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Snake Dishes Slithering off

Longhufeng is a famous local dish in Guangzhou, made with snake, cat and chicken.

But now this famous Cantonese treat is facing removal from the menus of local hotels and restaurants as well as from private dinner tables.

The provincial Bureau of Forestry has drafted a list of wild creatures that will be banned from restaurants and local residents' dinner tables.

If approved by the State Forestry Bureau, all the wild creatures on the list, including snake, of course, will be saved from the hungry public's chopsticks, according to an official from the provincial bureau yesterday.

The official said the wildlife list also includes pangolins, civets, lizards, frogs, owls, rats, giant salamanders, peacocks, orioles and other wild creatures.

The bureau shut down five farms that raise civets in Shaoguan in northern Guangdong in May when scientists revealed that the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) coronavirus might come from the animal, said an official from the province's Bureau of Forestry yesterday.

And last Friday, the Guangdong Provincial People's Congress passed a new regulation encouraging people to stop eating wild creatures or any of their meat.

The outbreak of SARS has actually seriously affected the business of restaurants serving dishes containing the flesh of wild creatures in Guangzhou, which has been known for its delicious snake dishes for centuries.

Shewangbiao (Snake King Restaurant), famous for its snake dishes in Guangzhou, has recently changed its name to Shao'ebiao (Roast Goose Restaurant) and now features roast goose as its major attraction.

Located in Guangzhou's busy Dongshan District, Shewangbiao, which opened three years ago, used to enjoy a brisk business because of its delicious snake dishes, according to Huang Biao, manager of the restaurant.

In addition to its tonic qualities, snake is said to alleviate or cure asthma and rheumatism.

But the business of the snake restaurant plummeted in the wake of the SARS outbreak.

And Shewangbiao was just one of the many snake restaurants that used to enjoy brisk business but now have to change their menus.

Shewangman, another Guangzhou snake restaurant, had a history of more than 100 years of serving snake dishes, but it, too, has also closed down because of the decline in business.

Many restaurants in Guangzhou that serve dishes made with wild creatures have been changing their names or removing such dishes from their menus since May when scientists revealed that the SARS corona virus might have come from a wild animal.

And some restaurants are now serving eels, scorpions and other creatures instead of snake in their dishes to attract more clientele.

In the peak autumn period, more than 15 tons of snake used to be consumed every day in Guangdong.

The snake ban has stirred up much controversy among local residents.

Liang Peixin, manager of Guangzhou Food and Beverage Group, said snake cuisine has been an important part of Cantonese food and that the snake ban will lead to the loss of snake cuisine, which has a very long history.

But other residents said health is more important than snake cuisine.


(China Daily July 30, 2003)

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