The Vietnamese Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism has said it does not approve of festivals that include brutal and barbarous rites, following an appeal by an animal protection NGO against one of such fests in northern Vietnam.
The ministry is in no favor of cruel and violent festivals like that in Bac Ninh Province, Phan Dinh Tan, a spokesperson of the government agency, told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper on Thursday.
“Living in this civilized world, we should support cultural and civilized activities and limit uncultured and uncivilized acts,” Tan said.
He was referring to the Nem Thuong Pig Slaughter Festival annually held on the sixth day of the first month of the lunar year in Nem Thuong Village, Khac Niem Commune, Tien Du District.
The Hong Kong-based animal protection NGO Animals Asia has recently called on people to sign a petition proposing that relevant Vietnamese agencies end the festival because it displays cruelty.
Trinh Thi Thuy, director of the ministry’s Basic Culture Department that supervises local festivals, said that the department always encourages localities to organize annual fests, but those considered offensive to the public should be limited or even eliminated.
The department has requested that localities nationwide organize festivals in accordance with governmental guidance that they should be built on beautiful traditional values, Thuy added.
She noted that similar festivals – like bullfighting festivities – are also organized in other places in Vietnam.
Thuy suggested that thorough research should be conducted to specify which festival can be deemed disturbing or violent before making a decision to halt it.
“Many spiritual and religious festivals are immemorial and there have been mixed opinions about them,” she pointed out.
At the Nem Thuong Pig Slaughter Festival, which attracts thousands of locals and visitors, including children, pigs are carried around the village and then slaughtered in front of the spectators as a sacrifice to God.
People then daub sheets of money in the pig’s blood in the hope of getting luck in the new year.
A pig about to be hacked at the Nem Thuong Pig Slaughter Festival in northern Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Animals Asia has listed a number of reasons why the festival should be ended.
According to the organization, the festival is offensive and could have a negative effect on witnesses as well as the country’s tourism image.
Hacking apart healthy, live pigs is a cruel act to animals which could freeze the feelings of witnesses, especially children who have incomplete and vulnerable psychology, the organization stressed.
Animals Asia also cited research as showing that witnesses of cruel treatment toward animals tend to cruelly treat other people in the community.
The NGO also underlined that the festival causes unnecessary suffering for animals as they can also feel pain.
Moreover, Animals Asia said traditional culture changes over time, so unsound customs should be changed, and any festival needs to spread humanity to the next generation.
“Festivals in which animals are used as tools instead of being respected like beings which can feel pain are erasing Vietnamese people’s good traditions,” Animals Asia said.
Nguyen Van Anh, deputy director of the Bac Ninh Department of Culture, Sports, and Tourism, said since last year’s fest, the department has limited “cruel acts” at the festival pursuant to the direction of the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism and the provincial People’s Committee.
He added the 2015 festival will still be held on February 24, but the pig hacking as a sacrifice to God will not take place in a crowded area as before.
Founded in 1998, Animals Asia is devoted to ending the barbaric practice of bear bile farming and improving the welfare of animals, according to its website.
Animals Asia has rescued over 400 bears, caring for them at its bear sanctuaries in China and Vietnam, the organization says on its site.
From its small beginnings in Hong Kong, Animals Asia has grown into a respected international NGO with over 300 staff and offices in Australia, China, Germany, Italy, the UK, the U.S., and Vietnam.