Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Eating the world

We keep them alive in cages until the customer makes an order. Then we hammer them unconscious, cut their throats and drain the blood. It is a slow death. We then boil them to remove the scales. We cut the meat into small pieces and use it to make a number of dishes, including braised meat and soup. Usually the customers take the blood home with them afterwards.
The restauranteur was talking about a Pangolin in this report about a ship found floating of the coast of China with 5,000 rare animals on board destined for stomachs on the mainland.

Westerners sometimes enjoy hearing about what we consider shocking consumption practices in China and elsewhere in East Asia. One of my favourite examples (not from China) is the baby bears whose feet, still attached to the living bears, are lowered into hot cooking oil because baby bear feet fritters taste better that way - or so it's reported.

'We' like to think we are better than 'them'. And, when it comes to stripping coral reefs of food in a way that maximises damage the Live reef fish trade does indeed mainly go through Hong Kong. (see also the animal welfare section on chinadialogue.net)

But one can turn the argument around. Western consumption preferences may be different, but they are not necessarily less horrible or damaging to the planet.

How to break out of this? Start with a diagnosis. Avner Offer argues that affluence breeds impatience, and impatience undermines well-being (thanks to Chris Goodall for pointing to this). Offer, however, offers little by way of prescription.

The fundamental challenge is probably one of values. Of course, even if that is correct it doesn't answer the question.

'The god thou servest is thine own appetite.' -- The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus.

'There are numberless people who, in order to gratify one of their appetites, would destroy the whole Universe.' -- Leonardo da Vinci (notebooks)

1 Comments:

Anonymous romunov said...

Our slaughter practices may be a bit more clean (part of the reason animal experiments are moving to Asia where laws are a bit "laxed", if you get my drift), but we are still hypocrites in the way our food gets served. We like eating pork, but don't like see, hear or talk about pigs getting electrocuted and chopped up.
At the end, I would say our feeding practices are a bit better, but statistically insignificant.

6:24 am  

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