Restaurant slammed for letting patrons catch crabs with 'cruel' claw machine
Use of gimmick to entertain customers branded as cruel
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 machine on social media for cruelty.
"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."
The 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.
Mr Francis Ng, chief executive of The House of Seafood, told The Straits Times he got the idea from machines that dispense soft toys, attracting many children.
"I wanted to educate the kids on how to differentiate a male and female crab and keep them entertained in the restaurant," the 47-year-old 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 is minimised, he said. Only its pincers are tied up.
He added that 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 to catch a crab.
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 down.
On Tuesday, online publication Shout posted a video of the machine and it has been viewed more than 100,000 times and garnered over 1,000 comments.
Many netizens criticised the restaurant, saying it is animal cruelty and a "cheap" promotional tactic.
Netizen Dawn Teo said: "This is so cruel! They are living things and not toys!"
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 online talk that she was made to do it. But she told The Straits Times she did the jig on her own accord.