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There’s a conflict between law enforcement agencies and the festival Organization Committee (OC) in dealing with violations of the display and sale of meat at Huong Pagoda. While dozens of Hanoi Police are working hard in the field with the determination to crack down on violations, the OC would prefer to issue reminders. The result is that many restaurant owners are not afraid of the law, and are even showing a defiant attitude.
It’s hard to eradicate all the meat hanging in restaurants with just a gentle reminder
A policy of “being gentle”
On February 25, ten days after the festival opening ceremony, Mr. Nguyen Chi Thanh, Vice Manager of the Huong Pagoda Festival OC, claimed that 90% of restaurant owners in the complex follow the OC’s suggestion not to hang and display the meat. However, Senior Lieutenant Nguyen Van Quan said “Before, on and after the opening day, the environmental police have been monitoring, controlling, and reminding restaurant owners to sign the commitment not to hang and display the meat. But whenever the police are away, the restaurants intentionally violate their commitment.”
The environmental police suggest that the OC and My Duc People’s Committee should set up an interdisciplinary team of four forces: police, FPD, veterinarians and market management, in partnership with other authorities such as the People’s Committee and My Duc police, to inspect the food hygiene from February 25.
In particular, Senior Lieutenant Nguyen Van Quan suggested that Hanoi Veterinary Department should be responsible for handling meat that has not been quarantined; FPD for inspecting and confiscating illegal wildlife meat; the Market Management for checking the legal permits for business and food hygiene; and the Environmental Police for support when subjects do not obey authorities’ orders.
However, according to Mr. Nguyen Chi Thanh, “most of the restaurants do not hang the meat, so the OC suggest that the interdisciplinary team should only ‘remind’ them. We should only handle cases where food is unhygienic, and if the level of violation is lower then we should just remind them.”
Not afraid of the law, showing defiant attitude
In addition, before the interdisciplinary team began work in the field, on February 21 the OC sent a notice to the restaurants in the Huong Pagoda complex about the times and locations that the crew would visit. This helped warn the restaurants in the dock area and the Thien Tru area to move all the meat hooks from outside to inside the refrigerated cabins. Although many violations of displayed snake/lizard wine were still found on February 25, the FPD “forgave” and “reminded” the owners, as the OC suggested. In the refrigerated cabin of Nam Thanh No.2 Restaurant (Ben Tro dock), the authorities found one butchered deer, and the owner could not prove its legal origin. This violation was still “forgiven”, despite police pushing the FPD to handle it properly.
Although the interdisciplinary team is strong, their work is not, and as such some restaurant owners are not afraid of the law. Some of them even show a defiant attitude and raise their voice to the authorities, for example Nhu Y and Quang Khai restaurants. As this journalist recorded on February 25, as soon as the authorities left, the restaurants displayed the meat again.
One insider told us directly that the reason for this conflict in law enforcement is the economic benefit. The restaurants pay about 300-400 million VND each festival season to get a good position in the complex. If the business does not do well, they will not continue to rent the position next season, causing a poor result for the income of the festival. For this reason, it is easy to see why the OC supports these restaurants. Selling common meat like buffalo, beef, pork, and chicken will not provide enough income to cover the cost of a stall, so restaurants started to think about making fake wildlife meat from dogs and cats (disguised as civet, squirrel) to sell for a much higher price.
It would be very difficult for the police to “erase” all of the wildlife hung and displayed at Huong Pagoda if they have to work alone like this. If there are no stronger orders from Hanoi People’s Committee, My Duc People’s Committee and the OC, as well as other authorities, these ugly scenes will continue in future festival seasons.
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.