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Claw machine with live crabs draws ire, but restaurant says it was designed to cause minimal harm

SINGAPORE — A seafood restaurant in Punggol has come under fire from animal lovers for its new claw machine that allows users to maneuver a giant claw to pick up live crabs, which they can then purchase and have cooked on the spot, or return to the sea.

Claw machine with live crabs draws ire, but restaurant says it was designed to cause minimal harm

Over the past week, from 5pm to 10pm daily, customers who visited the House of Seafood at Punggol Point Road could pay S$5 to use the claw machine.

SINGAPORE —  A seafood restaurant in Punggol has come under fire from animal lovers for its new claw machine that allows users to manoeuver a giant claw to pick up live crabs, which they can then purchase and have cooked on the spot, or return to the sea.

However, the restaurant owner said he had had the machine specially designed so it would minimise pain and harm to the crabs.

Since last week, from 5pm to 10pm daily, customers who visit the House of Seafood at Punggol Point Road can pay S$5 to use the claw machine.

In a Facebook post on Wednesday (Oct 23), the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) said it had made a report to the Animal and Veterinary Service (AVS), asking the agency to “shut this down”.

“The game causes unnecessary harm to the animals and it also encourages people to see animals as nothing more than objects to play with and goes against our vision of a kinder society,” SPCA wrote in the post.

“Crabs are living creatures, not toys. SPCA advises members of the public to not partake in such activities.”

Mr Francis Ng, the chief executive officer of House of Seafood, said that the claw machine was designed with a higher tank, so that the crabs do not have to suffer a greater fall after being picked up. Photo: Najeer Yusof/TODAY

Within six hours, the post had been shared 1,400 times and drawn hundreds of comments from netizens who expressed anger at the claw machine.

Netizen Ping Lau wrote: “Thank you, SPCA for shutting this down. Live animals are absolutely not toys and should be treated with respect!” 

Another Facebook user Joseph Soh thanked SPCA for bringing the issue to light. He wrote: “You guys spreading the message will be very impactful and hopefully AVS will investigate on such unethical marketing strategy.” 

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Netizen Jas Renee Teo said that the claw machine was “unnecessary” and was “added fun for humans”. 

Some have even called for the restaurant to be penalised.

The executive director of the SPCA, Dr Jaipal Singh Gill, told TODAY that SPCA had visited the restaurant as part of its investigations but had not spoken to the restaurant’s managers before filing the complaint with AVS.

Speaking to TODAY in a phone interview, Mr Francis Ng, the chief executive officer of House of Seafood, said that he is in China now and was unaware of the furore over his claw machine, but he is open to working with the authorities on the matter. 

“We noticed a lot of children in the area and we wanted to educate them (about marine life) and allow them to return these crabs into the ocean. We want to encourage them, when they catch the crab, instead of taking it home, to release the crabs into the ocean.” 

Mr Ng said that it took the team one month of planning to come up with the design of the machine, so that it would not harm or hurt the crabs. It was then made in China for about S$5,000 and rolled out to customers last week.

“We have ‘gloves’ put onto the claws in the machine and we thought about this during the designing stage, to make sure that the claws will not injure or be painful for the crabs.”

He added that the claw machine was designed with a higher tank, so that the crabs do not have to suffer a greater fall after being picked up. 

“It is not a normal claw machine. The tank is very high up — so instead of falling from the seventh level to the ground floor, the crab is falling from the seventh floor to the fifth floor. This will minimise any pain for the crab,” he said. 

Mr Ng said that he has not received any negative feedback from customers who have used the claw machine, and found that most “liked this concept”.

“We have a tank beside the claw machine that is also supposed to act as a showcase for customers. Customers prefer not to use their hands to catch the crabs and would rather use the claw machine because they don’t want to dirty their hands.” 

After being informed about the concerns raised online, Mr Ng said the restaurant will consider withdrawing the claw machine “until the dust settles”. However, the restaurant continued to load the claw machine with crabs at 5pm on Wednesday afternoon.

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SPCA crab animal welfare seafood Punggol

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