The decades-old Do Son Buffalo Fighting Festival in the northern city of Hai Phong still held its 27th edition on Friday, despite widespread public opposition for its brutality.
The annual spectacle, held on the ninth day of the eighth month of the lunar year, took place at a stadium in Do Son District.
The buffalos, hailing from eight wards of the district, were distributed into pairs to fight against each other amid cheer of more than 20,000 spectators crowding the venue.
The winner this year was the bull raised by Le Ba Vo from Van Huong Ward, who took home the VND100 million (US$4475) cash prize.
Hoang Trung Hieu, deputy chairman of Do Son District, said the fest, now in its 27th year, was organized in the hope of wishing local fishermen a prosperous fishing season.
Hieu added that the quality of the fest had been “significantly improved” to serve visitors and the locals, apparently referring to public concern over the festival’s brutal manner.
Despite his defense, the latest edition on Friday proved itself a barbaric practice, with one of the ‘buffalo contenders’ killed only minutes into the competition, after failing to strike a critical attack.
In 2013, Do Son Buffalo Fighting Festival was officially recognized as a national intangible cultural heritage.
Despite this, the fest has encountered disapproval from cultural experts and the public for being brutal and barbarous in nature.
Some critics label the practice as “uncivilized,” while many readers of Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspapers are also in no favor of the festival for its inhumanity, suggesting that the fest be eliminated.
In late January, the Vietnamese Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism has said it does not approve of festivals that include cruel and violent rites, following an appeal by Hong Kong-based animal protection NGO Animals Asia against one of such fests in northern Vietnam.
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.