Singapore snorts over McDonald's toy pig blunder

Fri Jan 22, 2010 12:12am EST
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SINGAPORE (Reuters Life!) - McDonald's apologized to Singapore Friday and brought a pig back to its toy menu, after a decision to leave the animal out of its Chinese zodiac collection upset many in the predominantly ethnic Chinese nation.

McDonald's this month started selling cartoon character miniatures depicting the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac calendar, but the pig was replaced by love god Cupid as McDonald's said it did not want to offend Muslims.

But the move, just ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday and Valentine's Day in February, backfired as many Chinese customers complained in chatrooms and blogs that they would not have a chance to buy the animal sign of their birth year.

"We're sorry, and we're grateful," the fast food chain said in a half-page advertisement in the Straits Times newspaper, saying it never intended to offend anyone.

Multi-racial Singapore has successfully avoided racial tension since deadly riots in the 1960s, though the government sees race as the biggest potential fault line in society.

"I understand that we need to respect our Muslim citizens as Singapore is a multiracial and multicultural society," Pauline Koh, whose daughter was born in the Year of Pig, wrote to the Straits Times.

"However, in this case, the Pig is one of the Chinese zodiac signs -- part of Chinese culture and customs -- and it is just a soft toy, not food," she wrote. Around 75 percent of the nearly 5 million population in Singapore is ethnically Chinese and 15 percent is Malay or Indian Muslim. McDonald's and many other fastfood chains sell food that is halal, or acceptable to Muslims.

Pork and other pig products are not halal food.

(Reporting by Nopporn Wong-Anan and Fabian Ng; Editing by Miral Fahmy)

<p>People walk in front of a McDonald's restaurant in Bucharest January 7, 2010. REUTERS/Radu Sigheti</p>