Posted by: Sam Olsen | December 6, 2011

Descaled alive

We really love living here. Part of that is because the local Chinese are such a nice lot, being very considerate to fellow humans (except for not holding doors open for you). The kids don’t drop litter and attack each other with Rottweilers; the old folk are all respected and looked after; there is a very low-level of crime. We could go on.

But their treatment of animals is not something to recommend. Morrissey, the oddball singer, generated a fracas last year when he called the Chinese a ‘subspecies’ for the way they look after animals. This blog post discusses a little on the subject, and PETA – not normally an organisation we have any time for – have highlighted the awfulness of Chinese fur farms (only those with strong stomachs should look there – not nice).

Obviously not all Chinese are like this. An academic study from 2006 shows that many Chinese have “strong concern for the treatment of animals”. One can only hope that this is a reflection of changes in attitudes from the world’s most populous country.

But somehow I think there is a long way to go. The other day I was pootling along Peel St, home to a plethora of Chinese market stalls. I was looking at the live fish in one of the tanks when a bloke pointed to a red looking one. The stall holder flipped it out of the tank with a small net and handed the flapping creature to her assistant. She then de-scaled the poor thing whilst it was still very much alive, scrubbing its flanks with a wire brush before popping the mangled but still gaping fish into a plastic bag. I’m all for fresh food, but this is just not on.

This story goes one worse, with a silvery fish being filleted alive.

Unlikely to be found in China

My Chinese teacher thinks we Brits are crazy about animals. When I explained about the London memorial to animals killed in war she almost burst she laughed so hard.

These cultural differences are all well and good, but why do creatures have to suffer so much?



  1. I do not entirely agree with it, but there is something to this quote:

    “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated”

    — Mohandas K. Gandhi.

  2. Because humans see them as creatures not deserving of ethical treatment. This is called speciecism, and an interesting debate for many philosophers.

  3. You haven’t mentioned the biggest cruelty – sending pandas to Scotland.

    • Because of the journey or because of where they’re going?!

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