Vietnamese pig-halving festival causes animal rights outcry

An annual pig-slaughtering festival in Vietnam was slammed as "extremely barbaric" by animal welfare groups, news reports said Wednesday.

Pigs are held down with ropes and sliced in half across the belly with swords or decapitated as part of Lunar New Year celebrations in the village of Nem Thuong, in the northern province of Bac Ninh.

"The cruelty is in stark contrast and incompatible with the vibrant, modern and economic success of Vietnam," the Animals Asia Foundation (AAF) said in a petition started last week.

"It has a negative impact on the mental state of visitors, as well as society and the country's tourism image."

More than 30,000 people had signed the petition, the group said Wednesday.

The festival is due to take place on February 24.

The ceremony commemorates General Ly Doan Thuong who is said to have butchered wild boar in the area to feed his men on their way to defeating Chinese invading troops under the Ly dynasty (1009-1225 AD).

Locals then dip bank notes in the animals' blood as an augury of prosperity, fertility, vitality and a good harvest.

The Culture Ministry supported the petition, Viet Nam News reported.

"Living in this civilized world, we should support cultural and civilized activities and limit uncultured and uncivilized acts," spokesman Phan Dinh Tan was quoted as saying.

Such ceremonies are facing a "shift in attitude," according to Trinh Hoa Binh from the Institute of Sociology. People are less prepared to put up with the "negative impact on people, especially the young and children," he said.

Others defended the tradition.

"Nobody has the right to judge others' culture as barbaric," Viet Nam News quoted professor Ngo Duc Thinh as saying.

"The principle is that all customs and traditions are equal as long as they do not violate human rights," the former head of the Vietnam Institute of Culture and Arts Studies said.

"Forcing the villagers to stop practicing the tradition is impossible," said National Assembly member and prominent historian Duong Trung Quoc.

"Any changes to the festival should be made by the local community by choice."