Cane rat on the menu. Why not?
A justified public outcry arose yesterday at news that some traders in east London’s Ridley Road market have been selling illegally imported meats, including Ghanaian cane rat. The bushmeat trade is a destructive and criminal operation, a potential threat to public health, to the environment and even to the security of certain species.
It was almost certainly west African hunters butchering chimpanzees for food that led to the relatively tame simian immunodeficiency virus jumping species and mutating into its monstrous, pandemic cousin, HIV/Aids. The Bushmeat Crisis Task Force has documented the environmental damage wreaked by some bushmeat hunting methods, such as people starting forest fires to smoke their quarry out. Many of the African animals commonly used for bushmeat, including gorillas and elephants, are endangered.
But much of the disgusted reaction to this news overlooks an important point. One tabloid headline capitalised “rat” as though the Ridley Road stallholders had been selling Cockney rodents hauled from the sewers. In fact, cane rat looks rather more like a cat-sized, short-haired guinea pig. Its meat is said to be lean, “succulent and sweet” , and low in cholesterol. In Ghana, Cameroon and Nigeria, where it’s more appealingly called grasscutter, people actually best mens canada goose jacket farm it.
Rodents are enjoyed as food around the world. Brown rats, the second most successful mammals on the planet, are a delicacy in China, south-east Asia and certain communities of northern India. The Romans enjoyed dormouse, which is still popular in Slovenia. The Peruvians famously eat cuy, or guinea pig, and have developed a fascinating buy canada goose coat online festival black friday 2013 canada goose sale in which they dress the creatures in little costumes before roasting and eating them. Capybara, bandicoots and agoti are also enjoyed in the countries in which they live.
It is sheer historical accident that we eat the very few meats we do in this country, rather than different ones. Over a brief period a few thousand years ago, humans managed to domesticate a handful of species for the meat or labour they provided. At least in the west click canada goose, these domesticated pigs, cattle, chickens and sheep account for the almost all the meat that people eat, with only a tiny fraction coming from wild game and buy canada goose jacket online canada other sources.
All of our food choices are based on culture and experience and seasoned with prejudice. The French, Belgians and Swiss are enthusiastic eaters of horsemeat, an idea that horrifies many people in this country. But if your moral landscape countenances the consumption of venison, why shouldn’t horses feature in it as well? Dogs make better pets than pigs do, and people I know who’ve tried dog meat have rarely been impressed by it. But pigs are at least intelligent, as sentient and as capable of emotion as dogs are. If you can eat pig, then on a purely ethical basis there’s no reason why you should feel disgusted or angry at the idea of eating dog.
An acquaintance of mine is a man named Louis Cole; he makes a living uploading videos of himself eating unusual things on to the internet. So he’s eaten live scorpions, a live goldfish, locusts and ragworm, and been censured by animal rights charity the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and in the red-tops for doing so. His current mini-series sees him travelling Britain and eating roadkill. He recently tried fox – sustainable, free-range – and pronounced it “kind of tangy … I’m really surprised how good it is”.
The popularity of individual foods tends to fluctuate too. The Victorian poor ate oysters in their millions, which is why we have legacy dishes like steak best buy canada goose parka uk price canada goose jacket outlet usa online store and oyster pie. A series of bad winters in the late 19th century and the destruction of oyster beds meant that the molluscs became costly and rare, and are now enjoyed mainly by more adventurous eaters. Eels have undergone a comparable narrative.
There are buying a canada goose jacket online serious environmental and public health issues surrounding the consumption of bushmeat in this country. But to castigate a amazon canada goose jacket community for trying to best mens canada goose jacket maintain the tastes it historically enjoyed is arrogant and misguided. The British stomach, like its language, is polyglot, a result best canada goose jacket style of borrowings and co-options from around the world. Perhaps it falls on an enterprising Ghanaian or Nigerian to open the UK’s first cane rat farm and place this meat safely in the food chain. We came to love curry and sushi and a style of Cantonese cooking in this country: perhaps, in a generation or so, British families will be sitting down to cane rat stir-fry.