Vietnamese Minister of Culture, Sports, and Tourism Hoang Tuan Anh has recently confirmed the elimination of brutal festivals in which animals are killed cruelly as a sacrifice to God.
“As the Minister of Culture, Sports, and Tourism and a National Assembly deputy, I confirm that the barbaric animal sacrifice rituals in festivals, such as the pig slaughter festival in northern Bac Ninh Province or the buffalo killing fest in Phu Tho Province in the northeastern region, must definitely be terminated and disposed of,” the minister said at a conference on reviewing the festival management during the first six months of the year held in Hanoi early this month.
“Bloody images of slaughtered pigs or buffaloes with heads being beaten to death are truly offensive and need to be removed,” he stated, adding that such images have met with strong criticism from the public.
“Though the killing scenes take place at some villages’ fests, the whole world has learned about them thanks to the Internet,” he added. “It’s the image of the country and our people, not just the villages anymore.”
He also expressed his resolve to end those festivals, saying that if those events keep being organized, it will prove the state management agencies’ impotence and indifference to public opinion.
In addition, amid implications that some places organize fests to get benefits from ticket sales, Minister Anh said those localities that allow organizers to hold ‘commercial festivals’ to make profit should be disciplined and the organization of the events would not be approved anymore.
However, according to festival representatives attending the conference, it is not easy to remove the animal sacrifice ritual part at the festivals.
Nguyen Dinh Loi, representative of the Nem Thuong village’s pig slaughter fest in Bac Ninh, said it is impossible to change the awareness of people, as well as the village’s elders, to stop the pig slaughter immediately.
Meanwhile, the representative of the buffalo fest in Phu Tho said his locality cannot put an end to the event, adding local residents will kill the animals in other ways instead of beating them on their heads to death like before.
Vu Xuan Thanh, chief inspector of the culture ministry, said the localities should sacrifice the animals more discreetly and subtly without leaving pain on them or offending society.
Also, Tran Huu Son, deputy head of the Association of Vietnamese Folklorists, said that the sacrifice part is indispensable so the point is how people do it.
“We couldn’t give administrative orders to ban the animal sacrifice at festivals since it’s not related to human life,” he said. “This is the villages’ customs so we should call on people to make changes instead of order them to stop.”
He proposed that the management of those festivals should be clearly divided so that the villages will be in charge of things related to their traditions and the government will manage issues like social security or food safety.
Tran Quoc Chiem, deputy director of the Hanoi Department of Culture, Sports, and Tourism said at the event that some big fests in the capital city still have inadequacies, including a lack of recycle bins, rip-offs, and scrambling for tourists.
Furthermore, Pham Xuan Phuc, deputy chief inspector of the culture ministry, said the reason for the rip-offs at those places is the high land rent rate sellers have to pay.
“I found that a seller has to pay VND1 billion [US$45,935] per year to rent 12 square meters in the Sam Son tourism town in Thanh Hoa Province,” he said. “Elsewhere festival organizers even rent 4-5 square meters at tens of millions of dong in a few days. That’s why people have to sell a bottle of water for VND25,000 [US$1.15] [nearly five times the normal prize].”
Another issue related to festivals is security.
A representative from the Ministry of Public Security said some fests which see overcrowding, fighting, rough shoving, elbowing and scrambling should be changed.
In response, the culture minister expressed his determination to discipline authorities in locales showing inadequacies in organizing and managing festivals.
Minister Anh ordered the managing board of Huong Pagoda to solve the problem of a lack of restrooms, or reverse the situation in which people blatantly sell forest animal meat on the way to the pagoda in Hanoi.
“Local governments must be stricter and comprehensively handle the shortcomings instead of pointing them out only,” he stated, adding that managers should give heavier administrative penalties.