Eating live animals
The human practice of eating live animals, or parts of live animals, may be unlawful in certain jurisdictions under animal cruelty laws. Religious prohibitions on the eating of live animals by humans are also present in various world religions.
In Japan, Ikizukuri ("prepared alive") is the preparation of sashimi ("pierced food") made from live seafood. The most popular sea animal used in ikizukuri is fish but octopus, shrimp, and lobster may also be used. The fish is typically filleted without being killed and served while the heart is still beating and the mouth opening and closing. Sometimes the fish is temporarily returned to an aquarium to swim around and recover for a second course.
Another fish dish, popular in China, is called Ying Yang fish (also called dead-and-alive fish) in which the fish's body (but not the head) is rapidly deep-fried and served while the head is still fresh and moving. It is prepared extremely quickly, with care not to damage the internal organs, so that the fish can remain alive for thirty minutes.
In 2012, a video showing a woman in Japan eating a live frog was posted on YouTube and went viral. In the video, a live frog is seen stabbed alive, stripped of its skin, and its inedible innards removed to be served as fresh sashimi on an iced platter.
In 2007, a newspaper reported that a man from south east China claimed that eating live frogs for a month cured his intestinal problems. He also eats live mice and rats.
A man in Odisha, India, is reported to eat live snakes to seek attention from fellow villagers.
In Korea, Sannakji is the preparation of live octopus that has been cut into small pieces or prepared whole, and served with its arms still squirming. Sannakji connoisseurs enjoy more than just the taste of the fresh meat; they enjoy the sensation of the still-active suction cups on the octopus' arms as they stick to the mouth. Novices are advised to chew before swallowing to avoid the threat of being choked.
Sea urchins are prized around the world for their fishy-flavoured roe and flesh. They are often eaten raw, such as in sushi (typically called "uni") and some people prefer to eat them immediately after they are cut open. Scissors are often used to avoid the protective spines whilst cutting the animal open.
In China, one common way that shrimp is prepared to be eaten alive is a dish called drunken shrimp. The shrimp, usually 10 animals per serving, are first doused in a strong liquor which makes them less likely to struggle while being swallowed and also creates a flavourful marinade. A plate is typically held over the bowl to prevent the shrimp from leaping out as they are much more active than when served as Odori ebi (see below).
Odori ebi ("dancing shrimp") is a type of Japanese sashimi that contains young shrimp, usually only one individual per serving. The shrimp has its shell removed and sometimes its head as well. These can be deep fried and served alongside the rest of the shrimp, which is still moving its legs and antennae while being eaten. The shrimp only dies when chewed.
Restaurants in New York City serve live lobster, advertising that they allow customers the opportunity to “pick belly sashimi out of its still moving body”.
Casu marzu is a traditional Sardinian sheep milk cheese, notable for containing live insect larvae. It is found almost exclusively in Sardinia, Italy. Casu marzu goes beyond typical fermentation to a stage most would consider decomposition, brought about by the digestive action of the larvae of the cheese fly Piophila casei. These larvae are deliberately introduced to the cheese. The cheese received attention on Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern. Zimmern described the taste of the cheese as "so ammoniated" that "...it scorches your tongue a bit." The cheese is known to leave an aftertaste for a duration of up to several hours. Similar milk cheeses notable for containing living insect larvae are produced in several Italian regions.
According to the Talmud (a central text of Rabbinic Judaism and the basis for all codes of Jewish law) the sixth law of the Noahide Laws (Hebrew: שבע מצוות בני נח Sheva mitzvot B'nei Noach, lit. "Seven Laws [of the] Children [of] Noah") sets out the moral imperative not to eat of a live animal.
According to Jewish law, this Noahide law is (along with the other six) considered to be binding on all the "children of Noah" – that is, all of humanity – as the minimum set of morality laws to be practiced by all human beings, irrespective of their religion. The laws of Kashrut, on the other hand, set out additional regulations which are binding upon Jews only. Thus, Kosher laws further determine what is and is not fit for consumption by Jews, and under what circumstances even otherwise kosher foods become unfit for consumption for Jews (including how an animal must be killed by Jewish ritual slaughter before it is consumed by Jews). Thus, eating of a live animal is forbidden under Noahide Law and specifically for Jews under Kosher law.
Any non-Jew who adheres to the Noahide laws is regarded as a righteous gentile, and is assured of a place in the world to come (Hebrew: עולם הבא Olam Haba), the final reward of the righteous.
A YouTube channel called "Food for Louis" shows videos of Louis Cole eating live animals. These include 21 live locusts, a large, live lizard from the Brazilian jungle, a live tarantula, live crayfish, live scorpion and live goldfish.
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- Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot M'lakhim 8:14
- Encyclopedia Talmudit (Hebrew edition, Israel, 5741/1981, entry Ben Noah, end of article); note the variant reading of Maimonides and the references in the footnote
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