The northern province of Bac Ninh is once again showing great determination to make a local pig slaughter festival less gory, after continued backlash from both local and international communities.
The annual event, which is coming very soon, will be closely watched, officials said.
Luu Dinh Thuc, vice chairman of the province’s capital town, also named Bac Ninh, said the authorities have ordered Nem Thuong villagers to make a few changes to their centuries-old tradition and avoid killing animals in front of the public.
“The villagers have basically agreed to at least move the slaughtering to somewhere discreet, but we are not sure things will go a hundred percent according to our plan,” Thuc said at a press conference on January 27
His lack of confidence is not without good reason.
Last year, local officials did fail to stop the killings in public although they had issued a lot of orders, after the Hong Kong-based Animals Asia Foundation criticized the festival as “extremely cruel” and ignited strong opposition across Vietnam.
“Both the director and the deputy director of the province’s culture department were there, but at the last minute, the villagers still killed a pig right in front of everyone.”
The festival last year was attended by thousands of people, including many children.
This year, Thuc said, officials in charge of the village will have to take responsibility if the ritual happens in public again.
Nem Thuong villagers celebrate the festival on the sixth day of the first lunar month, which is February 13 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 his soldiers, hence the tradition of slaughtering pigs.
Traditionally, villagers parade two pigs around before beheading them 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.
The festival has been facing criticism and opposition since 2012 but the villagers have refused to give up their tradition.
Thuc said the province has been organizing many conferences about the festival over the past year, inviting Nem Thuong’s elderly villagers in an attempt to change the way they conduct the festival.
“It’s very hard to change people’s view about their traditions. We need time and constant persuasion."