A few weeks ago, I wrote about a turtle soup Mark and I made from a turtle we butchered ourselves. My mother suggested I take down the post for fear that people would think I was “barbaric.”
It wasn’t that she took issue with the manner in which we butchered it or even cared at all about the animal’s welfare and whether or not it was cruel. She was concerned that people would think I was somehow uncivilized or savage for what I ate.
Yesterday, The Huffington Post (which recently published an op-ed by Natalie Portman attempting to make a case for veganism) posted a youtube video with the following description:
“Eating “rare” delicacies just got to a new level. In China, chefs have figured out a way to keep a fish alive as it gets deep fried and then waits to be eaten.
Below is the shocking video of a deep-fried fish that’s still living and moving on a plate. Warning, this may be too graphic for some readers.”
It’s pretty clear to me that by posting this, The Huffington Post had no other motive but to be inflammatory. The first tag on the article is “animal cruelty,” which points you in the direction of articles about a puppy that was thrown off a roof and had to be euthanized and a woman whose home is described in the headline as an “animal concentration camp.”
I won’t re-post the video of the still alive, half-fried fish because even as someone who consumes fish very regularly without guilt, I find it disturbing. How could you not when seeing a fish, whose body is in tatters while his head is completely in tact with one eye looking straight into the camera as it gasps for air? His gill desperately opening and closing while people laugh cruelly, jabbering away in some foreign tongue while poking the helpless creature in the mouth with chopsticks.
I’m not going to debate whether or not it’s right to eat animals. You’ve most likely already made that decision for yourself and I’m not going to convince you either way and I’m not trying to. The debate about whether or not this dish is cruel is not much of a debate.
The issue for me is not the dish itself but how quickly people degenerate into very nasty, flagrant racism. Responses to the video included:
“Asians are evil and have no souls.”
“i am not even going to watch this cause it will make me sick..fucking chinks
its disgusting and so fucking wrong”
“That is horrible!!! Chinese people should be deep fried while still breathing! They are so mean, have no ethics whatsoever!”
Now, of course I’m taking these comments with a grain of salt. I understand I should be above this and find them ridiculous. They probably have no idea what they’re saying and how ignorant it is. But what saddens me is that some people of Asian descent felt the need to express shame for something that had nothing to do with them:
“wow i’ve never been so embarrassed to be chinese. this is f-ing horrible!”
“THAT IS SO F**ED UP!!! omg!!! torture. why are they laughing? GOD as an Asian person i am ashamed. these people are SICK”
The thing is, if there were a youtube video of a French family eating rabbits for lapin à la moutarde, people would probably object on similar grounds of animal cruelty, but I don’t think an American kid of French descent would be sitting at home thinking, “I’m so ashamed to be French” nor feel the need to apologize on behalf of all European people.
Despite so many enthusiastic talking heads on television proclaiming this a “post-race” era, I don’t have the luxury of individuality. Because when someone in Hong Kong posts a disturbing video and I know thousands of people think “F*n Chinese will eat anything… dolphins, monkey brain… while the monkey is still alive. Dog, cat… DISGUSTING!!” I cringe a little inside.