House of Seafood apologises over ‘crab claw’ machine, says wanted to encourage children to release crabs into ocean

House of Seafood CEO Francis Ng said the company had wanted to “encourage (children) to release the crabs back into the ocean after catching them”.
The Straits Times

The chief executive of House of Seafood has apologised after its Punggol restaurant was flagged by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) for causing unnecessary harm to crabs by placing them in an arcade claw machine.

In a statement posted on Facebook on Thursday (Oct 24) morning, Francis Ng said the gimmick was meant to “educate” children at The Punggol Settlement about marine life.

“We did not intend to use animals as play things,” Ng said in the post, adding that the company had wanted to “encourage (children) to release the crabs back into the ocean after catching them”.

Lifestyle website Shout had reported on Tuesday that the restaurant was charging S$5 per play on the machine, and would cook the crabs for free if diners could successfully catch them.

The restaurant had also posted a video of customers playing with the machine in early October. It had said then that people who successfully catch a crab with its claw machine could either keep it at the restaurant or have it cooked with chilli sauce, salted egg gravy or black pepper sauce.

A video posted by Shout on Facebook soon caught the attention of the SPCA, who decried the gimmick on its own Facebook page.

“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,” the group wrote.

“Crabs are living creatures, not toys,” SPCA said, adding that it had reported the restaurant to the Animal & Veterinary Service (AVS) “to ask them to shut this down”.

In less than 24 hours, SPCA’s post had been shared more than 2,000 times, with netizens slamming the restaurant’s unconventional idea.

“Come on! Can we be a little thoughtful for other living creatures. Imagine yourself being used in a claw machine. It is just sick,” Facebook user Kristin Tan wrote.

Another Facebook user, Jas Renée Teo, said: “Yes, we eat crabs and seafood but this machine is totally unnecessary and only for the added ‘fun’ for humans.”

A number of users also said they would be boycotting the restaurant as a result.

In his response on Thursday, Ng said that his team had spent a month thinking of a way to design the game so that it would not harm the crabs in the machine.

“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 to the crabs.

“We also clean the game machine every day and let them survive in a good environment,” he wrote.

Due to public feedback, House of Seafood has decided to temporarily stop the use of the claw machine at its restaurant, he added.


House of Seafood said it took a month to ensure the design of the machine would not hurt the crabs.
The Straits Times

Promising to “carefully review our system”, Ng wrote: “Once again, we are deeply sorry and apologise for any inconvenience and unhappiness caused.”

According to the House of Seafood website, the Punggol restaurant is its only store in Singapore. It also has another two restaurants in Cambodia and Malaysia.

The restaurant had gained fame in 2018 after a video of one of its staff doing a “chicken dance” went viral and garnered more than a million views.

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