Wildlife meat is still hung at Huong pagoda
Friday March 1, 2013
Food that is advertised as “wildlife meat” has always been considered to be a “special, rare, expensive dish” that is only available at Huong Pagoda. This is a common thought that is deeply rooted in both consumers and suppliers, making all police efforts to clean up these violations useless. As long as so many people still consider wildlife meat a “specialty”, the Organization Committee (OC) and local authorities cannot do much to change it, because it will decrease the income of the festival.
Police efforts in communication cannot “erase” these ugly scenes
“Stay in the field” to clean up the sale of wildlife meat
Many articles during the beginning of the year write about the wildlife meat being hung and sold at Huong Pagoda (Huong Son commune, My Duc district, Hanoi) – it is a controversial topic. These killing scenes at such a religious destination have become so familiar, observed by all tourists, and somehow making them believe that this is a must-eat specialty - a “gift” from Buddha. A few years ago the trend was to sell small Indian civets (which are actually altered dogs/cats) and squirrels, but now the meat of deer, porcupine and ostrich (legally farmed) is more common.
In order to deal with the sale of fake wildlife meat, which can cause food safety and cultural issues, in recent years the Ministry of Culture, Sport and Tourism and Hanoi People’s Committee have cooperated to issue many documents to other offices focusing on this problem. The Director of Hanoi Police is concerned about cracking down on hanging wildlife meat at Huong pagoda, and has ordered the Environmental Police to take care of this.
In 2013, among the 73 policemen who have been sent to My Duc District to manage the Huong pagoda festival, there are 26 environmental police who are in charge of three main fields: cooperation with local FPD, veterinary needs, market management, authorities and police; dealing with environmental and food hygiene violations; and monitoring and dealing with the hanging and sale of wildlife/animal meat. To ensure the result and quality of the work, the environmental police were ordered to stay at Huong pagoda from Feb 13th to April 30th without leave or changing shifts.
This kind of killing scene still happens at Huong pagoda
Some work hard, others just play around
According to Senior Lieutenant Nguyen Thanh Long, Vice Director of My Duc Police, the display and sale of wildlife at Huong Pagoda is decreasing year after year, thanks to communication activities with the restaurant owners and tourists; however it still exists. The police have even suggested several times to My Duc People’s Committee to move the restaurants to another area, but have not received a response.
In undercover action with environmental police, we recorded many restaurants such as Nam Thanh No.2, Chien Thang, Quynh Phuong, Ly Tuong, and Doan Mi “proudly” displaying and butchering animal meat, including some farmed wildlife such as porcupine and deer. According to Senior Lieutenant Nguyen Van Quan, Vice Manager of Environmental Police Department, deer and porcupine can be legally farmed and sold under the management of FPD.
Many restaurants can produce the necessary legal permit documents, and police cannot charge them with “illegal wildlife trade” violations. There are only three violations that can be easily charged: hanging beef/calf meat without proper papers or certification on quality; improper food preservation; or operating restaurant without hygienic certification. The average fine level is about 300.000 VND – 750.000 VND per violation. However, the police cannot confiscate the evidence (the meat); only the veterinarians or market management can. According to the monitoring and survey results from the beginning of the festival season, these two authorities are leaving the field without taking proper care, thereby “supporting” violations.
To clean up the meat display and sale at Huong pagoda, we need the close cooperation from all four authorities: Police, FPD, Veterinarians and Market Management; unlike now, when all police efforts of communication and monitoring are almost useless because violations continue as soon as the police leave due to a lack of punishment. However, even if the four authorities really worked closely with each other, it may still not be enough!
Author: Thu Hanh
Translated by Education for Nature – Vietnam. This translation is unofficial in nature. The Vietnamese language version of this story can be obtained by contacting ENV.