Friday, December 11, 2009

Eating animals alive

How low can we go? That was the question on my mind after viewing a number of You Tube videos that show various people cooking and eating dissected, disemboweled and fully conscious animals. Of course there are a lot of people outraged by this morbid and sadistic practice, but remarkably, a lot of people are defending it too.

I resisted watching them for quite a while, and they ARE sick, but if you want to see one for yourself, you can go to:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6fGOjZjM0xQ&feature=related

This particularly gruesome method of serving sashimi (raw fish) is called ikizukuri, which apparently means “prepared alive” in Japanese. According to Wikipedia:

“Ikizukuri usually begins with the customer selecting, from a tank in the restaurant, the animal (shrimp, octopus, lobster, assorted fish) they wish to eat. The chef, almost always a sashimi chef who has undergone years of training and apprenticeship, takes the animal out of the tank and filets and guts it, but without killing the animal, which is served on a plate, sliced, with the heart still beating.”

Quite often the animal is “reassembled” after he or she has been cooked alive: the meat, once removed, is thinly sliced and put back on the animal in a decorative fashion. Vital organs are left intact and the animal, still gasping for breath or twitching on the plate lies helpless as diners pick and pull pieces of flesh off the body. The challenge for some people is to finish all the meat before the animal dies.

This tradition, art form or whatever you want to call it is either 2000 years old or a post World War II invention to boost local tourism for coastal resort villages, depending on which website you read. And though the practice is banned in Australia and Germany because of the obvious cruelty involved - and yes, fish, crustaceans and cephalopods feel pain - it is gaining popularity in North American (mostly Japanese) restaurants.

When I first found out about ikizukuri - icky is an understatement - it only strengthened my belief that we are one fucked up species; utterly insensitive to the suffering of others, and willing to subject other animals to such excruciating pain and terror for a laugh, for entertainment and to do something shocking and risqué.

Although many people consider it inhumane, fans of the “delicacy” justify it because of the flavour, quality and freshness. Others claim that even though it may not be their cup of tea, people should still show respect for other cultures and not criticize their ways.

I guess you'd have to be pretty “fresh obsessed” to want to eat a wriggling and writhing little animal and not care if that animal is suffering or not. Still, why is almost every act of animal exploitation considered a proud tradition or cultural activity, and why are all traditions and cultural activities involving animals - bullfights, whale slaughters, pigeon tosses, circuses, rodeos, hunting, fishing and ikizukuri - beyond reproach?

Why did you poke your sister in the eye with that stick?
Tradition.

Why did you run that red light?
Tradition, officer.

And the fish you gutted, fried and carved up even though it was still alive?
Ummm, ... because I’m an asshole?

That’s right. If you get your kicks by torturing and killing other animals, then you’re an asshole. And if your personal choice, religion, tradition or culture results in the pain, suffering or death of another, then that choice, religion, tradition or culture is cruel and wrong.

3 comments:

Lore said...

Yes, this one really takes it to a whole new level, along with crush videos, etc. Don't even have words...

Anonymous said...

Thanks for writing this, Dan. I especially like your use of the word "asshole". I think George Carlin would be proud of you. Your bullshit detector is state of the art.

DeRosset said...

I get so sick of people using "culture" and "tradition" to defend cruelty.