Buffalo fighting festival suspended after man gored to death in Vietnam

By Giang Chinh   July 2, 2017 | 10:02 pm PT
The incident, the first in the event’s history, has prompted the public to call for a permanent end to the tradition.

A buffalo fighting festival in northern Vietnam has been cut short after an owner was killed by his own buffalo on the opening day.

The city has been ordered to check for stimulants in the buffalo and others participating in the Do Son festival, held in the port city of Hai Phong.

The festival is a tradition and the winning animal is offered as a sacrifice to pray for good crops and smooth sailing. Although there have been injuries in the past, the owner’s death on Saturday was the first fatality for over four decades.

The buffalo which fatally gored its owner may be put down“Officials and the victim’s family have decided that the final solution should be to kill it,” a city spokesman said.

Dinh Van Huong, the owner, bought the animal to fight at the festival a year ago, and had 10 years experience caring for buffalos.


The buffalo which fatally gored its rider has been tied up. Photo by VnExpress

Trinh Thi Thuy, vice minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism, said the festival's organizers had failed to guarantee safety.

Thuy said the ministry will consult experts and the public to decide if the festival should return in the coming years.

There is no historical data of when the festival was started. It was disrupted during war time but was resumed in 1989 as one of the biggest festivals in Vietnam, one that was recognized as a National Intangible Heritage in 2013.

Many members of the public support ending the festival permanently, according to local media surveys.

The buffalo is an iconic animal of Vietnam, given the country's long history of agriculture. The herbivore is usually pictured as a gentle beast, but many traditional festivals paint it in a different light.

Dak Lak Province in the Central Highlands ended a centuries-old buffalo stabbing ritual in 2016 after years of campaigning by animal activists and the public.

A notorious pig slaughtering festival in the northern province of Bac Ninh was also toned down this year, receiving praise from activists for being less cruel. After a parade, two pigs were killed humanely away from the public eye.

But critics have also called for more efforts.

Animals Asia, a Hong Kong-based advocacy group, said that parading the pigs around the village caused them undue stress and suffering, so more changes were needed to ensure no animals experience fear or trauma.

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