Chinese TV Network Bans Pig Ads During Year of Pig Celebrations Due to Muslim Sensitivity

Companies looking to reach China's consumer market with pig images during Year of the Pig celebrations next month will have to adjust after a national television network adopted a policy to be sensitive to the country's small Muslim population, according to published reports.

China Central Television said it would ban all verbal and visual pork references from advertisements during Lunar New Year celebrations next month, the Wall Street Journal reported. This week, the network banned a TV ad from Nestle SA featuring a smiling cartoon pig and the message, "Happy new pig year."

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CCTV's ad department said the regulations are intended to avoid offending Muslims, who consider pigs unclean animals. China's 20 million Muslims comprise less than 2 percent of the population, the Journal reported.

"China is a multiethnic country," the network said in a notice. "To show respect for Islam, and upon guidance from higher levels of the government, CCTV will keep any pig images off the screen."

Several ad agencies are scrambling to adjust their ads to promotional spots featuring pigs.

"We act in line with any requests that we receive from the authorities," Francois-Xavier Perroud, a spokesperson for Nestle.

Coca-Cola Co. is planning to run a pig-free commercial featuring Pandas.

The new policy comes as a surprise move as Chinese authorities rarely advance concerns of minority groups over the broader population in the world's most populous country, the Journal reported.

Occurring in 12-year cycles, the Year of the Pig corresponds to an astrological symbol of the animal representing prosperity and good fortune. Tens of millions have been born in the Year of the Pig.