Food for thought

Food for thought

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Dominic Nahr
Shark's fin soup is popular in Hong Kong. Photo: Dominic Nahr

By Cameron Dueck

People from different cultures eat different foods. In some cases, people may eat animals that we keep as pets.

But there is a difference between eating animals we wouldn't want to eat and eating animals that are endangered or killed in a cruel way.

On the mainland, it's not uncommon to eat dogs and cats - something Westerners wouldn't do. Is it wrong to eat an animal if it is not endangered, and if they are killed in a humane way? Is this different from eating pork or chicken?

The Canadian government last month hosted a meeting that was attended by government ministers from France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Britain and the United States. The meeting was held in the Arctic city of Iqaluit. For dinner, they were served seal meat, a common food in Iqaluit. But most visitors found it very offensive.

Seals are not an endangered species and hunting them is a key aspect of Inuit culture. In most cases, they are killed quickly, without pain.

At this year's Oscars, a film called The Cove won the award for best documentary. It revolves around hunters in the Japanese city of Taiji who kill dolphins and sell their meat to Japanese consumers. The hunters say what they do is not illegal, and the hunt has been their tradition for many years. But many non-Japanese think it is wrong to eat dolphins, who are cute and very intelligent.

'There are a variety of customs relating to food, within this country and abroad,' said Kazutaka Sangen, the mayor of Taiji.

In Hong Kong, it's tradition to eat shark's fin soup at a wedding. But harvesting shark's fin is a cruel and deadly business. The sharks are caught at sea, their fins are cut off, and then they are thrown back into the water, alive and bleeding, to die a slow death. Shark fins are a traditional Chinese food, but does that make it right to torture the sharks?

Is killing a dolphin for food different than eating an animal that was raised just to produce meat?

Some people say we shouldn't kill wild animals, and only eat animals raised on a farm. Next week I'll tell you why eating meat from a farm isn't always the best option for the environment.

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