A controversy over a packaging design by Chinese water and beverage company Nongfu Spring has become one of the hottest topics on Sina Weibo, with some Chinese claiming the design is based on circus elephant shows and calling for a boycott, while others say it’s just an artistic conception.
A Nongfu Spring customer service representative told the media that this is a normal illustration style with no 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 users asking the company to change the design.
The design is for a kind of lemon tea product by Nongfu Spring, featuring 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 [and] 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 internet users didn’t like it and have called on Nongfu to reconsider the design.
“We refuse animal shows and refuse any advertising drawing on animal performances,” one Weibo user wrote.
Other social media users 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 user wrote.
Some users also said those who triggered the topic were “picking out bones from an egg.”
On May 6, a social media user posted a statement on Xiaohongshu, a lifestyle-focused social media platform, saying that the packaging design of the Nongfu Spring drink features an elephant performing in a circus.
“This may have been an accidental error on the part of the company, but any animal exposure will remind us that the animals suffered in training,” the user said in the post, according to the media.
The user demanded a design change, and later the news got more attention.
Reports of an elephant named Molly having been mistreated at a zoo in central China’s Henan province has also sparked heated debate online, with many celebrities calling for more protection for the elephant.