Culi­nary warn­ing to pro­tect pre­cious wildlife

China Daily European Weekly - - COMMENT - The writer is an ed­i­tor with China Daily. Con­tact the writer at li­fangchao@chi­nadaily.com.cn

In­stead of hur­ry­ing to con­sume these crea­tures, Chi­nese peo­ple should fo­cus on trea­sur­ing and con­serv­ing them be­fore it is too late

By LI FANGCHAO

Chi­nese peo­ple, known for their love for food and ex­quis­ite cuisines, were nat­u­rally drawn to re­ports on two seafood prod­ucts in for­eign coun­tries. In late April, a post in the of­fi­cial ac­count of Den­mark’s em­bassy in Bei­jing onWeibo, a Twit­ter-like Chi­nese web­site, said the coast­line of the Scan­di­na­vian coun­try has been plagued by a large number of “wild” oys­ters from the Pa­cific. The post also said lo­cal res­i­dents don’t know how to deal with the oys­ter “in­va­sion” and asked Chi­nese tourists to visit the coun­try on a spe­cial “oys­ter-eat­ing tour”.

And ear­lier this month, a re­port by the Australian Broad­cast­ing Cor­po­ra­tion also drew the at­ten­tion of many Chi­nese. The re­port said tens of thou­sands of “wild” salmon swim close to the Parry Beach in South­west Aus­tralia to spawn ev­ery au­tumn. And since fish­er­men catch tons of salmon and lo­cal res­i­dents, who find it hard to bear the fishy smell, use them as baits for lob­sters, most of the huge salmon catch goes to “waste”.

Many Chi­nese lamented the huge waste of oys­ters and salmon. Chi­nese peo­ple’s diet con­sists of per­haps the widest va­ri­ety of food, from veg­eta­bles and fruits to meats and seafood. And that might be the rea­son why re­ports say­ing that Danes and Aus­tralians don’t know what to do with the huge “cache” of oys­ters and salmon seem so lu­di­crous to the Chi­nese peo­ple. Some peo­ple even jok­ingly posted com­ments on the Den­mark em­bassy’s ac­count say­ing that once Chi­nese ar­rived in groups in Den­mark, the bi­valve mol­lusks would soon make it to the list of en­dan­gered species.

Jokes aside, one of the main rea­sons the two news re­ports caught the at­ten­tion of Chi­nese peo­ple is the word “wild”. To be­gin with, most of the oys­ters we get in mar­kets are farmed — oys­ter farm­ing started decades ago — and sev­eral years ago the United States started cap­tive breed­ing of salmon.

The word “wild” has a fas­ci­nat­ing ef­fect on Chi­nese peo­ple also be­cause hardly any an­i­mals sur­vive in large num­bers in the wild in China. They see the abun­dance of “wild” oys­ters and salmon in Den­mark and Aus­tralia, re­spec­tively, as not only a gift of na­ture, but also a sign of good en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion.

China has lost much of its wildlife thanks partly to its rapid eco­nomic growth, which has had a huge im­pact on its en­vi­ron­ment be­cause of se­vere air, wa­ter and soil pol­lu­tion.

Be­cause of the in­sa­tiable ap­petite of some peo­ple, many wild an­i­mals have en­tered the list of en­dan­gered species or have be­come ex­tinct. For ex­am­ple, the Chi­nese pan­golin, whose scales many falsely be­lieve have health ben­e­fits, can no longer be found in the wild be­cause of over-hunt­ing. The wild yel­low croaker, a fish which was abun­dant in the East China Sea in the 1950s, has be­come a mem­ory for many due to over-fish­ing. And the Yangtze River’s knife­fish, a del­i­cacy for many Chi­nese, is fast mov­ing to­ward ex­tinc­tion.

The re­ports on the oys­ters and salmon, which un­wit­tingly high­lighted the sharp con­trast be­tween China and some other coun­tries, should be a warn­ing for us that, if we do not bet­ter pro­tect the en­vi­ron­ment, we could soon lose all the wild an­i­mals in the coun­try.

Given that hunger and star­va­tion have haunted Chi­nese peo­ple down the ages, right up to the 1970s, many peo­ple’s mouth-wa­ter­ing re­sponse to the two news re­ports is not sur­pris­ing. But times have changed. Although China still has a rel­a­tively large number of poor peo­ple, star­va­tion is a thing of the past. There­fore the con­sump­tion of wild an­i­mals to sa­ti­ate hunger too should be­come a thing of the past.

Chi­nese peo­ple should also aban­don their su­per­sti­tious be­lief that some wild an­i­mals’ parts have health ben­e­fits, and al­low wildlife to sur­vive. And, hence, in­stead of em­bark­ing an oys­ter-eat­ing tour to Den­mark or pay­ing a visit to Aus­tralia to sa­vor salmon, let’s make more ef­forts to re­pair our en­vi­ron­ment and pro­tect our wildlife, be­cause it will even­tu­ally save us from ex­tinc­tion.

HE YING / FOR CHINA DAILY

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