Local restaurant House of Seafood CEO Francis Ng has apologised after a live crab claw machine at its Punggol outlet copped flak by animal activists for treating them like "toys". In the statement on Facebook, Ng said the company "did not intend to use animals as play things".
This comes after a post by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) on the claw machine went viral, garnering over 500 comments and 2,300 shares in two days. The organisation said House of Seafood's claw machine, which replaces inanimate objects with live crabs for customers to lift and drop to "catch" crabs, causes "unnecessary harm" to the animals.
"It also encourages people to see animals as nothing more than objects to play with and goes against our vision of a kinder society. Crabs are living creatures, not toys," it added. Encouraging the public not partake in such activities, SPCA said it has since reported this to the Animal & Veterinary Service under National Parks Board to shut the activity down. Many commentators applauded SPCA for the move.
A day later, Ng announced on Facebook that the restaurant has put a "temporary stop" to the claw machine after hearing the concerns raised by the public. He apologised to all animal caregivers, and explained that the restaurant had wanted to educate children about marine life and encourage them to return the crabs into the ocean after noticing a lot of children at the The Punggol Settlement.
To design the machine to protect the crabs' welfare, he claimed that the team had took one month of planning, putting in place measures such as "gloves" on the claws and daily cleaning of the machine. Moving forward, he said the company will "carefully review" its system. The post saw over 150 comments and 50 shares in a day.
While some Facebook users accepted the apology and called the incident a good learning lesson, others are not as quick to forgive. They called out Ng for giving "excuses" instead of issuing a sincere apology. Some believe that he is being "dishonest" about the intention and the crabs would be cooked upon a successful crabs. One commentator, in particular, gave a suggestion, which may had just avoided this whole debacle - use crab soft toys in the claw machine and allowing redemption for real crabs after.
In early October, the House of Seafood posted a video of the claw machine, stating that customers could choose to keep the crab at the restaurant or get its chef to prepare it for lunch or dinner. It was charging SG$5 per play, according to multiple media reports.
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