Net erupts over video of fish eaten alive

An internet video purportedly shot in an unidentified Chinese restaurant is firing up animal rights activists for showing patrons eating a live fish.

An internet video purportedly shot in an unidentified Chinese restaurant is firing up animal rights activists for showing patrons eating a live fish.

The video being circulated on YouTube shows diners laughing as they dig into a fish deep-fried from the head down as it continues to wiggle around and gasp.

People for the Ethical Treatment for Animals, the animal welfare group, denounced the video as animal cruelty.

"It's awful," said Dan Mathew, PETA's vice-president. "People definitely have a sadistic side."

In another video, viewers can watch as chefs prepare the dish step by step.  

In it, an unidentified man first shaves off the animal's scales and wraps a white cloth around the fish's head to keep it alive as the cook dips both sides of its bottom half into oil. It's then placed on a plate and covered with sauce before two people begin prodding it and eventually eating it with chopsticks.

The video has received over 2,000 hits so far this week.

Cruel stereotypes

Some critics worry that this video will fuel negative stereotypes about Chinese culture.

Hyoshin Kim, an official with the Centre for Intercultural Communications in Vancouver, says that when it comes to culture not everything is clearly good or bad, and cautions people against making general assumptions or negative stereotypes based on the clip. 

"What's considered good to eat is shaped by our culture and social surroundings," she says. "We are all programmed to judge by our own yardstick "

In fact, many countries boast cultural delicacies that some would never eat.

Haggis, a dish that combines sheep liver, heart and lungs along with oatmeal, roasted in a sheep's own stomach, has been eaten by the Scots for years. And the French are known for their love of foie gras, made from the livers of overstuffed geese or ducks.

Also, the parliamentary restaurant in Ottawa just announced it will soon add seal meat to its menu, to the dismay of PETA and other animal lovers.

Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean drew some public condemnation — as well as praise — after being photographed eating raw seal meat. During a stop at Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, in May, Jean cut and ate raw seal meat while at a community fest.

Seal hunters and traders rejoiced at the news, while others are still smarting at the thought of the animal ending up on consumer's plates in Ottawa as early as spring 2010. The European Union has banned the import of seal hunt products.

PETA's Mathew calls the menu addition a "publicity stunt for desperate politicians" that misrepresents seal hunting.