Government wants to end animal sacrifices at Vietnamese festivals, draws fire

Thanh Nien News

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 A file photo of a pig slaughter festival in Nem Thuong Village, Bac Ninh Province
Vietnam's culture and tourism ministry again condemned the practice of animal sacrifices at several festivals, saying they should be ended, but the event organizers did not agree, Tuoi Tre newspaper reported Friday.
Minister of Culture, Sport and Tourism Hoang Tuan Anh was quoted as saying at a meeting in Hanoi Thursday that the "bloody" and "brutal" images of buffaloes being sledgehammered and pigs being cut in half were "repugnant" and need to be “stopped immediately".
Even though the slaughter took place during Vietnamese village festivals, once their images were uploaded on the Internet, the whole world would know and the images then become representative of the country, he said.
Anh was referring to a pig slaughter festival in the northern province of Bac Ninh which faced strong opposition from the Hong Kong-based Animal Asia Foundation in January.
Less than two months later Vietnamese netizens voiced their resentment at a buffalo sacrifice festival in nearby Phu Tho Province.
"Such violent festivals must not take place in the future. If we state agencies let them continue, it will show that we are helpless and indifferent to public opinion," Anh said, without clarifying how his ministry plans to handle the issue.
But Vu Xuan Thanh, chief inspector of the ministry, has made it clear that the government will not ban the festivals.
Villagers, however, should change the way they carry out the practices so that they are "discreet" and "painless" to animals, he said.
Despite agreeing with the ministry that the festivals' "scary" images spread easily in the digital era, Tran Huu Son, vice chairman of the Association of Vietnamese Folklorists, said villages' cultural aspects should be decided by the villages themselves.
"The government cannot ban the practice of animal sacrifice at festivals because it has nothing to do with someone's life.
"It is the villages' custom and should be adjusted with villagers' consent and not administrative orders."
When it comes to festivals, the government should only manage things like food safety and security, he said.
Nguyen Dinh Loi, an organizer of the Bac Ninh festival, said it is "impossible" to change villagers' mindsets about the festival overnight, especially that of seniors.
An unnamed Phu Tho villager also said his village would not end the buffalo sacrifice festival. However, he promised his folks would consider changing the killing methods in future.

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