Cultural officials in Vietnam have expressed their determination to stop festivals criticized for their inappropriateness and brutality.
Disturbing fests must definitely be halted, Vu Xuan Thanh, chief inspector of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, said at a meeting to review festivals organized in 2015 late last month.
Meeting attendees debated extensively whether a pig slaughter festival in the northern region should be eliminated.
The Pig Slaughter Festival in Nem Thuong Village, located in Bac Ninh Province, has met with fierce criticism from animal rights activists and Hong Kong-based animal protection NGO Animals Asia.
As part of the tradition, pigs are carried around the village and then slaughtered in front of thousands of locals and visitors, including children, as a sacrifice to God.
People then daub sheets of money with the pig’s blood in the hope of getting luck for the new year.
Last year, Animals Asia even called on people to sign a petition, urging relevant Vietnamese agencies to end the festival due to what the NGO called its brutality.
Nguyen Huu Hoa, an official from the Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism of Bac Ninh, asserted that the pig slaughter festival does not violate the country’s laws.
Meanwhile, Prof. Ngo Duc Thinh, former director of the Vietnam Institute of Cultural Studies, said the government should not apply administrative management methods to folk fests, as local people themselves will cease them when they realize it is no longer suitable to organize them.
A pig is about to be slaughtered in front of thousands of spectators at the Nem Thuong Pig Slaughter Festival in Bac Ninh Province. Photo: Tuoi Tre
“Moreover, the pig slaughter festival is meant for the local community only, not tourists,” he said.
Prof. Thinh suggested that elder people in Nem Thuong Village to carry out the slaughter part at night and limit media access.
According to him, senior residents in the village have agreed to this suggestion.
Ministry shakes head
Chief inspector Thanh strongly opposed the opinions, saying the festival cannot be considered only a local event that does not affect other people.
He added that numerous cultural experts and associations have backed the ministry’s intention to scrap the festival.
Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Hoang Tuan Anh said that he had also met with authorities in Bac Ninh to call for an end to the pig slaughter festival.
“Isn’t it a superstitious and old-fashioned custom in which people daub sheets of money with the pig’s blood in the hope of getting luck for the new year?” he wondered.
Civilized things will be accepted but inappropriate rituals should not be observed anymore, he stressed, adding he hoped not to deal with any complaint about upsetting festivals this year.
Researcher Bui Trong Hien, of the Institute of Vietnamese Arts and Culture, told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper that the pig slaughter fest stems from a willingness to blindly follow ancestors’ customs, including those considered already outdated.
“In a civilized society, killing an animal and daubing sheets of money with its blood are regarded as very horrific rites,” he said.
“The old customs were created under certain historical circumstances which were suitable only in the past,” he said.