Thursday, May 20, 2010

Beijing Zoo Puts Its Animals on The Menu

Visitors to the Beijing zoo can be forgiven for being confused about the mission of zoos. Are zoos promoting preservation of animals and their environments or are they promoting the captivity and breeding of exotic animals for consumption by people with too much money?

While there are signs at the zoo requesting visitors not to feed the animals, patrons of their restaurant are encouraged to try tasty morsels from their exotic menu. In short, they were selling animals for human consumption that they had just presented to the visitors as endangered or under threat.

After spending the day watching the animals and seeing displays of love like the one pictured below, diners at the zoo's restaurant can gnaw on the webbed toes of a hippopotamus, chew a kangaroo tail, nibble a deer's penis or slurp down a bowl of ant soup.

A mother hippopotamus gives her female calf a nudge on the behind as they swim. Visitors to Beijing zoo can view the animals then eat other members of their species. Photo courtesy: Ken Bohn/AFP/Getty Images (Guardian)

The Legal Daily newspaper released this information in one of its articles earlier this week; and, since then there has been outrage from environmentalists and conservationists worldwide.

"It is utterly inappropriate for a zoo to sell such items," said Ge Rui of the International Fund for Animal Welfare. "One of the zoo's missions is to foster love of animals and a desire to protect them. But by selling the meat of caged beasts, this zoo stimulates consumption and increases pressure on the animals in the wild. It is socially irresponsible."

Chang Jiwen, a legal expert at the China Academy of Social Sciences said: "Although it is legal, I don't think it is humanitarian. It is very inappropriate and immoral of them to sell such products. It is against the aim of the zoo." Jiwen is trying to draft an animal protection law.

Online comment was also predominantly critical. "Watching animals imprisoned in a limited space while eating their siblings, how would you feel?" wrote Zheng Yuanjie. Yuanjie is the founder and sole writer of a children's magazine known as the "King of Fairy Tales". He also writes a popular microblog.

The owners of the Bin Feng Tang restaurant were unwilling to make any real comments to the Guardian; but, they have admitted to the media that the meat was obtained from exotic animal farms that bred these exotic species strictly for consumption by wealthy patrons. They allege that the sales have been going on for several years now with the full knowledge and approval of authorities.

However, bowing to pressure, the staff said they will be revising the menu which includes such environmentally-challenged species as scorpions, peacocks, ostrich eggs, shark fin (soup); and, the cost of these luxuries...between 10 - 1,000 yuan (£10-£100) ($14.32-$143.20)

Photo courtesy: Flickr, Creative commons
Fortunately, it seems that the zoo responds to negative criticism; and, that as people become more aware, the criticism becomes more intense and widespread. At one time, the animal cages contained informative signs detailing such things as which parts were the tastiest, which parts were more medicinal; and, other useful snippets.

The removal of the signs and the revamping of the restaurant's menu are steps in the right direction.

Via TreeHugger and Guardian

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