Friday, May 21, 2010

Beijing Zoo menu stirs controversy

A restaurant at Beijing Zoo has angered animal rights campaigner and conservationists for sending the wrong message after it was reported the establishment served exotic animals on its menu. The Bin Feng Tang [豳风堂餐厅] restaurant, which is situated in Xizhimen Waidajie in the Xicheng District of Beijing, sells around 100 different animals according to the Chinese newspaper Legal Evening News. Customers may indulge in deer tendon, antelope soup, ants, scorpions and peacock meat. But on the more contoversial side is the sale of hippopotomus, crocodile, alligator and shark fin. Prices range from 400 RMB [$58] to more than a 1000 RMB [$146] .

The restaurant manager seemed somewhat surprised at the recent interest, saying that the menu had been relatively unchanged in years. Indeed one comment on a review website claiming the restaurant was "really excellent" and the "wild animals' meat ... delicious" dates back to 2008 [Chineseeye]. Recent or not the news is not going down well. “How would you feel, watching animals imprisoned in a limited space while eating their siblings?” asked Zheng Yuanjie, a well-known author, on his blog. 

The zoo restaurant apparently has the requisite licence from the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Landscape and Forestry and is quite legal because none of the species on the menu are endangered. The restaurant has insisted the animals are not sourced from the confines of the zoo, but this has not appeased animal welfare groups. “The zoo is where we teach children to be nice to animals,” Qin Xiaona, head of the Capital Animal Welfare Association told the daily Global Times. “How can we do this after eating them?”

"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 who is trying to draft an animal protection law, 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."

Animal welfare is a difficult concept to push in China. Dog can still be seen on many menus despite increasing hostility to the idea of eating 'companion animals'. Crocodile and shark's fin, while expensive is not unusual. And scorpions, sea horses and locusts are a familiar sight on Wangfujing's famous food stalls. As for the Bin Feng Tang, they say they may revise their menu after the negative publicity [Guardian / CSM].

tvnewswatch, Beijing, China

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