CATS - FRIEND OR FOOD (4) RECENT CASES
Everyone must eat in order to live. Most of us think that what we eat, and the way they eat it, is the normal or correct pattern. Therefore anyone who eats different things is considered odd. Until relatively recently, human societies were localised and had their own localised eating habits. In the 20th and 21st centuries, globalization has led to culinary conflicts as one culture's delicacy is another culture's taboo. To some the cat is a legitimate food source. Others find the concept of cat-eating abhorrent. Is it right for cat-loving countries to impose their cultural values on cat-eating societies?
DENMARK: JOURNALISM STUDENTS EAT CAT AS "ANIMAL WELFARE PUBLICITY STUNT" (2008)
In June 2008, a group of journalism students from the Danish School of Journalism in Århus have discovered had their Facebook accounts closed by Facebook administrators after uploading photos of themselves cooking and eating a cat. 30 pictures and a recipe for a dish called “litter box” were removed Facebook. The group claimed they wanted to highlight animal welfare. They said that owners were willing to large sums on their pets, but did not give consideration to the welfare of food animals and bought cheap meat from intensively reared animals.
The cat was a feral cat that had been shot by a farmer who had too many cats on his land. The students argued that the cat had been killed humanely and said it had been prepared by a professional chef. One of the students, Laura Bøge Mortensen, is editor of a student magazine called Citat, which printed an article about the meal. The students admitted they had to overcome a reluctance to eating a companion animal.
Ole Münster, director of animal welfare organisation Dyrenes Beskyttelse said the stunt was the worst way to draw attention to animal welfare. The choice of a cat was especially bad as the organisation got most of our calls about cats
AUSTRALIA: BAN ON CAT-EATING IN VICTORIA (2002); CAT EATING AT ALICE SPRINGS (2007)
In October 2002, Australian government officials in Victoria banned the eating of cats and dogs. The move by Victoria state came after a newspaper sparked public outrage by publishing a story about a man pretending to eat a dog in a shopping centre. A report in the Moonee Valley Community News stated that an Asian man was seen in Victoria acting as if he were consuming a 10-week-old dog. The puppy's owner said she couldn't believe someone was trying to eat her dog. As a result, Agriculture minister Keith Hamilton decided to toughen up meat industry laws concerning the consumption of animals, describing the practice of dog eating as "abhorrent". There has been concern that minority groups would be offended by the new law, but the President of the Korean Society of Victoria said Koreans living in Victoria did not eat dog because they followed Australian culture.
During 2002, there have been email and newsgroup stories of Australians eating dogs and cats at barbecues and this being quite normal. Quite why Australians have been singled out is uncertain. In the outback, feral cats are eaten by Aboriginal people. Feral cats are considered a serious pest species in Australia and have severely affected species which traditionally formed part of the Aboriginal diet.
In August 2007, an Alice Springs contest featured wild cat casserole as part of a promotion to cull feral pests by harvesting and eating them. The meat was claimed to taste like a cross between rabbit and chicken, but was found impossibly tough by one of the competitions judges who had to spit it out. Unusually, considering their normal antipathy towards feral cats, wildlife campaigners expressed dismay that Australia's wild cat could become a menu item. Feral cats are considered good eating by some Aborigines, who roast them on an open fire. However, the diner risks exposure to harmful bacteria and toxins.
The woman who created the cat stew recipe believed Australians could help the environment by eating feral pests such as cats, pigeons and camels. Her recipe for feline casserole impressed some of the judges at an outback food competition in Alice Springs. The meat is diced and fried until brown. Lemongrass, salt and pepper are then added along with 3 cups of quandong (a sweet desert fruit also called native peach (Santalum acuminatum)). The stew is left to simmer for 5 hours and is garnished with bush plums and mistletoe berries. One judge found the meat impossibly tough and politely excused herself to spit it out in a backroom. Note: The fruits of Australian mistletoes are apparently edible when ripe; those of European mistletoe are considered toxic.
KENYA: BOYS ARRESTING FOR EATING CAT IN NAIROBI (2002)
In December 2002, Reuters reported that three Kenyan schoolboys, aged 12-14, had been arrested for killing and eating a cat they suspected of stealing chickens set aside for their Christmas feast. The three boys had killed, skinned and roasted the cat for lunch on 17th December according to the Kenya News Agency (KNA). They were arrested after complaints from residents in Mororo village in eastern Kenya.
BRAZIL: MAN HUNTING AND EATING NEIGHBOURHOOD PET CATS (2003)
In March 2003, Folha de Sao Paulo reported that a 70-year-old man was arrested in Brazil on suspicion of hunting and eating domestic cats. Elias Cassini was allegedly caught skinning a Siamese cat outside his home in Sao Paulo and two further dead cats were found inside the house. According to a police spokesman, police received an anonymous phone call alerting them that Mr Cassini was hunting all the cats in the neighbourhood. Cassini will go on trial for animal cruelty and faces a month in prison if convicted.
Cassini is reported to have said: "I do have the habit of eating cat stew and fried cat. I do that because I don't have enough money to buy food." However, Mr Cassini's family told the police that he has adequate means to support himself and that cat eating is a bizarre habit, not a means getting adequate food.
SWITZERLAND: CAT EATING IN RURAL AREAS (2003, 2004)
In June 2003, Animal protection groups in Switzerland became concerned about the increasing popularity of dog and cat meat, especially in rural areas of the country. The meat and fat of cats and dogs was also believed to have medicinal qualities. Slaughtering pets for their meat is prohibited under Swiss law but the meat is available on the black market.
In January 2004, Reuters reported that Swiss culinary traditions include puppies and kittens. While many European countries prohibit the eating of cats and dogs, in some rural parts Switzerland the only prohibition is on the trading and distribution of pet meat products. Private consumption of cat and dog is permissible. Swiss animal welfare groups say it is hard to estimate how many pets end up salted and smoked, or in Swiss frying pan, each year. Animal protection legislation is unlikely to end this longstanding tradition because meals served in private homes are none of the state's business.
There is a waste-not-want-not logic to the consumption of pets. As with many countries, many farm cats and farm dogs are not neutered. When the farm's cats or dogs have offspring, there are surplus ones which will be killed. Since they are going to be killed, they might as well be eaten. Despite laws in many European countries, the rural habit might be even more widespread. Several years ago a man in a rural town in France was reportedly put on local animal rescuers' blacklists after regularly adopting (or buying) kittens for his own consumption.
MALAYSIAN: VIETNAMESE WORKERS ATE CATS (2003)
New Straits Times 25th July 2003. Alor Gajah (Malacca): Vietnamese workers who were recently laid off when the Super Latex Sdn Bhd factory went into receivership, apparently resorted to eating cats and dogs. Residents in the Kelemak industrial estate began complaining of pets going missing. Phan, a Vietnamese worker, admitted that he and his fellow countrymen killed and ate cats and dogs as they could not afford to buy meat and did not have enough money to pay for their passage back to Vietnam. One of the Nepalese workers claimed to have seen a Vietnamese man using a piece of wood to strike a cat and placing the dead animal in a plastic bag. A local restaurant owner claimed that his two pet puppies had gone missing and believed they had been eaten by the Vietnamese workers. 50 Vietnamese and 40 Nepalese were living at the factory hostel awaiting deportation. Management were providing daily rations of rice, potatoes, dhall and chicken. If the reports are true, it is a symptom of hardship. The possibility of racist rumours cannot be discounted though.
CHINA: CAT-MEAT FOUND IN KEBABS, SHANGHAI (2006)
According to the Shanghai Small Animal Association in January 2006, Shanghai street vendors were using the meat from stray cats to supplement mutton in snacks such as kebabs. The Shanghai Small Animal Association had just completed a one-year investigation into samples of "lamb" and "rabbit" kebabs. Using DNA analysis, the kebabs tested positively for cat meat.
Cats are considered a delicacy in wealthy Guangdong province in the south, but elsewhere in China diners prefer more conventional meat such as pork, mutton and rabbit. In a city with a huge stray cat population where the cats can often be picked up at no cost, this has caused some street vendors to pass off cat meat as mutton.
According to Li Ruohai, director of the Shanghai Small Animal Association, there is no way to protect cats in Shanghai. The city has no laws that defend their rights. With around 100,000 stray cats and dogs living and breeding in the city, the animals are often snatched from the street with little regard as to whether they are homeless or are owned pets. According to Li, the problem began when Shanghai residents who bought cats as pets, or received them as presents, grew tired of them and abandoned them.
News agencies reporting the story have not commented on whether there are laws governing the adulteration of rabbit or mutton kebabs with cat meat or whether diners would continue to eat the kebabs if the true content was disclosed.
KUWAIT: CAT-MEAT SUSPECTED IN KEBABS, JAHRA (MAY 2007)
Health authorities shut down a popular shawerma (doner kebab) restaurant in Jahra after several custoemr complaints and allegations it mixed stray cats' flesh and frozen meat which it sold as fresh meat. Officials monitored the restaurant before raiding it. They found meat that was unfit for human consumption and so rancid even dogs would not eat it. Cats, along with other carnivores, are taboo for Muslims. Officials were afraid the restaurant would reopen through wasta (unofficial/corrupt connections). Doner kebab shops in the west are sometimes asuspected of using dog or cat in their cylinders of reformatted "mystery meat".
INDIA: CATS EATEN IN TAMIL NADU (2008)
(Hindustan Times (New Delhi, India), March 3, 2008) The Irula and Boer (both Scheduled Tribes) in the Krishnagiri region of Tamil Nadu, India are known to eat cats. To put this in context, this is an impoverished tribal belt where 8-12 year old girls are likely to be married off to older men. Although reports state they eat wild cats, the numerous domestic cats that live around human settlements are probably easier to catch. They believe cat meat has medicinal properties; the blood supposedly alleviates pain and is an energising tonic. Thecat is dispatched by throat-slitting (the most common way of dispatching any food animal in rural regions) before being boiled (which makes it easier to skin) and then cooked for eating. This practice is not widespread in India and is not condoned by most Indians. Many rural regions, however, live at subsistence level.
ITALY: ITALIAN CHEF PROMOTES CAT-MEAT DISH ON TV (FEBRUARY 2010)
Italian chef Beppe Bigazzi was suspended indefinitely from his position as food expert on national TV show "La Prova del Cuoco" (The Cook's Challenge, similar to Britain's "Ready, Steady, Cook") for telling the television audience about the wonders of "tender, white cat meat." The 77 year old chef explained how to tenderize cat meat by leaving it under running water for three days to tenderise it before cooking it in a stew: "Leave it for three days under a stream or running water and you end up with a delight, I've eaten its delicious white meat many times". The Italian Animal Protection Agency called for him to be permanently removed from the programme. Instigating others to commit an act of animal cruelty is a criminal offence punishable by up to 18 months in prison. Bigazzi later claimed he had been talking about a tradition in the 1930s and 1940s when wartime food shortages in Tuscany, Italy put cat on the menu. He claimed on the show that it was a long-held tradition in Valdarno, a town near Florence. Eating cat is illegal in Italy where 8 million cats are kept as pets, but up to 50,000 strays are either neutered or put down annually.
AFRICA: EATING CATS ON THE IVORY COAST
According to "The Masque of Africa" by Nobel laureate VS Naipaul, kittens are eaten on the Ivory Coast (Côte d'Ivoire). He reports that the best way of killing a cat or kitten is to place it in a sack and place the sack in boiling water. Cats are reportedly also eaten in parts of the Congo and in the Sokoke region of Kenya.
SYRIA: MUSLIM CLERIC PERMITS STARVING SYRIANS TO EATS CATS AND DOGS (2013)
In October 2013, a Muslim cleric issued a fatwa allowing starving people in Syria to eat cats and dogs. Normally the eating of carnivores is strictly forbidden, but where there is a stark choice between eating haram (forbidden) food or dying, Islam takes a pragmatic approach. While Muslims around the world celebrate the Eid al-Adha holiday with festive feasts, those trapped in besieged areas around the Syrian capital are starving. Sheikh Saleh al-Khatib stated that clerics issued the religious edict not because it was religiously permitted, but because children were dying of starvation and malnutrition. al-Khatib had been on hunger strike for nine days so that needier people could have food. With food stockpiles depleted, people were planting herbs and vegetables in the streets, but they risked being killed while harvesting food. It was not clear whether the fatwa applied only to animals killed by bombs or whether it also allowed starving people to kill the numerous homeless and stray animals.
RAID ON ILLEGAL CAT SLAUGHTERHOUSE IN CHINA (NOV 2013)
Chinese officials caught a Chinese criminal gang that killed and skinned cats then sold the carcases to restaurants as "rabbit". The group had been operating for over a year and bought stray cats for 10 Yuan (£1), which they processed and sold to markets and diners all over the country. The operation was based in a warehouse in the city of Huai'an in eastern China. A lorry collected hundreds of carcases two or three times a week to deliver to customers. Other clients wanted the cats delivered alive. Local residents had reported the warehouse several but nothing was done until the end of October 2013 when hygiene officials raided the slaughter house and arrested several suspects. Officials found 60 live, caged cats, and more than 30 dead cats in a freezer. It is likely that the main issue is passing off cat (cheap) as rabbit (more expensive).
This was part of a long-term battle by animal rights supporters to crack down on the slaughter of cats and dogs in China, although there is no law against eating them. In January 2013, an animal rights group rescued 600 plump white cats, crammed into 50 crates, headed for a skinning warehouse in Changsha, central China, after the lorry transporting them overturned. Volunteers from the Small Animal Protection Association bought them for 10,000 yuan (£1,000).The cats had travelled for days, without water or food, urinating and defecating on the crates below them.
SERVING CAT MEAT IN RESTAURANTS MAY BE BANNED IN PENNSYLVANIA (DEC 2013)
According to Metro US Philadelphia (Dec 3rd), George Bengal, Director of Law Enforcement for the Pennsylvania SPCA, went into an unnamed West Philadelphia restaurant and and found more than 50 cats chained in the basement. He also saw cats being butchered to serve as a delicacy. The Health Department shut down the restaurant and the SPCA rescued the surviving cats. A new law "Amending Title 18 (Crimes and Offenses) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, further providing for the offense of cruelty to animals" passed by unanimous vote in the Pennsylvania House makes it illegal to breed and kill dogs or cats for food. House Bill (2013) was referred to the Pennsylvania committee on Agriculture and Rural Affairs on 15th October, 2013. Here are the details:
Section 1. Section 5511 of Title 18 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes is amended by adding a subsection to read: 5511. Cruelty to animals:
(c.1) Prohibition of activities related to dogs and cats.--
(1) A person commits an offense if the person does any of the following:
(i) Kills a dog or cat, regardless of ownership of the animal, for the purpose of human consumption.
(ii) Processes dog or cat meat for the purpose of human consumption.
(iii) Breeds, keeps, sells, offers for sale or transfers a dog or cat for the purpose of human consumption.
(iv) Offers dog or cat meat for human consumption.
(2) Except as set forth in paragraph (3), a person that violates this subsection commits a misdemeanor of the first degree and shall, upon conviction, be sentenced to pay a fine of not less than $1,000 nor more than $10,000 or to imprisonment for not more than five years, or both.
(3) A person who, after being sentenced under paragraph (2), violates this subsection commits a felony of the third degree and shall, upon conviction, be sentenced to pay a fine of not less than $2,500 nor more than $15,000 or to imprisonment for not more than seven years, or both.
Once passed it goes into effect in 60 days. Pennsylvania will become one of 7 American states that has made illegal the killing of a cat or dog in order to eat in. All 50 states have made it illegal to sell dog and cat meat to the general public, or offer it in restaurants or have it on a menu. Until this bill, it was legal for a private citizen in Pennsylvania to kill and serve cat or dog meat (for personal consumption), provided the killing was done humanely manner and in the privacy of their own home.
1. What the West Sees, What the West Ignores
2. Racial Slurs and Stereotypes
3. Where and Why Cats are Eaten
5. Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Cat Eaters
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