How rodeos and bullfights help perpetuate animal cruelty in Asia

29 September 2017

Vietnam’s biggest buffalo fighting festival evaded a ban with defenders pointing to American rodeos and European bullfights as a key reason why.

One of Vietnam’s biggest annual events – the Do Son Buffalo Fighting Festival – narrowly escaped a complete ban despite being mired in controversy.

The event took place yesterday (Thursday 28 September) – albeit in a reduced format with no live TV coverage.

Many predicted the event, which sees male buffalos forced to fight in a stadium, would be stopped after a man was killed by his own buffalo at a qualifying round earlier in the year, while a decree by the Ministry of Culture, Sport and Tourism that all “out-dated” and “uncivilised” festivals should end, led to meetings to discuss its future.


The Ministry of Culture, Sport and Tourism’s announcement to end cruel festivals has already seen seven events – including buffalo stabbing and fighting festivals – stopped forever, leading many to hope that the Do Son event could be next.

Yet despite the controversy, the event was given the green light to continue by the Ministry of Culture, Sport and Tourism, with many of its backers pointing to similar events in other countries.

At a meeting to decide the event’s future on 7 September in Hanoi, Professor To Ngoc Thanh, President of the Vietnam Folk Arts Association, said:

“In recent years, Animals Asia has interfered too much in our lives. Try asking in other countries if bullfighting or boxing – which cause human deaths right there in the ring – are barbaric.”

Speaking at the same meeting, Professor Vũ Minh Giang, Vice-President of the National Heritage Council, said:

“We can't say […] rodeo festivals in foreign countries are cruel. What happened in the last buffalo fighting festival was just an accident – a person singing a folk song on a boat could fall in and drown in the river.”

In contrast to the decision allowing the Do Son buffalo fights to continue was a Vietnamese newspaper poll showing 86% of respondents thought the spectacle should end.

Animal Asia’s Animal Welfare Officer Nguyen Tam Thanh said:

“Despite the clear statements from central government and the opinion of the people who voted online, that this kind of barbaric event shouldn’t be part of the modern Vietnam, somehow the authorities arrived at a completely different conclusion.

“The main argument seems to be, why should we stop while violent festivals continue elsewhere around the world? To me that is an utterly false argument. Vietnam is an independent nation more than capable of deciding for itself what kind of heritage it wants to leave for the next generation.

“Notably, the issue that was not answered by those defending the event was that of animal cruelty. They have no answer for this because it is indefensible. Animals are not here for our entertainment and when our amusement is based on activities which cause stress and pain and ultimately death to innocent animals, it reflects very badly on our society and sends completely the wrong message to our children.”

Violent festivals have become a major point of debate in Vietnam since Animals Asia launched a campaign to end the Nem Thuong Pig Slaughter festival in 2013.

More than 20,000 people around the world signed a petition to end the bloody ritual in which a live pig was cut in half and money washed in the blood for good luck.

First opposed late in 2013 - over 60 articles were to appear in the Vietnamese press in 2014. A year later that had risen to 160 including coverage right across Vietnamese TV as the nation debated both its traditions and its future.

Among the media there was an online poll from VnExpress - showing 79% support from the general public to end all cruel spectacles.

The buffalos will be slaughtered right after the festival for selling