Beijing Zoo Restaurant Serves Up Exotic SpeciesPublished June 9, 2010
I was dismayed and shocked the other day when I ran across a disturbing news item. It seems that the Beijing Zoo appears to be at odds with their professed interest in the conservation of exotic animals. The zoo apparently has created a way to generate business with the rather "unique" restaurant located on their premises. It undoubtedly increases their visitors and ka-chings. And even with major cultural differences to consider, in my opinion it is certainly a "hook" to entice visitors to spend more dollars. Since "reputable" zoos are supposedly involved in crucial animal conservation of rare animals as an important part of their work, the Beijing Zoo completely misses the mark. Responsible zoos operate on the premise that the more familiar people become with exotic animals, the more likely they will understand the need for their protection and may even get personally involved in the work. And while the Beijing Zoo does participate in conservation, it is an anathema to me that one of the restaurants located at the zoo serves up animals found in their exhibits. It is at the very least a total paradox. The Bin Feng Tang restaurant at the Beijing Zoo is presently offering up an exotic menu which features kangaroo tail, ostrich eggs, peacock, scorpion, hippopotamus foot, deer penis and many other species enticing hungry patrons to sample these unusual "tasty" foods. However, according to the article I read, it used to be even worse. Apparently signs placed beside each of these animal's cages informed visitors to which parts of the animals were the tastiest, and which were the most useful in traditional Chinese medicine. How's that for public education? Even though restaurant managers claim that the exotic meat they serve comes from farms and not from the wild or the zoo's animals, as far as I am concerned, Beijing Zoo is sending mixed messages about rare animal conservation. But Wang Zengnian, vice president of the Beijing Wildlife Conservation Association sees no conflict. He said, "People have a misunderstanding about wildlife protection. Serving farmed exotic animals in restaurants is legal." However, the Capital Animal Welfare Association is against the practice of serving up exotic animals, no matter what their origin. Qin Xiaona, Association president said, "It may give people the impression that eating wild animals is legal since legal restaurants are serving them. The zoo is where we teach our children to be nice to animals. How can we do this after eating them?" Even though Bin Feng Tang's exotic menu is by no means new, articles recently published about the restaurant has resulted in worldwide attention and has drawn considerable criticism. Due to the negative feedback, restaurant staff says they are in the process of revising their menu. I am anxious to find out what the future meals de jour will be. Am I catching a whiff of the wafting scent of a yummy Caesar Salad?