Gory images of pigs being slaughtered at a festival held recently in the northern province of Bac Ninh have drawn strong protests from netizens after they were posted online, a Tuoi Tre newspaper report said on February 4.
In fact, a Facebook page was created to generate support for banning the festival, it said.
According to a local legend, towards the end of the Ly dynasty, Ly Doan Thuong, a general, came and stayed in this area during a battle. Here, he killed wild pigs to feed his solders. Since then, it is said, the pig slaughtering festival has been held every year on the sixth day of the first Lunar Month to commemorate the man believed to have discovered this land.
For the local residents, the blood of the pigs slaughtered for the festival symbolizes prosperity, energy and good crops. So after the animals are slaughtered, the residents jostle each other to touch the pig's blood for the good luck.
The Facebook page protesting the "savage" and "cruel" festival has gathered around 500 members, although pigs are routinely slaughtered nationwide as staple food.
However, traditional culture researchers have a different opinion about this festival as well as others that involve animal sacrifice.
According to professor Nguyen Van Huy, an ethnographic researcher, festivals such as pig slaughtering, buffalo fighting or buffalo sacrifice have existed for thousand years among certain communities and cannot be seen as any kind of deviant cruelty.
Professor Ngo Duc Thinh, another culture researcher, says there are animal sacrifice festivals in many regions; some are slaughtered before the worshipping ritual, while at others, the slaughter happens as part of the ritual. Often, the "stabbing and killing" of sacrificial animals is a way to recreate part of a battle.
Thinh said that if this festival is confined to the village community as it traditionally is, it will not harm anybody.
Bui Trong Hien, another culture researcher, also agreed with the idea of keeping such rituals within a small community. He said people should not propagate these rituals a lot because the crowds of people and the act of slaughter and blood shedding would not exert a good influence on children.
While the slaughering of animals as part of festival rituals used to be limited to communities, many people have begun join such festivals not out of any belief but out of curiosity, he said.