Punggol seafood restaurant in hot water over 'inhumane' live crab claw machine

PHOTO: Facebook/House of Seafood

Claw machines are all the rage now — ice cream, soft toys, cup noodles, anything you name, you can probably catch it. In fact, claw machines are so popular that even aunties would go the extra mile just to grab what they want.

But what happens when a restaurant tries to hop on the bandwagon and rolls out a live crab claw machine?

To say netizens are a little 'crabby' would be a vast understatement.

House of Seafood recently introduced the live crab claw machine at their Punggol restaurant, encouraging customers to catch their next meal.

Catch your own fresh crab at our FIRST Singapore Claw Machine at The Punggol Settlement today. Upon successful catching...

Posted by 螃蟹之家 House of Seafood on Saturday, October 12, 2019

For just $5 a pop, customers can attempt to grab live Sri Lankan crabs from the machine and if successful, the restaurant would cook their catch for free.

The initial post by the restaurant on Sept 30 did not receive much attention. It only took off after a local media company shared a video on Tuesday (Oct 22) showcasing and promoting the machine.

The video has since garnered over 3,000 shares at the time of writing.

Many Facebook users berated the restaurant for its inhumane practice, calling the gimmick cruel, unnecessary and downright distasteful.

The restaurant's stunt also caught the attention of local animal welfare group, SPCA, which openly denounced the practice in a Facebook statement on Wednesday (Oct 23).

"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 their post.

They have raised the issue to NPark's Animal & Veterinary Service (AVS) and requested for the claw machine to be shut down.

SAY NO TO LIVE CRAB CLAW MACHINE A recent post by a local restaurant has been brought to our attention. In their claw...

Posted by SPCA Singapore on Tuesday, October 22, 2019

In a phone interview with AsiaOne, the owner of House of Seafood, Francis Ng, explained that he had intended for the claw machine to be a way to allow children to interact with crabs, rather than to treat the crabs as mere playthings. 

He first introduced the claw machine to his restaurants in China and, upon seeing its popularity with children, decided to bring it into Singapore. Ng said that apart from cooking their catch, customers have added options of raising the crab with the restaurant or even releasing them into the nearby sea. 

Measures have been put in place to ensure the crabs' wellbeing while within the machine too.

The machines were specially designed by Ng to include raised platforms, padded claws and even a cushion-lined prize chute where the crabs are gently lowered into. Not only that, while the restaurant operates for 12 hours a day, the crabs are only on display from 5pm to 9pm, during which the crabs are swapped out on an hourly basis. 

When asked if he had plans to remove the machine, he replied that he would only come to a decision after speaking with AVS. Should they request for him to remove the live crabs, Ng plans on replacing them with vacuum-packed boxes of pre-cooked crabs that the restaurant currently offers. 

Vacuum pack ready-to-eat crab is now available at selected Sheng Siong Supermarket! We have three type of crabs for you...

Posted by 螃蟹之家 House of Seafood on Monday, August 26, 2019

This is not the first time House of Seafood has made headlines. Just one year ago, a video of the restaurant's staff doing a 'chicken dance' whilst serving a flambeed chicken went viral.

rainercheung@asiaone.com