Cat Meat Restaurant in China Closes Due to Protests
Recently I wrote about why it is that some people object to cute animals suffering but not “uncute” ones like pigs who also suffer, and I kind of wish that I had seen this article while I was working on the essay.
I have known for a long time that in Guangdong province in China, cat and dog meat are considered to be delicacies, and are supposed to be “warming” meats that one eats in the winter. Even though I love cats and dogs dearly, and have a house filled with them, personally, the thought of eating them myself is difficult to swallow. However, I also do not think it is right for me to decry other people’s practice of eating cats and dogs as uncivilized, just because I don’t like it. That is culinary cultural imperialism, and I refuse to engage in such ethnocentric, egocentric behavior.
Imagine my fascination to discover that the nascient animal-rights movement in China has become strong enough to affect change in the form of a small restaurant serving meatballs made from cats being shut down willingly in the face of protests from pet-owners and animal lovers.
Is this good?
I am of two minds about this issue. I have heard stories of cats and dogs suffering in cages in or near restaurants in China that serve their meat, and of them being killed in gruesome, inhumane fashions that are too grotesque to go into here. I also do not know how substantiated those stories are; I always fear that they are the sorts of exaggerations that are told in order to demonize those of another race. In situations where any animal is tortured before being eaten, and made to suffer grieviously in their lives, I am angered at the unnecessary cruelty of the practice, whether that animal is a cat, dog, cow or pig. If it is a case of the animals suffering at this restaurant, then, I cannot help but applaud the actions of the protestors.
On the other hand, if the animals were not suffering, and were killed humanely, and it is simply a case of some Chinese being more “Westernized” than others, I see it as a more subtle form of cultural imperialism. What I mean is, while it is Chinese people doing the protesting, they are adopting Western ways by choice, and calling those ways superior to Chinese traditions. This -is- what happens when cultures meet and make exchanges with each other–new traditions and practices are adopted back and forth, and some traditional practices may be lost. In some cases–that loss is a good thing–if this is a case where animals were suffering needlessly, then what great loss is there? But, it may be that other traditions are left behind which -are- beneficial to the Chinese people. (If not in this matter, then in another.)
My final say on the issue is this–I am happy to see that the active parties in this issue are the Chinese people themselves. The protestors were Chinese, acting on their own initiative, without outside interference, and the owner of the restaurant is Chinese working on his/her own initiative by making a business decision which is probably for the best. (Meaning, if protestors kept coming to the restaurant, he is better off serving something else that is more acceptable to the populace at large than to keep serving that which causes uproar and strife.) So long as the issue of eating cats and dogs in China continues to be addressed and debated by the Chinese people themselves, with the rest of the world taking a backseat and being silent, I am happy, because it is a case of culinary cultural self-determination–a process which I heartily endorse as good for all the parties involved.
Raising Kids to Eat Whole Foods in a T.V.-Free Zone
I loved reading Sandra Steingraber’s book, Having Faith: An Ecologist’s Journey to Motherhood, when I was pregnant several years ago. Even though much of what Steingraber wrote about was essentially depressing–the fact that environmental toxins and pollutants cannot help but become part of our breastfed babies’ bodies–her prose is so clear, descriptive and engaging that I could not help but be both entertained and made hopeful by her experiences.
Now, I am fascinated to learn from an essay posted to Alternet, that she has a second child, and has essentially raised them from infancy to school-age without having them be exposed to television advertising or to the foods marketed to children in typical American grocery stores. All of the food Steingraber’s family eats comes from a local Itheca CSA and a small downtown co-op grocery store, so her children have been exposed only to whole foods that she and her husband prepare.
The results are interesting. They do not like candy or soda (her son calls soda “too spicy,”) and the one time they tasted McDonald’s they abhorred the artificial flavors and the limp, soggy french fries. Her daughter, now attending school, loves spinach, and even after she found out that other kids hate it, said, “I guess children don’t like spinach…but I am a child who does!”
Her two children still go through the typical and age-appropriate food dislikes/cravings where one week, bananas are declared hideous, and the next, they are clamored for, but there are apparently not any tearful tantrums over not getting a cartoon-character endorsed box of sugar cereal, nor are Steingraber and her husband preparing separate meals of processed “kid food” for their children.
I cannot help but be interested in Steingraber’s experiences because in our home, we have a television, but we only use it to watch DVD movies, documentaries and downloaded Dr. Who episodes. I cannot remember the last time we regularly watched broadcast or cable television regularly, and I have noticed that because Zak, Morganna and I are not exposed to television advertising, we don’t hear about the “next big processed food/fast food/plastic food product, and so we do not shop for it.
I am wondering if, in our household where we, too, eschew processed foods and fast foods, and prefer to eat locally grown, seasonal products, we can manage to raise our baby, Kat (yes, she has a first name now–Katherine, called “Kat” for short) with similar tastes in wholesome vegetables, fruits, grains and dairy products. Time alone will tell….
(Thank you, Zak, for sending me this article.)
International Agricultural Legacy Gains Secure Home
A massive seed bank, larger than any other of its kind, with the inventoried items kept to international standards, will be made secure on the Norwegan outpost of Svalbard, according to the Washington Post.
The “doomsday vault,” as it is sometimes called, will contain seeds that represent 10,000 years of worldwide selective breeding, and will stand as a carefully guarded backup in the case of a planet-wide disaster such as a direct asteroid hit (such as the one that destroyed the dinosaurs), or a nuclear or bioweapon holocaust. In such a worst-case-scenario, having this protected seedbank would mean that once humanity began rebuilding, they would not have to start over at the beginning when it came to plant-based agriculture.
The facility will be built within the next two years, and then will start accepting donations of seeds for food plants from other seed banks. When the archive is filled, the vault will be sealed airtight, and humanity’s insurance policy will be saved, hopefully to never be opened again.
It is a remarkably far-sighted effort that is being undertaken and I am pleased to see it. Humanity tends to look only at the short-term future, and does not often look towards a far future, particularly if it includes some sort of unpleasant occurance such as war or ecological devastation. Seeing scientists from around the globe participating in this event gives me hope that humans really -can- think ahead and try to do the right thing.
Of course, I cannot help but wonder if anyone is looking toward the animal species, and is preparing a genetic “ark” to preserve DNA, sperm and egg samples from various fauna, both wild and domestic, in the case of such a catastrophic event.
(Thanks, once again, to Zak for sending this article–I was already aware of the project, but this is a really good explanation of what is happening that I had not caught.)
That’s it for Food in the News this time around–I am signing off for the rest of the day so Zak can do some work updating my computer. I am getting some new hard drives with lots of memory space on them, and a new color monitor so I can make Tigers & Strawberries better, faster and stronger than before, with prettier pictures and all of that good stuff.
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