SPCA criticises restaurant for live-crab claw machine

The House of Seafood restaurant in Punggol launched a live crab clawing machine for customers to catch their own live Sri Lankan crabs at $5 for each try.
The House of Seafood restaurant in Punggol launched a live crab clawing machine for customers to catch their own live Sri Lankan crabs at $5 for each try.PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM SHOUT/FACEBOOK
The machine's metal claws are covered with plastic to soften the grip on the crabs. The tank is also elevated and cushioned to minimise the impact of a drop, said House of Seafood chief executive Francis Ng. Since the claw machine's launch at House o
Since the claw machine's launch at House of Seafood restaurant on Oct 13, only one customer has successfully caught a crab. Three to four customers have tried but failed. SPCA and several netizens have called out the gimmick as being cruel. ST PHOTOS: ARIFFIN JAMAR

A seafood restaurant has come under fire for letting customers use a claw machine to catch the live crabs they want cooked for a meal.

The House of Seafood restaurant in Punggol introduced the machine earlier this month, and customers pay $5 each time to snap up their desired Sri Lankan crustacean.

Yesterday, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) called out the gimmick on social media as being cruel.

"We are disturbed by the concept and the harm it causes animals for the sake of human entertainment," SPCA executive director Jaipal Singh Gill told The Straits Times.

"We feel this machine needs to be shut down immediately."

SPCA has reported it to the National Parks Board's Animal and Veterinary Service, he said, adding: "We hope swift action will be taken."

Dr Gill said the claw machine can inflict unnecessary harm and distress to the crab as it will be dropped from a height by the claw.

"The crab's shell does not offer full protection from knocks and trauma. The claw machine also brings out the wrong mindset that animals are objects to be played with," he added.

The restaurant's 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.

House of Seafood chief executive Francis Ng, 47, said he got the idea from machines that dispense soft toys, attracting many children.

"I wanted to educate the kids on how to differentiate between male and female crabs, and keep them entertained in the restaurant," he said in a phone interview from China.

He spent $5,000 to make the machine in China, and covered the metal claws with plastic to soften the grip on the crabs.

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, he said. Only the crabs' pincers are tied up.

He added that the crustaceans are 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.

Should the authorities view it as unethical and step in, Mr Ng said he hopes to resolve the issue with them, adding that he is willing to take the machine away. He also apologised to animal lovers, and said the restaurant did not mean to treat the crabs as playthings.

On Tuesday, online publication Shout posted a video of the machine. It has been viewed more than 100,000 times and garnered over 1,000 comments.

Many criticised the restaurant's gimmick, saying it is cruel to animals and a "cheap" promotional tactic.

 
 
 

Netizen Dawn Teo said: "This is so cruel. They are living things and not toys."

Another netizen Carmen Pang said: "Such an inhumane practice reflects badly on you as a business, as well as your customers who participate in it with glee."

Two years ago, the restaurant was in the news for another gimmick. It had introduced a chilli crab dish vending machine, but no live crabs were used.

Last year, a video of a middle-aged waitress performing a "chicken dance" at the restaurant also went viral, sparking talk online that she was made to do it.

But she told ST she performed the jig on her own accord.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 24, 2019, with the headline 'SPCA criticises restaurant for live-crab claw machine'. Print Edition | Subscribe