Given the fact that pigs are mostly raised for slaughter, it seems rather pointless and cruel to spend hours inking them with intricate tattoos. But believe it or not, tattooed pig skins are actually fetching a handsome price in China – up to $70,000 per hide!
These special pigs are inked under anaesthesia, with a variety of designs including Disney characters, Louis Vuitton logos, and even patterns that are popular with Russian prison inmates. Three artists work simultaneously on each pig, and their skin is later massaged and moisturised by carers. Once the pigs reach the end of their lives, their skins are sold to collectors for tens of thousands of dollars. One canvas featuring Disney characters, for example, was sold to Chanel and made into two bags.
According to Belgian tattoo artist Wim Delvoye, the brains behind the operation, the pigs are treated very well to the point of being spoiled. He started tattooing live pigs in 1997, but eventually had to move his business to China, where animal welfare laws aren’t so strict.
But despite Delvoye’s claims, animal rights activists have severely criticised the controversial practice. They believe that the pigs are suffering unnecessarily and being abused for commercial profit. “Pigs, cows, and chickens are emotional, thinking animals who feel pain every bit as much as we do, and they value their lives,” a PETA spokesperson said. He added that the tattoos would have left the pigs feeling ‘sore, scared, and confused’. “Talented and visionary artists do not rely on cruelty to animals to get attention,” he said.
But 49-year-old Delvoye appears unconcerned with the criticism. He once even went as far as tattooing a man’s back and selling it as a piece of art! The purchaser has the right to view the tattoo a certain number of times a year, and keep the skin once the man dies.
“Art must fascinate people, and doing easy things is not a good way to seek fascination,” Delvoye said. Do you agree?
Photos: Wim Delvoye