Top 10 forbidden foods
Don't eat that: Dog meat cooking in Southeast Asia
Earlier this week came news that a homeless man named Nathan J. Kittoe, in Madison, Wisconsin, was in trouble with police for attacking a woman in a local park for trying to stop him from killing a goose, which he was planning on having for dinner.
Mr. Kittoe's first alleged mistake, of course, was drawing a knife on a middle-aged lady. But his second was messing with the goose. Canada geese are federally protected migratory birds, and while geese have long been considered good eatin' (think A Christmas Carol, or the expression "his goose is cooked"), nowadays slitting their necks in a public park could be a federal offense.
In fact, for a species so dependent on protein, humans have a lot of rules about what we're not supposed to eat. Whether the reasons are religious or cultural, many perfectly edible animals are off the table, so to speak, when it comes to consumption. Here is our list of the Top 10 forbidden foods.
10. DOGS AND CATS
In America we make pets out of animals that other countries consider entrees. Most Westerners are shocked by the idea, but in some Asian countries, there are breeds of dog raised on farms for slaughter. The Chinese have been eating dog meat for thousands of years, where it is still served up in stir fries. Sometimes called "fragrant meat," it is thought to have medicinal properties. Dog is a delicacy in countries like Vietnam, Tonga, East Timor and Ghana, and even in parts of rural Switzerland. Cats don't fare much better and are at risk in China, northern Vietnam, Peru, and parts of the Australian outback.
Horses have been beasts of burden since they were first domesticated, but they've been barbecue since caveman days. In fact, equine meat is fairly tasty: sweet, tender, and lean. The meat has fallen out of favor in the West, but was consumed to varying degrees in England, France, and America. Some parts of Mexico and Latin American have no problem with being fed some Mr. Ed. In Japan, it's sometimes served raw as sashimi. In the Americas, feral horses from the Conquistadores became fair game for native peoples. The top eight countries (including China, Mexico, Kazakhstan, Argentina, and Brazil) consume about 4.7 million horses a year.
8. PIGS AND COWS
While meat-eating Christians can't seem to scarf enough of both, the dietary laws of Muslims and Hindus restrict eating pork and beef, respectively, but for opposite reasons: Muslims consider pig meat unclean, while Hindus consider cows sacred.
7. CHINESE GIANT SALAMANDER
Chinese giant salamanders are the largest amphibians (sometimes nearly 6 feet) living today. Unfortunately, they may not be living for very long. Considered a delicacy in China, they have been illegally hunted to the point of extinction. The creatures are not only slow, they sell for as much as $50 a pound on the black market.
It might be hard to work up much sympathy for these prehistoric killers, but sharks are in trouble. Shark fin soup has been a popular Chinese dish for centuries and is most often served as a delicacy at weddings and banquets. That didn't used to be a problem, but with 1.3 billion Chinese and modern fishing technology, sharks are now the hunted. "Shark finning" refers to the common practice of killing a shark, cutting off its fin, and throwing the carcass back in the sea. By some estimates, 100 million sharks are being killed every year, and the populations of some species have plummeted as much as 80% in the last few decades.
No one would eat it except for one prominent body part: their horns. Powdered rhino horn is much in demand in Asian countries to treat everything from fever to snakebite. It may or may not be good for humans, but it's definitely unhealthy for rhinos.
4. BATS AND RATS
Good god, what won't people eat? Not many cultures would make a meal of rodents--flying or otherwise--but there are, naturally, a couple of outliers. Though eating bat meat has been shown to cause brain disorders, a few people haven't gotten the word: It's still a delicacy in parts of Indonesia. Rats aren't on anyone's grocery list in the West, but the little vermin are fairly common at dinner in rural parts of Southeast Asia an in Africa.
3. LIONS, GIRAFFES, ELEPHANTS, ETC.
Collectively known as bushmeat, game animals can often be found for sale in African markets. Antelope are the biggest source of commercial bushmeat, but illegal hunters are fairly democratic in the animals they kill. Poaching has become one of the biggest threats to African wildlife and has led to several local extinctions in West Africa.
Monkeys, baboons, and gorillas are a subcategory of bushmeat, but as primates their use as food hits a little closer to home. Monkey meat is a valuable source of protein in some parts of Africa, and the New York Times has reported it is even surreptitiously sold in some of the Big Apple's West Africans restaurants. But eating monkeys isn't only bad for monkeys: The simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) often found in the meat has been shown to be the source of HIV in humans, and nothing says another mutation couldn't happen again.
Dining on our own kind is verboten almost everywhere, and today the practice is restricted mostly to psychopaths, starving survivors, and a couple of obscure tribes in the South Pacific. But our ancestors apparently didn't have such qualms. Many archaeological digs of Paleolithic sites around the world have found the bones of Neanderthals and humans with telltale butchering marks, a sure sign that cavemen probably started the old joke about having the neighbors over for dinner.
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