Eatery halts use of live-crab claw machine

Punggol restaurant House of Seafood apologised yesterday for causing unhappiness over a machine that was criticised for being cruel to crabs.
Punggol restaurant House of Seafood apologised yesterday for causing unhappiness over a machine that was criticised for being cruel to crabs.ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

Move follows public backlash, but SPCA says suspension not enough; restaurant faces probe

Following a public backlash, a seafood restaurant in Punggol has stopped using a machine where customers could catch their own live Sri Lankan crabs.

Yesterday, the House of Seafood restaurant said on Facebook that it has stopped using the machine temporarily, and apologised for causing public unhappiness over its gimmick.

The U-turn came a day after it was called out on Facebook by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) as being cruel to the crabs, as the machine could inflict unnecessary harm and distress to the crabs if they are dropped from a height by the claw.

"We did not intend to use animals as playthings. We noticed a lot of children at The Punggol Settlement (where the restaurant is located) and we wanted to educate them about marine life," said Mr Francis Ng, chief executive of the House of Seafood in the post yesterday.

He also stressed that the restaurant's team took one month of planning to come up with the design of the machine, so that it would not harm or hurt the crabs.

"We are deeply sorry and apologise for any inconvenience and unhappiness caused," Mr Ng said, later also telling The Straits Times that he respects the feedback from the public and that he was "truly sorry for the inconvenience caused to animal lovers".

But SPCA executive director Jaipal Singh Gill said the measure was insufficient.

"We appreciate this clarification and are very happy with this news. However, what we are asking for is a full and permanent stop to the use of this machine," Dr Gill said.

The National Parks Board's Animal and Veterinary Service (AVS) said yesterday that it was investigating the matter on the claw machine.

 
 

"AVS takes all feedback received from the public on animal cruelty seriously and will look into the cases reported," it added. "All forms of evidence are critical to the process and photographic and/or video-graphic evidence provided by the public will help."

Videos of the machine went viral on Wednesday, sparking a public outcry.

PERMANENT STOP NEEDED

We appreciate this clarification and are very happy with this news. However, what we are asking for is a full and permanent stop to the use of this machine.

DR JAIPAL SINGH GILL, executive director of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

The restaurant introduced the machine earlier this month, and customers pay $5 each time to try to pick up their desired Sri Lankan crustacean. Since the machine's launch, only one customer has successfully caught a crab. Three to four customers have tried but failed.

Members of the public who come across suspected cases of animal cruelty can alert the National Parks Board via the online feedback form on its website at www.nparks.gov.sg/feedback or call 1800-471-7300.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 25, 2019, with the headline 'Eatery halts use of live-crab claw machine'. Print Edition | Subscribe