HUMAN-DERIVED HEALTH FOOD IN CHINA
In 1995, a Hong Kong-based magazine reported that women in China were taking a tonic made from human fetuses which promised to "make the skin smoother, the body stronger, and is good for the kidneys." The fetuses, which were typically a few months old and were the result of abortions, were given away free of charge by the Shenzhen Health Center for Women. A doctor at another clinic told the magazine that fetuses with pork soup were especially good.
Chinese believe that human milk can cure many ailments. During the Yangtze River floods of 1998, soldiers rubbed their bodies with breast milk and drank cups of it given to them by wet nurses.
In 1991, Reuters ran a story about a pair of brothers who took the buttocks and thigh meat from cadavers about to be cremated and used them to make Sichuan-style dumplings at White Temple restaurant on Hainan Island. The story turned out to be a hoax. Neither the brothers nor the restaurant existed.
Good Websites and Sources: Weird Meat weirdmeat.com ; Weird Food.com weird-food.com ; Unusual Food photos travel-images.com Food in China: Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Eating China Blog eatingchina.com/blog ; Chinese Government site china.org.cn; China Tour.com chinatour.com ; Open Directory List dmoz.org ; Nice Chinese Food Blog nicechinesefood.com ;Wikipedia article on History of Chinese Food Wikipedia ; Chopstix chopstix.com ; Asia Recipe asiarecipe.com ; Chinese Food Recipes chinesefood-recipes.com
Links in this Website: FOOD IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; MEAT, VEGETABLES, SWEETS AND FRUIT Factsanddetails.com/China ; RICE, TOFU, DUMPLINGS AND NOODLES Factsanddetails.com/China ; REGIONAL CHINESE FOOD Factsanddetails.com/China ; RESTAURANTS AND FAST FOOD Factsanddetails.com/China ; WEIRD FOODS IN CHINA NO. 1 Factsanddetails.com/China ; WEIRD FOODS IN CHINA NO. 2 Factsanddetails.com/China ; FOOD SAFETY IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; EATING AND DRINKING CUSTOMS IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; ANIMAL PARTS AND CHINESE MEDICINE Factsanddetails.com/China
Human Placenta-Eating in China
Reporting from Shanghai, Bill Savadove of AFP wrote: After Wang Lan delivered, she brought home a baby girl and her placenta, which she plans to eat in a soup – adopting an age-old practice in Chinese traditional medicine. The health-giving qualities of placenta are currently creating a buzz in Western countries, where some believe it can help ward off postnatal depression, improve breast milk supply and boost energy levels. But placentophagy – the practice of eating one’s placenta after birth – is relatively common in China, where it is thought to have anti-ageing properties, and dates back more than 2,000 years. “It is in the refrigerator now and I am waiting for my mother to come and cook it to eat. After cleaning, it can be stewed for soup, without that fishy smell,” Wang said, adding she believed it would help her recover from delivery. [Source: Bill Savadove, AFP, June 25, 2012 /*\]
“Qin Shihuang, the first emperor of a unified China, is said to have designated placenta as having health properties some 2,200 years ago, and during China’s last dynasty, the dowager empress Cixi was said to have eaten it to stay young. A classic medical text from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) said placenta – which lines the uterus and is key to the survival of the foetus – was “heavily nutritious” and “if taken for the longer term… longevity will be achieved”. /*\
“China’s state media says the practice of eating placenta has re-emerged over the past decade. One maternity hospital in the eastern city of Nanjing reported that about 10 percent of new parents took their placenta after childbirth. Internet postings swap recipes on how to prepare placenta. One popular health website suggests soup, dumplings, meat balls or mixing it with other kinds of traditional Chinese medicine. While trade in the organs has been banned since 2005, pills containing placentas ground into powder are legally available in Chinese pharmacies – indicating unwanted placenta is somehow making its way to drug companies. /*\
““It is a tonic to fortify the ‘qi’ and enrich the blood,” a traditional medicine doctor at Shanghai’s Lei Yun Shang pharmacy said, referring to the “life force” that practitioners believe flows through the body. “Sales are very good. Basically, every time we have supplies, they sell out very quickly,” a clerk at the shop told AFP. And it’s not just mothers who want to eat the placenta. One new father in Shanghai who did not want to be named said his relatives were eager to try the sought-after item. “My wife and I were still in the hospital… and they ate it,” he said. /*\
“But strong demand has created a thriving black market with hospitals, medical workers and even mothers selling placentas in violation of the law.” In 2011, “authorities investigated a hospital in the southern city of Guangzhou for selling placentas for 20 yuan ($2) apiece. “They (nurses) take the money and use it to buy breakfast,” a source told a the local Xin Kuai newspaper. They fetch a higher price in other parts of China like the eastern city of Jinan, where dealers ask as much as 300 yuan per placenta, most sourced from hospitals, the Jinan Times said last year.”/*\
In May 2012, “South Korean customs said they had uncovered multiple attempts to illegally import over 17,000 capsules apparently containing the powdered flesh of dead babies.
Experts have said the pills may actually be made from human placenta, raising concerns that China’s trade in the organs has started to go international. Some people, meanwhile, are averse to the idea of eating the organ. “I know it’s good for health, but the idea of eating human flesh is just disgusting. I cannot do it,” said Shanghai accountant Grace Jiang, who opted to leave the placenta after giving birth to her son.” /*\
Human Breast Milk Popular Drink among Shenzhen Rich
In July 2013, Chris Luo wrote in the South China Morning Post, “While many Chinese parents continue to struggle to find safe and trusted milk powder for their babies, some in Shenzhen are paying to enjoy a new “nourishment” – human breast milk – and a few of them are doing so by breast feeding, according to Chinese media. Increasing numbers of adults have been hiring wet nurses so they can consume breast milk for its nutritional value, Lin Jun, a manager of Xinxinyu Household Service Company in the southern city of Guangdong, told the Southern Metropolis Daily . Lin went on to say that his company is promoting and expanding its breast milk supply business from babies to adults, the newspaper reported. [Source: Chris Luo, South China Morning Post, July 2, 2013 **]
“Clients can choose to consume breast milk directly through breastfeeding … but they can always drink it from a breast pump if they feel uncomfortable,” the paper quoted Lin as saying. He claimed breast milk was now popular among adults with high incomes and high-pressure jobs and who suffered from poor health. “Quite a few of our clients hire in-house wet nurses to ensure a supply of fresh breast milk on a daily base,” Lin said in the report, adding “wet nurses rarely raise objections as long as the price is right.” **
“A spokesperson for the company who refused to be identified claimed the report was entirely false, insisting his company’s household services did not include recommending wet nurses. The allegations were malicious gossip aimed at driving his company out of business, he told the South China Morning Post. However, Xinxinyu Household Service Company’s advertisements can be seen on a number of marketing websites, promoting the high quality services of its wet nurses, as well as its nannies, stewards, confinement nurses and tutors. The advertisements state that the company’s wet nurses can provide services to adults in poor health. Photos online show wet nurses and staff with what appear to be company logos on the walls. **
“According to the newspaper report, a wet nurse who provides breast milk to adults can earn an average monthly wage of 16,000 yuan (HK$20,238). A healthy and attractive wet nurse can earn even more, the paper was told. The claims seem to be supported by adverts placed by Xinxinyu on at least one recruitment website for positions of wet nurses with monthly salaries of between 12,000 to 20,000 yuan. “Consuming human breast milk is quite popular among my social circle … spending 10,000 to 20,000 yuan hiring a wet nurse is not uncommon at all,” Southern Metropolis Daily also quoted an anonymous client as saying, “although only a few people would suck breast milk directly from a wet nurses’ nipples.” **
“The anonymous client said he paid 15,000 yuan to a wet nurse and had her live at his home for a month, according to the report. Legal experts have warned that the practice may be a form of sexual service. “There is an essential difference between sucking on a breast and drinking from a pump, as the former largely exceeds the necessity of diet,” Guangdong lawyer Mei Chunlai said. But Shenzhen police told the paper that it would be difficult to prove if the act was a sex crime as it was hard to acquire evidence. **
Urine Consumption in China
Chris Buckley of the New York Times wrote: “If imbibing urine is not your cup of tea, People’s Daily — the solemn voice of the Chinese Communist Party — is with you on that one. On Friday, the newspaper took time off from its usual encomiums to party leaders to warn people against drinking their own pee. “There is no clinical or medical basis for using urine over a long period of time as a product for preventing and curing illness, or as a health supplement,” an investigative report in the paper said, citing squadrons of medical experts. [Source: Chris Buckley, Sinosphere blog, New York Times, June 27, 2014 ***]
“These days, the party’s main newspaper rarely takes on a problem without finding a plotter behind the scenes. And so it was here. The report said the dubious practice had been encouraged by the China Urine Therapy Association, which it found plenty to be displeased about. The report alleged that the Hong Kong-registered association lacked the right credentials to qualify as a nonprofit group. The sleuthing reporter tracked down the website of the China Urine Therapy Association and found grounds for suspicion there as well. “After visiting the physical address for the website, it was found to be in an old residential neighborhood of Nankai District in Tianjin,” a port city near Beijing, the report said. “There was an old man inside, and he had nothing to do with urine therapy.” ***
“Yet to judge by the association’s website and recent Chinese news reports, there is no lack of old men convinced that regularly drinking one’s own urine is a big plus health-wise. Urine therapy, or urotherapy, has a long history and numbers of adherents in many countries, although medical experts say it has no detectable benefits. Try telling that to the Chinese association. The website says its “objective and task is to propagate our country’s ancient culture of imbibing urine, integrating with modern science and technology to put into practice ‘I drink my urine to heal my body’ and ‘I drink my body to cure my disease,’ ” it says. “This is opening a door to health that money cannot buy.” ***
“The urine association belongs to an undergrowth of less-than-orthodox medical movements and beliefs that persist in China, often citing roots in ancient tradition, despite official skepticism and denigration. People’s Daily may have been prompted to move against urine drinkers by a recent burst of publicity for their cause. In news reports that spread on the Internet in China, elderly Chinese men have boasted of the benefits of the habit and demonstrated its pleasures in pictures that may cause some readers to wince. ***
“One man in his late 70s told a newspaper in the southwestern city of Chongqing that the therapy took some getting used to, but gulping down the liquid was not as unpleasant as many assumed. “At least, it’s a lot better tasting than many bitter Chinese medicines,” he Said. But he recommended using a glass, not plastic cup, to preserve “the authentic taste” of the liquid. For reasons that the report did not explain, he insisted on using a false name.” ***
Yellow Noodles with Donkey Meat
Donkey meat is a popular snack in some areas of China, although it only accounts for a tiny fraction of overall meat consumption. In 2011 China slaughtered 2.4 million donkeys, according to country's livestock industry yearbook. [Source: Adam Jourdan, Reuters, January 2, 2014 |~|]
Reporting from the Silk Road town Dunhuang in Gansu Province, Takahiro Suzuki wrote in the Japan News, “Huangmian, or yellow noodles, a traditional dish in northwestern China, could be mistaken at first glance for pasta thanks to their colour and thickness Dunhuang, in Gansu Province, prospered as an oasis city on the Silk Road and is famous for huangmian topped with sauce flavored with donkey meat, a local delicacy. At Dunhuang Night Market in the commercial district at the heart of the city, restaurants offering the local specialty stand side by side. This reporter chose an eatery by the name of "Dangji Donkey Meat Yellow Noodle" from among the many options to sample the local fare. [Source: Takahiro Suzuki, Japan News/Asia News Network, April 15, 2014 <*>]
“The yellow noodles, which are firmer than the white noodles commonly prepared in China, are topped with a sauce made from donkey meat stir fried with tofu and mushrooms and seasoned with doubanjiang bean chili paste. After my food arrived, I mixed the sauce into the noodles and started to eat, and quickly found myself unable to stop. "In heaven, there is dragon meat, on earth there is donkey meat," 38-year-old restaurant employee, Dang Yanyao, told me, sharing a Chinese saying that sings the praises of donkey meat. The way the sauce perfectly matches the signature noodles is part of the dish's secret and makes it even more delicious. “ <*.
Weird Foods as Aphrodisiacs in China
Fertilized duck eggs are consumed as an aphrodisiac by Filipinos, Chinese and Vietnamese. Chinese men also consume bull and deer penises soaked in herbal wine, sea-cucumber, bull's pizzles cooked with Chinese yam, and snake bile to boost their sex life. Bird nest soup is supposed to prolong erections.
Indian tribes in the Pacific northwest have made fortunes selling geodusck, a giant burrowing clams, to markets in Hong Kong and southern China. The clams can weigh as much as 16 pounds and have a penis-like neck that can extend for three feet. Wealthy diners will pay up to $100 in Hong Kong or Shanghai for a dish made with geoduk meat.
Many aphrodisiacs either incorporate the penises of animals or are shaped like penises. Dog penises from Thailand are sent to China and Taiwan, where they are consumed as energy boosters. Deer penis and testicles sold together in an ornate green box lined with red satin will set you back $63.
Wild Animals as Food in China
Sandworms Civet cats, anteater-like pangolins, bobcats, badgers, baby deer, squirrels, frogs, geese, bats, flying foxes, herons, cranes, sparrows, black beetles, turtles, pigeons, starfish, scorpions, caribou, monkeys, foxes, and raccoon dogs are all widely eaten in China. One common joke goes that the best job in China is a zookeeper. "The illegal wildlife trade in general has become a multi-billion dollar business in China," Jill Robertson, CEO of Hong Kong-based charity Animals Asia, told AFP. [Source: AFP, July 7, 2014]
The sale of wild animals in the Guangzhou area alone is worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year. In Shanghai there is restaurants that sells nothing but snake dishes and others that sells only wildlife dishes. A restaurant in Beijing called Getting Stronger from the Pot serves 20 different types of animal sex organs. Food made from wild animals have been a fixture of Chinese cooking for a long time. A list of delicious food from China in 1500 B.C. included "orangutan lips, the tails of young swallows...and the choice parts of yak and elephant..."
"When Chinese see a cute little rabbit," Paul Theroux wrote, "they want to eat it. The rarer a bird is the more delectable it is. And nothing is wasted. When a duck is slaughtered its blood is saved in a small bowl and later congealed and cubed for vegetable dishes. It is no wonder that there aren't many wild animals in China." The Chinese writer Ha Jin thought America had to be a rich country because, "There were so many squirrels, and no one was trying to eat them."
Many people eat wild animals because of their purported health benefits. Eating brains is supposed to make one smarter. Eating foxes and pangolins is supposed to improve one’s muscle tone. Eating hawks and owls, which sell for about $5 in markets, are said to improve one's eyesight. Consuming deer penis or seal penis is supposed to increase one’s potency. There of stories of chimpanzee blood being consumed to cure impotence. Some people say they prefer wild animals because they know they are fresh and not treated with chemicals.
Since the 1990s, as incomes have risen, consumption rates of wild animals has risen dramatically in China. According to Chinese law, wild animals are not supposed to be sold for food. They must be bred in farms for more than two generations and then subjected to strict regulations before restaurant can obtain a licence to sell them.
Hunters trap hedgehogs and wild boar in the hills. Foreign hikers sometimes get trapped in wire snares aimed at animals. Even common animals like frogs and sparrows have disappeared as hunters have caught them for food. Sparrows are often more common in the cities than in the countryside, where they have been hunted out of existence.
Wild Animals as Food in Guangdong
locusts and scorpions The people of Guangdong province are particularly famous for eating wild animals: rats, pythons, cats, foxes, and a wide assortment of local animals. They often eat them at specialty restaurants that display the animals they serve alive in cages outside the front and kill them after the customer orders them. Those bought in markets are preferably purchased live and butchered in front of the customers.
Southern China has long been the centre of a culinary tradition called "wild flavour", which prizes parts of unusual wild animals including tigers, turtles and snakes as a route to health - despite the lack of orthodox scientific evidence proving such benefits exist. [Source: AFP, July 7, 2014]
In Guangzhou, people say they will eat “anything that moves across the land, sea or sky except trains, boats and planes.” In Guangdong people say they will eat anything that walks, crawls, hops or flies. Affluence has only increased the demand as people who couldn’t afford these foods now can. One man who indulges on wild animal meals two or three times a month told the New York Times, “When you see an animal, it’s only natural to wonder what kind of flavor it has.”
The First Village of Wild Food restaurant in Guangzhou offers flying fox, civet cats, small deer, several species of birds, dark-haired pigs and plump rabbits. Most of the animals are kept down stairs in cages. Customers can pick out the animals they want and eat them upstairs. Butchers who have tables near the cages quickly kill and skin the animals which are then prepared by cooks in the kitchen
The Sent Down Youth No. 1 Village Wild Flavor Restaurant in Lianbian outside Guangzhou offers herons, snakes, baby deers, flying foxes, and dozens of other species in a dining area decorated with kitschy Mao era posters. Their specialty is “Dragon, Tiger, Phoenix," a stew made with snake, wild cat and crane.
Endangered Animals as Food in China
Among the rare and unusual wild animals sold at markets are several species of monkey (their brains are supposedly a great delicacy), braised wildcat, armadillos, anteaters, bear claws, mantjac (a small deer that the Chinese call a fruit-eating rabbit), pangolin, giant salamanders, and expensive breed of dogs. A good meal of rare foods costs the equivalent of four month's salary or two month's rent for a studio apartment in Shanghai.
The people of Guangdong province have a traditionally sought out endangered animals such as golden monkeys, pangolins and cranes. One restaurant in the city of Maoing sells golden monkey meat for about $125 per kilogram, crane meat for about $80 per kilogram, and bear paws for about $175 per kilogram. Chefs at the restaurant boasted they could prepare almost any kind of wild animal as long as they were given enough time in advance to obtain it.
Tian Yangyang, a researcher for Chinese advocacy group Nature University, told AFP that Guangdong eateries do not generally advertise endangered species but offer them to trusted customers on secret menus. In 2013 he sneaked into Guangdong restaurants where he found that eagle and swan were widely available. Some Chinese go to Mong La, Myanmar—“the Las Vegas of the jungle” in a tribe-controlled area of Myanmar---to feast on wild animal dishes such as bear paws, Burmese star tortoises and pangolins. [Source: AFP, July 7, 2014]
Consumption of rare animals has risen as the country has become richer, with some people believing spending thousands of yuan on eating them gives a certain social cache. "Eating rare wild animals is not only bad social conduct but also a main reason why illegal hunting has not been stopped despite repeated crackdowns," Lang Sheng, deputy head of parliament's Legislative Affairs Commission said, the official Xinhua news agency reported late on Thursday.[Source: Reuters, April 24, 2014]
Pan Wenshi, a conservationist known for his work with pandas, told the New York Times, “In the 1990s, the Chinese economy started booming, and those with money---governors, factory owners, businessmen---all wanted to eat wildlife to show how powerful they were.
Simon Denyer wrote in the Washington Post, “The dramatic expansion in China’s middle and upper classes has transformed the country into a major driver of global wildlife trafficking. The Obama administration is so concerned about Chinese demand for endangered wildlife that it made the subject an important part of its bilateral dialogue in 2013. Lavish spending by China’s wealthy has also sent demand for ivory skyrocketing, fueling a massive expansion in elephant poaching in Africa. The consequences of the traffic go beyond a crisis for wildlife. The illegal ivory trade has financed global crime networks and local insurgents, including Somalia’s al-Shabab — responsible for last month’s attack on a Nairobi shopping mall. “Conservation is more about China now than it is about Africa,” said Peter Knights, executive director of WildAid, “China can be the savior of wildlife or it can be the demise of it.”[Source: Simon Denyer, Washington Post, October 19, 2013]
Bear Meat Banquets and Civets
Bear meat is valued as sexual-performance and health booster. A bowl of bear claw soup---a prized delicacy at restaurants in China, Hong and Taiwan’sometimes sells for hundreds of dollars. Bear paw is supposed to be especially tender from pawing for salt.
South Koreans, Taiwanese and Chinese tourist go to restaurants in Thailand where, one environmentalist told AP, "The bear is tortured to death in front of the diners. They say it makes the meat taste better. the coast of the bear banquet is now about 9,000 U.S. dollars."
Around Guangzhou, the meat of civets---nocturnal mammals closely related to mongooses---is eaten in a stew as a winter time delicacy said to be rich in yang, an energy source that helps keep one warm. The meat is also braised, roasted and added to soups. The animals are served at restaurants, sold at markets and raised in breeding farms. Small-time civit breeders earn $200 a month, considerably more than the could earn from farming.
There is circumstantial evidence that SARS originated with civets. The SARS virus and corona viruses found in humans are 99.8 identical to the SARS virus and corona viruses found in Himalayan, or masked, palm civets, racoon dogs and hog badgers sold for food at the market in Shenzhen, China. Researchers also found antibodies to the virus in the blood of 20 wild animal traders and 15 workers who slaughter the animals.
Chinese Officials Dine on Endangered Giant Salamander
In January 2015, AFP reported: “Chinese officials feasted on a critically endangered giant salamander and turned violent when journalists photographed the luxury banquet, according to media reports on the event which appeared to flout Beijing's austerity campaign. The 28 diners included senior police officials from the southern city of Shenzhen, the Global Times said. "In my territory, it is my treat," it quoted a man in the room as saying. [Source: AFP, January 28, 2015 <+>]
“The giant salamander is believed by some Chinese to have anti-ageing properties, but there is no orthodox evidence to back the claim. The species is classed as "critically endangered" on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List of threatened species, which says the population has "declined catastrophically over the last 30 years". "Commercial over-exploitation for human consumption is the main threat to this species," the IUCN said. <+>
The Global Times cited the Guangzhou-based Southern Metropolis Daily, which said its journalists were beaten up when their identities were discovered by the diners. One was kicked and slapped, another had his mobile phone forcibly taken, while the photographer was choked, beaten up and had his camera smashed, the reports said.
A total of 14 police have been suspended and an investigation launched into the incident, added the Global Times. One of the Shenzhen diners provided the salamander and said it had been captive-bred, according to the report. Chinese President Xi Jinping has launched a much-publicised austerity drive for the ruling classes, including a campaign for simple meals with the catchphrase “four dishes and one soup”.
Efforts to End Eating Wild Animals in China
Legislation has been introduced banning the eating of wild animals in Guangdong province and imposing stiff fines on restaurants that serve endangered animals such as golden monkeys, pangolins and cranes. One restaurant owner was sentenced to five years in jail for serving pangolin. Another told the New York Times, “Rare owls and crocodiles used to be popular but you can’t get them anymore because the government has banned them.”
Many wild animals are brought in from Southeast Asia. In 2004, police confiscated 1.2 tons of turtles, pangolins and iguanas in Vietnam that were bound for wild animal restaurants in China.
There is a green movement among professional chefs. Hundreds have signed a manifesto pledging not to cook rare animals. The Economist reported: “There are precedents for the disappearance of classic Chinese dishes on conservation grounds. Bear’s paw, for example, is no longer eaten openly. Instead, you may be offered imitation bear’s paw made from mutton pushed into a paw-shaped mould. Imitation shark’s fin is already available should anybody want it. And when the social cachet of a fabulously expensive delicacy is required, these days a bottle of Château Lafite might do. [Source: The Economist, October 1, 2011]
China to Outlaw Eating of Protected Animal Species
In April 2014, China said would jail people who eat rare animals for 10 years or more under a new interpretation of the criminal law. Reuters reported: China lists 420 species as rare or endangered, including the panda, golden monkeys, Asian black bears and pangolins, some or all of which are threatened by illegal hunting, environmental destruction and the consumption of animal parts, including for supposedly medicinal reasons. The new interpretation "clears up ambiguities about buyers of prey of illegal hunting", the report added. [Source: Reuters, April 24, 2014]
Knowingly buying any wild animals killed by illegal hunting will now be considered a crime, with a maximum penalty of three years in jail, Xinhua said. "In fact, buyers are a major motivator of large-scale illegal hunting," Lang said. Beijing first enacted laws in 1989 forbidding trade in scores of creatures including the Chinese pangolin, but has long struggled to enforce the ban as a booming economy has boosted demand.
Jill Robertson, CEO of Hong Kong-based charity Animals Asia, described the enhanced penalties as a "positive step" but added that "enforcement must be strengthened, and public education and awareness greatly enhanced". [Source: AFP, July 7, 2014]
Endgangered Animals Still for Sale Despite Ban
In April 2014, after China said it would clamp down harder on people that eat rare animals, lax enforcement is the norm is some places in Guangdong Province. "I can sell the meat for 500 yuan ($80) per half kilo," a pangolin vendor at the Xingfu - "happy and rich" - wholesale market in Conghua told AFP. "If you want a living one it will be more than 1,000 yuan." [Source: AFP, July 7, 2014 ||||]
AFP reported: “The market was the subject of a Chinese media expose two years ago, when a local official told the state-run Beijing Technology Times that its role as a centre for animal trafficking was an "open secret". The seller, who declined to be named, said making a living from his creatures was getting tougher. "Now it's governed very strictly," he said. But on a recent morning traders were out in force, with hundreds of snakes writhing in white cloth bags and wild boars staring plaintively from wire cages. Not all the produce is illegal but a huge sign touted giant salamanders, which are classed as critically endangered - one level below "extinct in the wild" - on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's Red List of threatened species. Asian yellow pond turtles were up for sale beside porcupines, most likely from Asia where several species are also critically endangered. Meanwhile, state-run media have publicised huge hauls of smuggled animals - with border police in Guangdong province in May shown seizing 956 frozen pangolins, reportedly weighing four tonnes. ||||
But there are signs the threats and increased penalties are having an effect.Last year a chef surnamed Wang told AFP that his restaurant sold pangolin for 2,000 yuan per half kilo, adding: "We usually braise them, cook it in a stew or make soup, but braising in soy sauce tastes best." But when AFP recently contacted around a dozen restaurants specialising in "wild flavour" none admitted to selling the meat. ||||
Tian Yangyang, a researcher for Chinese advocacy group Nature University told AFP, "I am not optimistic the the rules will be enforced, because the legal system in China is still not very robust," he said, adding that the trade in protected animals "is getting worse, because it has been driven underground". ||||
“For other species, trade is unabated, and at a Guangzhou roadside establishment specialising in snake stew, live king cobras in cages were bestsellers. The animals are classified as "vulnerable" on the Red List due to habitat loss and "over-exploitation for medicinal purposes"."Eating this kind of snake is good for the throat and head," said a 17-year-old customer surnamed Wang, as white-hatted chefs decapitated and sliced them up behind a transparent plastic screen. ||||
Image Sources: Weird Meat blog except Shark fin soup, Julie Chao http://juliechao.com/pix-china.html , and Bear paws, Wild Alliance, pangolin by Kostich, bird nest from Wiki Commons
Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
© 2008 Jeffrey Hays
Last updated July 2015