Snuff Cuisine. Eat With Your Left Hand 'Cause This Ain't Right. Somewhere in China.

Gourmet Live Food from eric alba on Vimeo.

Warning: this video is very disturbing. It will stay with you for days. It's Iron Chef from Hell. You’ve been warned.

Think of me tonite
For that which you savor
Did it give you something real,
or could you taste the pain of my death in its flavor?

~ excerpted from Food Forethought by Wayne K. Tolson

There is always a line. No matter where you stand on anything, there’s that line. No matter how extreme your beliefs and practices, there’s always the line that’s just moved a bit and now has yet to be crossed. It’s theorized that we as humans possess infinite capacity for kindness as well as for cruelty. Sadly, this piece of video tilts well into the cruelty category. It’s a sadistic example of snuff cuisine that goes beyond the “live food preparation” style of food (or ikizukuri), which is controversial enough.

I’ve defended the practice of ikizukuri on this blog and in other outlets. I’ve eaten these types of dishes on a number of occasions. The experience can be extremely cruel yet inventive as is with “live lobster sashimi” when the lobster is seemingly watching itself being eaten alive. Or, the meal can be a terrifying fight with your furious food like sannakji or “live octopus”. The octopus reacting just as it would in nature, vigorously defending its life until it no longer can. And, in essence, the previous sentence was my shield against the appalled detractors of ikizukuri — I'd argue that in the wild, if the animal was hunted and eaten by a predator, it would be while it was living. So, this practice is not against nature. If anything, holding swine in cubicles where they’re rendered immobile while snuffling their own feculence is unnatural. The irony: eating an animal alive has turned aberrant while eating an unrecognizable slab of flesh from an animal raised in a factory farm is normal. I realize, for most, this notion is a lot to get one's head or stomach around. I'm the minority.

All that said, this video clip of an extreme cooking contest in China (above) not only crosses the line but clears it by a mile. And, before anyone becomes so upset after watching the video and promptly groups all Chinese people together as a bunch of barbarians, I submit another video clip (below), this one of Chinese pop singer Long Kuan, who recently encouraged her fans to explore the possibility of adopting vegetarianism or, ideally, veganism into their diets in order to stop global warming.

Bring forth the hate mail.

Chinese pop star Long Kuan "Go Vegan" video below:


Juliet said…
I can't bring myself to watch the video. I know that, when I eat meat, I am eating dead flesh. But this is just too much for me. I'm weak like that. But then, I couldn't watch the Matrix either. So maybe I am exceptionally wussy.
Anonymous said…
It's (only) snakes and fish... thankfully no live puppies or kitties. No worse than the live octopus tentacles, which remind me too much of the movie Alien.
I want to judge the people in that video, but yesterday I ate meat from animals that suffered a thousand times more than these snakes and fish. Am I morally superior, because I'm properly horrified when animal suffering happens in front of my eyes, instead of on some factory farm I'll never see?
Garando said…
You deserve praise for leaving out the pork, chicken, duck and beef dishes in the video.
Fish, insects and snakes I can tolerate, but once it already has feet, I will start loosing sleep.
dianejwright said…
Thank you for posting this. It's a reminder of our nature as human animals. Through history, we sometimes change and other times not, no matter how sophisticated we believe we have become. After all, participants in the video were not just the chefs but also the judges and audience. How easily we are able to dismiss suffering of varied kinds.
What Garando said. Also, great essay justifying such preparations. DOWN WITH FACTORY FARMS!
Chubbypanda said…
Sadly, these are fairly well known and old Chinese cooking techniques. The only thing different is the contest format. The Chinese are obsessed with food freshness, and what could be fresher than something that's still alive when you eat it?

Call it cruel or call it honest, it's the same thing. In Asia, death and food are far less segregated than they are here. Given a choice, I'd want the animal to suffer as little as possible when dispatched as part of my meal. But, I won't pretend that something didn't die so that I could be sustained.

Thanks for posting this video, Eddie. Like you wrote, it does make us think about where the line between death and food lies for each of us.
Muriel said…
I know I eat food that has suffered worse than what was shown in that video - mostly because I've eaten from super markets. But, nevertheless, the animals in the video didn't have to be eaten that way. I suppose I'm just thankful they chopped the snake's head off first? But the fish - oh, poor thing.
Eddie Lin said…

Yes, you're a wussy but you're still cool.


The snake and fish have a different opinion.


Good point.


Wow, no sympathy for the fish and snake once again.

Diane J Wright,

Yes, we've dug ourselves a deep one. Lots to think about.


Down with Farmer John!


oh, i'm sure even you can come up with something. ;-)


Thanks for the thoughtful input.


I know, poor fishy. Thanks for the comment.
Jess said…
Somehow, I'm not surprised. But I prefer food that's not still moving when I put it in my mouth.

In Chinatown, live seafood are "cleaned" (de-scaled, de-skinned, and cut into pieces) right before your very eyes before taking it home...and it's not that traumatic.