Grey cauldron-like containers churn and bubble tempestuously, the waft of freshly stewed dog meat wades through nose hairs, goats bleat wildly before restaurants, beheaded crabs are flung onto their still live counterparts as skewered rats and squirrels plunge before one’s eyes. From cockroaches to sheep’s brain served straight from the skull – as if having fallen into the inner workings of a butcher’s twisted kaleidoscope – to the wandering westerner, many Chinese delicacies seem somewhat alien and ill-favoured.
Indeed, with pregnant mink and foxes beaten and skinned alive, 100 tons of fish lying dead in the rivers of Guangxi province and approximately 100,000 dogs killed during the annual ‘Lychee Dog Meat festival’ in Yulin, this culture seems fathomless and unmerciful. Yet perceptions alter as culture ripples across the oceans, the patterns of man evolve understandably from land to land. Whilst in the west the dog is heralded as ‘a gentleman’, in the east he is conceived as a lowly despicable creature, for as the Chinese proverb goes ‘How can you expect to find ivory in a dog’s mouth?’ (狗嘴里吐不出象牙), to kill a dog therefore is no worse than to kill a hog- of which the British slaughter more than 8 million each year.
What makes a dog nobler than a chicken? Why is a cat purer in soul than a cow? Do we unwittingly save only those pleasing to the human eye? Is a cannibal more comprehensible if he eats only the ugly? Perhaps the absolutist eyes of a foreigner are blinded to the cruelty of his own culture, perhaps it is man we ought look down on with disdain, rather than channeling our contempt onto a nation, for be it the puffins in sauce of Icelandic cuisine, the British and their bacon or the Kujira Tataki (whale meat) of the Japanese, each nation is culpable in its own unique way – the only race at fault is the human race.
Is an animal’s destiny tied to its tongue? Had a learned puffin perfected Icelandic or a linguistic pig mastered English, would they have escaped the dinner plate? Why does the reasoning human continue to trend towards behaviour so inhumane and unreasonable in terms of animal treatment? With his lofty claim to superiority to the animal kingdom as the only reasoning animal, why then does man not reason far enough to cast aside the conventional food chain? The human is nature’s greatest predator- are our carnivorous tendencies rather one of our most natural basic human instincts? Is a world without meat physically possible and truly desirable, or a dystopia of human undernourishment and animal overabundance due to food chain imbalances?
As the largest producer of fur in the world, should more be done to hinder the Chinese in their efforts in the domain of animal slaughter? Why are animals treated with so little mercy in Asian countries? Has Asian animal mistreatment been unfairly distorted by Western media, exacerbating racial tension between nations and cultures?