The Vietnamese version of popular cooking show MasterChef has been engulfed in scandal after a contestant was filmed punching and beheading a live turtle as part of a culinary challenge.
The show, on which Australian celebrity chef Luke Nguyen is a judge, has copped significant backlash after a clip of the gruesome incident went viral online.
Contestant Khanh Phuong can be seen punching the turtle in the stomach so it would come out of the shell. Due to time pressure and for fear of being eliminated from the competition, Phuong angrily sever the reptile’s head with a knife as it jutted out.
Another contestant was also seen beheading a separate turtle in the background.
According to news.com.au, it’s an act Phuong now admits was “cruel”.
The 21-year-old amateur cook has been the subject of intense online criticism since the episode of the cooking competition aired in late September. That furore intensified last week when a YouTube clip of the barbaric act began to gain traction online.
Phuong now says she is having trouble sleeping, according to New York Daily News, and the network that airs the popular show, VTV3, has apologised.
“Allowing such a violent scene to air was an accident. Sometimes we have to watch too many programs a day and only inattention causes us to miss such scenes," a network spokesman told newspaper Thanhnien News.
Lai Van Sam, head of the Sports, Entertainment, and Economy Information Desk of VTV3, also said: "We take full responsibility for this incident. A mistake was made in our image censoring process.
"That image should not have been aired on TV. This is an unwanted incident," tuoitrenews.vn quoted him as saying.