Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Singapore Mac Donald's unilateral decide to drop the "Pig" from its zodiac collectibles

Did anyone else read about the PR mess Mac Donald made in Singapore in killing the "pig" character from the traditional 12 animal zodiac sign? What a furor it created...I couldnt believe such blatant discrimination against non muslims...

It was an absurd, "stirring-the-pot" marketing mess made by Mac Donald Singapore with regards to the Chinese Zodiac plush collectible? I was totally nonplussed after reading the article.

Apparently "some idiotic" personnel in the Macs team had decided to pull out the "Pig" character from the renowned Chinese Zodiac collection, and replaced it with a cupid representation. Their rationale was Mac Donalds is a Halal restaurant and this stunt was to prevent offending the Singaporean Muslims. So instead, they didn’t have any issue offending the Non muslim Chinese. Good to know that.

To me, this is pure insensitivity against Chinese non-Muslim customers. The point to note, this is another case of political correctness gone overdrive and totally mishandled. As a non-muslim Chinese, the immediate reaction was "why are the Chinese non muslims being marginalised and discriminated?" A giant American corporation suddenly felt they are conversant enough with the various religious faiths and native traditions to make such an arrogant unilateral decision? Even if the decisions are taken by the local staff, a corporation on the whole has to bear some responsibility.

With this move, I felt the deeply entrenched Chinese tradition / culture is being sidelined because of some idiot who decided to place one religion over the beliefs of many others.

While I am all for racial and religious harmony, however to create a non existing matter into an issue, this is surely not to be encouraged? It couldnt have been the decision of a single person. A chain of people who approved it apparently has not real understanding of the individual beliefs.

The first fundamental question that goes to refute Mac Donald's argument.
When has faith's Halal definition of non-consumption of pork been changed to non- association with pig related objects?

In the first place, Zodiac IS a CHINESE custom. So in celebration of a Chinese custom, how does another religious faith come into play here? Are u telling me next that the whole country should refrain from any Chinese New year Celebration when it is the Year of the Pig? While the Muslims have every right not to purchase the pig animal if it truly offends them, the Chinese also have every right to retain our rights to purchase the Pig character. The crucial point to highlight here - we are NOT celebrating a Muslim festival, the collectibles is a representation of our Chinese heritage while embracing the arrival of CHINESE NEW YEAR. Hence it is incomprehensible as to why are the Chinese being deprived of its cultural rights and traditonal "mascot"?

The second question begets the next thought, why should Muslim be the only religion be taken into consideration? How about Hindu religion that advocate the non consumption of beef? Shouldnt Mac Donald's just withdraw the OX character? Make it better, let’s propose not to sell any beef burgers. Oh no? Simply because Indians typically do not kick up a stinker or have some certification to back them and as such, their viewpoint doesn’t stake a claim? So explain to me Mac Donalds, why isnt the company practising what you preach about religious sensitivity towards our fellow Hindus in Singapore? Why is there such a glaring double standard?

Back to the Muslims; care to explain why wasnt Dog character withdrawn as well since it is common knowledge how Muslim would avoid any contact with dogs. So it is an issue for them to come in contact with a real dog but really, a doggie character is perfectly fine? So really, help me out here.

Mac Donald's logic is so flawed that I almost wanted to laugh from exasperation. Taking their logic one step further, should all hawker centers that currently have Muslim stalls and Chinese stalls coexisting together be demolished? If the Mac Donald logic stands that selling of plush toy is unforgivable, isnt it worse to have sale of pork taking place within close vicinity of the muslim stalls?

More importantly, if we were to confine ourselves to the idea of banning all sale of pig related products, then ideally cinemas should refrain from airing pig theme movies like Charlotte's web and Babe. For their sake, all Muslim patrons should be prohibited from watching such offending movies due to 2hrs pig exposure. Libraries and book stores likewise should pull out all pig related items from its shelves to align with this Macdonald's warp definition of respecting the Muslims. As for Disney world, Universal world it is time to say goodbye to the infamous Mr Porky pig character and our "threee little pigs" . that is if they want Muslim tourists to patronise their theme park. A big No No to pigs.

The list goes on as to why this promotional stunt is such a stinking mess. It is illogical, arrogant and neglect the long practising belief of the Chinese with our zodiac signs. Quite frankly, this reeks of pure ignorance, poor judgement and ill advised partiality. This PR blunder has got to be halted.

If Mac Donald's staff had truly been using their head rather thinking with their arse, they should have retained the PIG character, as well as adding the Cupid character for our fellow patrons who had no wish to collect the pig character. In this way, Mac Donald's would have successfully made both the Chinese non-Muslims and Muslim customers happy. Instead of grabbing the opportunity to display their ability to promote harmony across all faiths, this singular oversight has landed macs in the middle of a negative media storm.

What Mac Donalds Singapore is doing from this incident is not a practice of sensitivity. Rather, its action and any support of this comes across more as a display of religious intolerence and contemptuous demand of a one-sided submission and surrender of other religious and cultural rights to the Muslim faith.

Someone really ought to get demoted for such a PR mess.

Strait Times News Extract (link)
FAST-FOOD giant McDonald's has stirred up a controversy by omitting pig characters from its latest toy promotions.

The pig soft toy was expected to have been part of a 12-character Doraemon set depicting the animals of the Chinese zodiac calendar. Customers wanting the toy would have to pay $2 on top of making a food purchase.

But McDonald's decided not to include the pig toy to avoid offending Muslim customers, and had a Doraemon Cupid toy in its place instead.

The move has upset Chinese customers keen on collecting all 12 toys in the series. One of them, staff nurse Daphne Koh, 26, said: 'I was born in the Year of the Pig and would have collected the whole set. But without the pig, it makes no sense for me to do so.'

Retiree May Liaw, 55, who had wanted to buy a set to decorate her home for Chinese New Year, said: 'It is strange to have Cupid in place of the pig. The set is incomplete and I am not interested in individual pieces.'

Various online forums are also abuzz with discussions on whether the fast-food chain has overreacted.


Anonymous said...

Warning: Riot squad come down hard and fast on the PIGGY "protesters" (remaining 11 zodiac characters) the historic ODEX protest...ha ha ha

Anonymous said...

I somehow doubt that Americans are responsible for this one.

yamizi said...


I came to your blog after someone posted your entry with regards to this at Mr Wang's corresponding post.

It hasn't dawn on me that the issue has already created such a stir in the internet world.

But surely, personally, I've never believed that Singapore ever have religious harmony, it has been religious tolerance all the while.

Somehow, as time moves on, in this unique Singapore, religion, race and culture are all blurred and probably been cross-reference.

I think religion, race and culture are still very different and my take is that many people here do not really know what's going.

Anyway, I like your write-up. =D

Nomad said...

Anon@ 13th Jan

ah, I didnt say the Americans are responsible. I said the American corporation has to hold some sort of responsibility because at the end of the day, it's all about corporate branding and reputation. A single misstep tends to soil a singular brand, and being such a "Socially aware and responsible" company, that is what I meant by the corporation on the whole should bear some responsibility to such a ill advised promotion.

Regardless if the claim is staked that it is a charm and not zodiac, it is clear to any man on the street the collection is inspired or drew inspiration from the zodiac. Further denial is futile honestly and makes Mac looks even worse squirming from its honest mistake.

PLus, even IF the collection was not to represent the zodiac, it becomes offensive when MAC aired the statement about "sensitivity to muslims", hence resulting a stir and retaliation in
various responses.

If they had NOT said that, people would naturally just have thought "Oh I wish there was a pig character or only if there is a pig to make it into a zodiac set" vs the current train of thoughts "We didnt have the pig because Mac donalds are afriad of the muslims"

Sometimes ignorance is truly bliss

Word for the wise, in this particular case Macs - "It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt."

Nomad said...

Hi Yamizi,


I tend to think, unless a person truly practices multiple faiths and gain an understanding of the respective religions, the utopia of religious harmony can never materialise in this world since its impossible to expect every citizen in a nation to be of minimally dual faiths. By record, various religions by itself is already "inward looking" judging by the mere prohibition of its follower to believe anything other than itself.

Hence in Singapore, your notion of religion tolerance to me, can already be accorded as reglious harmony to a certain extent.

At least in sg, people generally are more accepting or some dont even question the existence of various churches or mosques or temples around their neighborhood. In fact, there is even a religious building in Loyang that housed both the chinese deity and hindu deity inside the same building structue. Both faiths seem to coexist happily together for many years now.

Whereas In Australia, in sydnet you get huge community protest even on the concept of building a islamic school in the neighborhood. In other prominent countries, you get religious sites burnt down or vandalised. These to me are clasic signs of religious (in)tolerance and not true acceptance of its existence in the country as compared to what we have in Singapore.

Culture stems from ethnic population in general, with exceptions of course. Yet you are right that religion and race are so intermixed in modern era that its no longer possible to take a swipe and make a general statement for or against either.

Judging from the historical records of the nations around us, from past to present, I can only conclude one thing, that the religion that "rules the day" is almost always in tandem with the wishes of the people in power.

muslim said...

I just want to clarify that we Muslims have TOTALLY NO issue or offence with this whole pig thing.

It is PERFECTLY ALL RIGHT for any place to sell pig toys and we do NOT feel at all offended, insulted or think that others are being insensitive to our beliefs, and neither would we petition do for shops to remove pig toys from their shelves.

I would myself buy a pig toy if it's cute enough (Winnie's Piglet's not cute to me though). We hope that this incident and ignorance by McDonald's does not cast a misconception on us Muslims and unnecessary tension among the various races/religions. :)

Nomad said...

Thanks Muslim. No worries, most of us are taking an issue with mac donaldson and NOT our fellow Muslim faith follwers. Which is exactly why my post stated why must macs turn a Non existing matter into an issue.

I believe one of the reasons people are upset is precisely that the non Muslim faith follwers had never expect it to be an issue, thus when Macs suddenly rock the boat without checking what they shoot off their mouth,itcreates an uproar and create feeling of disbelief.