BEIJING (Reuters Life!) - Want to be sexy? Don't eat meat -- that's the message behind a campaign to promote vegetarianism in China, where meat consumption is booming on the back of rapid economic growth.
Animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals unveiled the campaign on Thursday, fronted by sultry Taiwanese actress and singer Barbie Hsu.
Hsu, better known in the Chinese-speaking world as "Big S," will appear in adverts in fashion magazines and websites in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong within the next few weeks to promote the benefits of giving up meat.
Vegetarianism is not a widely popular concept in China, where until fairly recently many people struggled to feed themselves, and where all sorts of creatures -- some of them endangered -- are considered food, to the chagrin of environmental groups.
PETA's China campaign follows on other global efforts involving celebrities, such as its annual "sexiest vegetarian alive" awards, which last year were given to performers Anthony Kiedis and Leona Lewis.
In the China adverts, a smiling Hsu holds a little yellow chick up to her face above the slogan "vegetarians make chicks happy," though the wording in Chinese literally translates as "Love her, love vegetarianism."
"My health has improved a lot since I became a vegetarian," Hsu, who said she had not touched meat for a decade, told Reuters. "I want to tell this good news to all of my friends, to tell them the advantages ... so this campaign is perfect for me.
PETA promotes vegetarianism not only for its health benefits, but as a way of improving the lot of farmyard animals, that it says are often brutally treated by factory farms.
But PETA is hoping that using Hsu, who shot to fame in the hit Taiwanese soap opera "Meteor Garden," will appeal to younger Chinese, who are becoming more health conscious in the wake of several scandals involving tainted food.
"Healthy vegetarian diets support a lifetime of good health and protect against heart disease, cancer and strokes," the group said in a statement.
"A vegetarian diet is also the easiest way to stay slim and sexy," it added.
Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Christina Hu, editing by Miral Fahmy