cut.

The Environment and Animals Society of Taiwan (East) raised the plight of the pigs this week at a news conference.

"This competition, which involves animal abuse, should be abandoned," East told the Taipei Times after showing a video about the animals. "Most pigs were terrified. They screamed loudly and failed to control their bowels when they were moved to the scales by several people."

The animals are incapable of walking
East has called on the country's president, Chen Shui-Bian, to take steps to end the activity, which this year will take place on Sunday 17 August.

The group is particularly concerned that he will have one animal weighing 760 kg killed in his honour, even though ritual slaughter is supposed to have been outlawed by the state.

The competitions are said to be part of the religious beliefs of the Hakkas, an ethnic group with a population of over four million in Taiwan.

It takes two years to prepare a pig for slaughter. East said the animals were castrated, without anaesthesia, in the belief that this would help make them even fatter.

The pigs are then penned down so they cannot move. It is claimed in the run-up to a contest, the animals are even force-fed sand or heavy metals such as lead to add as much weight as possible.

East claimed the plight of the "pig of the president" was symbolic of the wider suffering of animals in Taiwan, where it said thousands of farm animals were inhumanely killed every year.

The president says he has not sponsored a hog
A spokesman for the president's office said he had given no financial support to the rearing of an overweight animal but that he respected local customs.

East is a member organisation of the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA). The society's head of campaigns Leah Garces told BBC News Online: "We are concerned about the inhumane conditions that are imposed on these intelligent, sentient animals. The cruelty is extraordinary.

"The idea that this enormous animal should be dragged in front of a huge crowd to have its throat slit is appalling. But what's also appalling is that one of these pigs should be prepared in honour of the president - the president of a country which has laws to prohibit the force feeding and inhumane slaughter of animals."

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