Last month, my colleagues forwarded to me an email from a person with a name that seemed to belong to a Chinese woman, who was irate that the South China Morning Post had run a feature on how various cultures incorporate blood in their cuisine.
The piece mentioned Taiwanese pig’s blood cakes, Chinese blood “tofu”, Vietnamese raw blood pudding, seal’s blood eaten by native Alaskans, and Italian chocolate and pig’s blood salami.
But it was the picture of blood sausage being prepared by an Estonian woman that inflamed the writer. The email, with the subject heading “What a Savage”, ranted about the Estonian sausage maker: “She is inhuman. She is a savage. She is the most disgusting, vile piece of putrescence to walk this earth. I consider you people vile, disgusting specimens of humanity.” The email was signed “Winnie Ting”.
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I recognised the tone of the email, because I’d received similar ones over the years from a British person living in Hong Kong who, for his own sake, shall remain nameless. This person – we’ll call him M – had been emailing me intermittently for more than 10 years, calling me, among other things, vile, disgusting and a peasant from Henan province, with comments such as, “If you cannot write about food which civilised Westerners eat, then I suggest you resign your position and allow a civilised Westerner to take over.”
In his last email to me, in 2016, M hit a new low, writing, “When do you plan to die? Soon I hope.” After being sent a strongly worded email by a lawyer, who pointed out that the comments could be considered a threat, M finally stopped emailing me.
I shared my suspicions about the real identity of the emailer with my colleagues, and wasn’t surprised when they said that it was sent from M’s iPhone.
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It is true some people find ingredients such as blood, hearts and brains disgusting – but it’s not just that they won’t eat them, but they judge those who do. I’m not talking about strict vegetarians who, for various reasons, avoid all types of meat and seafood. At least they are consistent about it – they avoid not just innards, but all parts of an animal.
But if you look at the comments section of any YouTube video where someone is eating anything the tiniest bit different, you will find comments that are almost as racist and vituperative as M’s.
Back in the days when great numbers of people died from famine, eating the whole animal made sense – if you’re starving, you wouldn’t turn up your nose at a nutritious blood soup and demand to be served a piece of chicken breast, grilled with no oil, please.
Tragically, even today, people are dying from famine. Photos of hollow-cheeked, bone-thin infants still make the front pages. The reasons change – a corrupt president has made off with all the money meant for the people; a baby is born with XX chromosomes when the culture has a preference for XY; swarms of locusts decimate a crop; or party leaders, eager to win favour with the country’s leaders, lie about the success of a harvest – but the outcome is the same.
Musicians and other popular stars of the day rally to hold a benefit concert, people donate money, then, feeling better about themselves for having contributed something, everyone goes on with their daily lives. Repeat.
It’s popular to talk about sustainability and zero-waste living. But if you’re a meat eater and have stopped drinking bottled water, seek out non-GMO products and are attempting to “eat local” then, unless for religious reasons, you should at least try to commit to zero waste on the animals that die for your dinner.
And if you can’t, don’t criticise those who have made that commitment.
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This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.
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