Villagers dressed in festival clothes at a festival in Bac Ninh Province, in which two pigs will be killed at the end. Photo credit: Animals Asia Foundation
The battle between tradition and change continues as a village in Bac Ninh Province has been asked to rename its centuries-old pig slaughter festival and stop making a spectacle out of the killing.
Culture officials in the province said Nem Thuong Village should change the festival’s name from “Pig Slaughter” to “Pig Parade”.
Villagers should also keep the act of slitting the pigs’ throats away from public eyes, they said.
These suggestions, however, are not binding until approved by the provincial government.
Hong Kong-based Animals Asia Foundation launched a petition late last month asking the public to reject the festival and Vietnam government to end it.
People in Nem Thuong celebrate the festival every sixth day of the first lunar month – February 24 this year – to commemorate a general who took refuge in the area while fighting invaders a thousand years ago. He killed wild hogs to feed this soldiers, hence the tradition.
The villagers parade two pigs around the village before cutting their necks for blood.
They then wet money notes with the fresh blood and put them on the altars in their houses to pray for good crops and health.
A Bac Ninh government leader told the press on Thursday that they will send culture officials to attend the festival this year to make sure not many people witness the killing, and that the money wetting will not happen.
Nguyen Van Anh, deputy director of the province’s culture department, said they have been encouraging the villagers to adjust their festival to "suit modern life".
Animals Asia’s petition forced them to be tougher this time, Anh said.
Vietnamese scholars meanwhile have objected the petition, raising their own concerns about cultural imperialism.
They said that although they have also been debating over the festival, they respect the village’s decision over their cultural life.
Professor Ngo Duc Thinh, who once headed the Vietnam Institute of Culture and Arts Studies, said no government power should be used to intervene in any cultural and spiritual festivals in the country.
“At a certain point, if the community decides that the festival is no longer appropriate, they’ll end it themselves,” he said.