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Bear paws
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.



Aphrodisiacs from Animals

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 Guangdong

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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.

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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 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.

Last updated July 2015

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