Giant pandas are appreciated all over the world because look at them. But in China, where they're dubbed a "national treasure," the love is hardwired into you from birth.
That's why many people were furious to learn about a TV reality show being filmed called "Giant Panda Fantasy" that has cut at least one one-year-old cub away from its mother's nurturing.
People also criticized the program for putting pandas into close contact with a group of celebrities, and a bigger crew behind the camera, for up to 100 days.
Weibo user "Zhouguli" — who first discovered the photo that launched the controversy — says that life of the family of Qing Qing, one panda recruited by the program from Wolong National Nature Reserve, has been turned upside down, with a sharp drop in sleep and loss of appetite.
Many people expressed support for the boycott. Weibo user "Yeyan Li" told the story of her encounter with Qing Qing, who's nicknamed Cranberry.
"It's a common trick to entertain the audience by forcing unweaned cubs to leave mothers for the purpose of animal performance," animal welfare group Animals Asia Foundation commented.
But according to an endorsement published by the China Conservation And Research Center for the Giant Panda, housed inside the Woolong Nature Reserve, Qing Qing's mother isn't producing enough milk anyway.
But people still aren't sure why a celebrity reality show is the best approach to educate people with panda knowledge, when giant pandas, though not an endangered animal anymore, are still classified "vulnerable."
Last year, another Chinese TV animal reality show received criticism from domestic and international experts for mishandling animals, giving them pedicures and dressing them up in costumes.
The national debate boils down to one question, so obvious that even the state-run Global Times asked it: "don't such human-serving programs go against our desire to protect giant pandas and better facilitate them to return to the nature?"
Beimeng Fu is a BuzzFeed News World Reporter covering China and is based in New York.
Contact Beimeng Fu at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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