Change suggested as pig slaughter becomes hot topic

03 February 2015

Animals Asia's campaign to end the pig slaughter festival in Nem Thuong Village has prompted huge debate in Vietnam and seen politicians suggest change is a possibility.

In newspaper VN Express's online poll, asked if readers were for or against the pig slaughter festival, an overwhelming 79% said they thought the festival should end. Over 36,000 people voted in the poll.

Each year, as part of the Tet New Year celebrations, the village parades two pigs around the village ahead of their public slaughtering, with villagers dipping banknotes in the blood for good luck.

Now, following Animals Asia's campaign, Vietnam's Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism have said they do not approve of festivals where animal cruelty plays a part.

Phan Dinh Tan, a spokesperson for the government agency, referencing the festival said:

"Living in this civilised world, we should support cultural and civilised activities and limit uncultured and uncivilised acts."

Meanwhile Trinh Thi Thuy, director of the ministry's culture department that supervises local festivals has said it encourages villages to organise annual festivals that aren't offensive to the general public. Suggesting that further research was required as to which could be considered offensive she admitted there have been mixed opinions on festival content.

The on-going debate and political openness to change has prompted Nguyen Van Anh, Deputy director of Bac Ninh's Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, to consider altering the festival format. Media reports have outlined his suggestion that a procession with the pigs would continue but their slaughter would not be a public one.

Animals Asia's Vietnam Director, Tuan Bendixsen, said:

"Its hard not to overstate the interest there has been in this issue in Vietnam. The media has held a very responsible debate and there have been voices from both sides. There has, to date, been a suggestion of change but we're still pushing for clear clarification of what that might be. Any restraint of the pig and parading of the animal around the town is liable to cause severe suffering to the animal. While carrying out the slaughter in privacy may mean villagers are spared the horror of seeing an animal killed - it changes nothing from a cruelty point of view. We can be clear that animal cruelty should never be part of any festival.

"However, we are immensely gratified by the public response to this. People have been in overwhelming agreement with us - from ordinary members of the public to key members of government. We do respect tradition but we don't respect cruelty. We hope that Nem Thuong can build a new long-lasting, cruelty and animal free Tet tradition that will serve the village well into the future. A festival that everyone can enjoy and be proud to be part of."

Pressure from animal lovers has previously impacted the format of the festival. Footage in 2012 shows the pigs were hacked in two while still alive at the centre of a crowd. Last year the animals had their throats slit before being decapitated, while barriers provided crowd control. This year, reports suggest that the slaughter of the pigs will all be out of view but there has been no official clarification.

Executioner preparing for the ritual