Strong-Willed Pig’s Death causes national outpouring of grief across China

Millions of Chinese have taken to social media site Weibo to pay tribute to Strong-Willed Pig. This national outpouring of grief for a pig demonstrates the tremendous affection and special place that this unlikely star of society has held in the nation’s hearts.

The pig, named, Zhu Jianqiang, or Strong-Willed Pig survived 36 days under rubble following a powerful earthquake in 2008. The Sichuan natural disaster left 900,000 dead or missing and another 370,000 injured. Rescuers thought the pig was in fact a goat on discovering it in the rubble given the dramatic weight loss.

Heralded as a symbol of hope, and embodying the will to survive and a spirit of never giving up, Strong-Willed Pig soon captured a special place in the nation’s hearts.  So much so, that businesses across China started using the animal’s name in their brands.  In fact, The South China Morning Post has reported that over 100 companies use the pig’s name, or pronunciation, as the name of their companies (citing data from qcc.com, an enterprise information searching platform).

This unlikely love affair with a pig ignited the nation’s pride and strength of feeling for this remarkable creature. At the time of his discovery, a petition was raised to ensure that Strong-Willed pig would not be slaughtered following the rescue.

ACTAsia is saddened to hear of Strong-Willed Pig’s demise but it is an opportunity to reflect on the tremendous affection that the nation felt towards an animal that is not normally considered to be anything other than a food product.  We have witnessed a sharp rise in Chinese ownership of companion animals with many Chinese now wishing to own a dog, cat or rabbit amongst other animals.  Admittedly, many do not keep pigs as companion animals but attitudes towards animals are changing for the better.

ACTAsia are working with local vet practices to help keep companion animals healthy and rabies free. Training vets is a key part of ACTAsia’s professional education program.  Our veterinary training programme, Train the Trainer (TTT), helps promote fundamental standards in the treatment of companion animals in China.  Vets learn about the sentience of the animals they treat, they also learn proper anaesthesia techniques for surgery, current spay and neuter methods, the importance of pain management, and how vaccination can control rabies. The vets we teach become educators themselves, going out into their communities to share the knowledge and new methods they have learnt.  ACTAsia have recently been involved in a drive to vaccinate companion and stray animals against rabies which not only keeps the animals healthy but also their human companions.

The Strong-Willed Pig story has also struck a chord with many children across the globe as they recognised the qualities of hope and resilience embodied in this remarkable creature.  ACTAsia was also delighted to hear that this story has touched the hearts of so many young people across China. ACTAsia works closely with primary school children across China in a unique six-year program called Caring for Life. It encompasses social welfare and citizenship, animal welfare and environmental issues, and recognises the interdependence of all living things. The programme teaches children to develop empathy for all sentient beings and understand interconnectedness.  ACTAsia also run a Little Vets programme which brings together professional veterinarians and children, to help children understand the importance of welfare for all sentient species. We hope that the story of Strong-Willed Pig will inspire many more children to engage with the Caring for Life and Little Vets programmes.

Strong-Willed pig will live on in the hearts of millions of Chinese and many others across the globe. In the current challenging times that we are experiencing, we are all grateful to have a reminder of the power of strength, resilience and above all of hope.  RIP Strong-Willed pig

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