Vietnam’s tourism and culture ministry has expressed its opposition to a traditional pig slaughter festival which activists condemn as cruel and inappropriate.
Spokesperson Phan Dinh Tan of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism told Tuoi Tre newspaper this week that the ministry does not encourage “violent and brutal” acts at festivals like the one in the northern province of Bac Ninh.
Tan made the statement two days after the Animals Asia Foundation launched a petition, calling for public support to help end the festival.
The Hong Kong-based group also sent letters to the ministry and the Bac Ninh government urging them to issue an official ban.
People in Nem Thuong Village in Bac Ninh 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.
Tan did not mention the possibility of an official ban, but he said the ministry does not condone the practice, which has been going on as part of the village's spiritual life for hundreds of years.
He said his ministry does not encourage the promotion of any violent celebrations, including the famous Do Son bullfighting festival in Hai Phong, which has already won natural heritage recognition.
The bullfighting festival in Spain has also become controversial, he added.
“Living in this civilized world, we should discourage acts that are violent and barbaric.”
Trinh Thi Thuy, who is in charge of culture management at the ministry, takes a more cautious stance.
She said the government should study about the root of a tradition and hear from the community practicing it before they decide to change or stop it.
Thuy said it would be easier to intervene in a young festival.
“But many spiritual festivals in the country date back a very long time.”