Nongfu Spring packaging triggers controversy over animal shows
Published: May 10, 2022 11:44 PM
A worker in a Nongfu Spring facility in Hangzhou, East China's Zhejiang Province in February 2020 Photo: cnsphoto

A worker in a Nongfu Spring facility in Hangzhou, East China's Zhejiang Province in February 2020 Photo: cnsphoto

 A controversy over a packaging design by Chinese bottled water and beverage company Nongfu Spring has become one of the hottest topics on Sina Weibo, with some Chinese netizens saying the design is based on circus elephant shows and calling for a boycott, while others said it's only an art design.

A customer service staffer from Nongfu Spring told the media that this is a normal style of illustration, without any implied meaning.

The hashtag "Nongfu Spring package design reproached for prettifying elephant shows" has got over 120 million views on Weibo as of press time, with some netizens asking the company to change the design.

The design is for a kind of lemon tea by Nongfu Spring, with a girl lifting an elephant. "The girl named Citrus easily lifted Mr. Elephant over her head, just like a dream party between tea and fruit as the fresh lemon & citrus taste mixed with mellow Pu'er tea base," according to the company's official website, explaining the outside packaging design of the tea.

However, some netizens didn't like it. "We refuse animal shows and refuse any advertising drawing on animal performances," one netizen wrote. 

Other netizens said this was an overreaction and emphasized that it's only a kind of art. "Which trainer can lift an elephant? Leave some space for art," another netizen wrote.

Some netizens said those who triggered the topic were "picking out bones from an egg."

On May 6, a netizen posted a notice on Xiaohongshu, a lifestyle-focused social media platform, claiming that the packaging design of the Nongfu Spring beverage includes an elephant performing in a circus. It might be the company's inadvertent mistake, but any animal show will remind us that the animals have suffered in training, the netizen said in the post, according to media reports.

The netizen called for a change to the design and later the news got more attention. Earlier, whether an elephant named Molly had been abused in a zoo in Central China's Henan Province also triggered a heated discussion online, with many celebrities supporting more protection for the elephant.