SINGAPORE - Following public backlash, a seafood restaurant in Punggol has stopped using a machine where customers can catch their own live Sri Lankan crabs.
On Thursday (Oct 24), 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 play things. We noticed a lot of children at The Punggol Settlement and we wanted to educate them about marine life," said Mr Francis Ng, chief executive officer of the House of Seafood in the Facebook post on Thursday.
"We would like to stress that our 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," he said. "We are deeply sorry and apologise for any inconvenience and unhappiness caused."
Mr Ng told The Straits Times: "I respect the feedback from the public and I am truly sorry for the inconvenience caused to animal lovers."
However, SPCA CEO Jaipal Singh Gill felt that 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 told ST.
The National Parks Board's Animal and Veterinary Service (AVS) said on Thursday that it was alerted to the case of live crabs placed in a claw machine by the Punggol restaurant and are investigating the matter.
"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.
The restaurant introduced the machine earlier this month, and customers pay $5 each time to try to snap up their desired Sri Lankan crustacean.
The machine is believed to be the first of its kind in Singapore. It was introduced to customers on Oct 13, according to the restaurant's Facebook page.
The tank holding the crabs is also elevated and cushioned so that if the crabs fall after being snapped up, the drop and impact are minimised. Only the crabs' pincers are tied up. The crustaceans are also replaced with a new lot every hour.
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.