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Vietnam’s shameful buffalo fights continue to set a violent example to the country

28 September 2018

Trainers caught sharpening horns to cause maximum carnage at cruel “festival” despite government desire to end “uncivilised” events.

The Do Son Buffalo Fighting festival, which takes place in Vietnam’s Hai Phong province, is a needlessly violent and cruel form of entertainment based on animal suffering.

Before the fight, owners do everything possible to agitate their buffalo into an aggressive state, banging gongs close to their heads, causing disorientation and profound stress which they take out on their equally enraged opponent.

After the contest, the buffaloes are led out of the arena, broken, maimed and bleeding, only to be violently killed and butchered so their meat can be sold at vastly inflated prices.

No animals survive.

Bleeding buffalo after the fight

Animals Asia Animal Welfare Officer, Nguyen Tam Thanh said:

“As a spectacle of violence and animal cruelty, the Do Son buffalo fights stand alone in Vietnamese culture. As Vietnam enters a new era of prosperity and modernity, it is time for this gory event to be consigned to the history books. I certainly would never take my children to such an event.”

The event narrowly escaped being shut down in 2017 after a trainer was gored to death by his own buffalo.

That tragedy, in tandem with a demand by the Ministry of Culture, Sport and Tourism that all “uncivilised” festivals be scrapped, should have seen Vietnam move on from the 30-year-old “tradition”. But instead it was allowed to continue.

And this year, as the event was allowed to return to national television in the country, trainers were filmed deliberately sharpening the horns of their buffaloes to increase the pain and bloodshed.

Animals Asia Animal Welfare Director Dave Neale said:

“Sadly, Vietnam still does not have a specific law to stop people deliberately harming animals for entertainment. While that remains the case, violent, bloody and cruel events featuring animals such as dogs, boars and buffalos will continue to blemish the country’s image.

“The government and the majority of people want nothing to do with animal cruelty, yet right now, nobody has the power to stop it.”

Vietnam passed its first animal welfare legislation in 2016 in the form of the Animal Health law, but there is presently no provision to punish those who carry out cruelty to animals.

While amending a law is a long legal process which can take years, Animals Asia is petitioning the government to introduce and implement a Circular to guide an article of the existing Animal Health law – a move which can be taken much more quickly to outlaw deliberate cruelty to animals such as the Do Son Buffalo Fighting festival.

The Do Son Buffalo Fighting festival lost its government funding in 2017 but has continued through private sponsorship. Notable sponsors in 2018 included tour companies and the state-run Vietnam Post and Telecommunications (VNPT).

Animals Asia has written to this year’s sponsors to dissuade them from promoting animal cruelty, and will also take up the case with the Ministry of Culture, Sport and Tourism.