BEIJING (NYTIMES) - Harrowing videos of a pig being tied up and shoved off a bungee tower at a theme park in China have drawn outrage, in a country where animal welfare activism is a growing and relatively new phenomenon.
"This is cruelty to animals at its worst," said Mr Jason Baker, vice-president of international campaigns for the Asia branch of People for the Ethical Treatment for Animals (Peta).
Footage from the stunt, which was carried out by employees at the Meixin Red Wine Town theme park in the south-western city of Chongqing on Saturday (Jan 18), showed the pig tied to a pole, with all of its legs bound, being carried up a tower several stories high.
The animal could be heard squealing as it was dragged toward the tower's edge, attached to a bungee cable with a cape draped over its body. Pushed off the edge, it helplessly tumbled and bounced in midair as the cord sprang back. The animal's distressed screeches continued as it dangled, suspended in the air.
The theme park, which said the stunt was part of an opening ceremony for a new bungee jump attraction, apologised after the public expressed outrage.
In a statement reported by local news outlets Sunday, it also wished Internet users a happy Lunar New Year, which begins this Friday - and, ironically, ends the Year of the Pig.
Social media users called the bungee tower episode "cruel" and "inhumane." It also drew widespread condemnation by animal rights organisations.
"Just imagine the outright terror of being forcibly strung up by your legs and thrown from a high platform," said Mr Baker, the Peta campaigner, who called the stunt "disgusting." Noting that pigs feel pain and fear, he urged China to view the incensed public response as a wake-up call to enforce and strengthen animal protection laws.
The park said that the pig was "all right" after being dropped from the tower and that it had later been sent to a slaughterhouse, according to The Paper, a Chinese online publication.
And The Cover, another Chinese news site, on Saturday quoted a man responsible for the park's public relations, identified only as Yang, as saying that "pigs themselves don't know the danger."
Calling the stunt a "kind of entertainment," he said that it was also a symbolic way to welcome the Year of the Rat, according to The Cover, and to signify that pork prices, which rose significantly in China last year after an outbreak of African swine fever among the animals, will fall.