Stop eating Hippopotamus? What a load of bull

By Gabrielle Pickard
0 CommentsPrint E-mail, May 28, 2010
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Reports that a zoo in Beijing is offering "exotic" meat on the menu from the same species of animals it has in its cages, have predictably sparked controversy and condemnation across the "civilized" world. But there is hypocrisy and irony in the disapproval of such practices. While chomping on a kangaroo's tail after happily taking photographs of his caged siblings may be somewhat "distasteful", is eating "exotic" animals really any different to eating pig, cow or chicken? Or are zoos themselves and the global system of factory farming the real scandals?


Hippopotamuses are eating. Is it really any different to beef?  [By Gabrielle Pickard ]

It was seen as a conservationist triumph Chinese zoos took down notices informing visitors which parts of the animal were tastiest, and which were most useful in traditional Chinese medicine. But conservationists and animal activists now face a new challenge; to eradicate "exotic" animals from the menu in Chinese zoos.

Facing a barrage of criticism, the owners of the Bing Feng Tang restaurant pointed out that selling this kind of meat in restaurants is completely legal in China. But it is precisely the legality of the situation that is angering people. Ge Rui of the International Fund for Animal Welfare said "It is utterly inappropriate for a zoo to sell such items. 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 animals in the wild."

Moral objection to eating the meat of zoo animals raises the question of the ethics of keeping animals caged in the first place. Is eating the meat of animals which are considered "exotic" really more ethically questionable than removing an animal from its natural habitat to imprison it behind bars to satisfy public curiosity?

One argument for zoos is that they provide a safe environment for animals that would otherwise be in jeopardy. But although some zoos breed animals for reintroduction into nature, this is rare; and when have you ever seen an animal at a zoo looking like it is "thriving"?

Walking around a zoo, whether it be in England, China, Spain or the U.S., watching the boredom and torment in the eyes of the animals as visitors point, shout and press their noses against the glass, you know it is fundamentally cruel. Chinese writer Zheng Yuanjie summed up the situation well in his microblog, writing, "Watching animals imprisoned in a limited space while eating their siblings, how would you feel?"

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