No, Chinese people don’t eat bats
Since this whole coronavirus thing started, my blog is being found by people curious about the Chinese culinary traditions. Not in these polite terms, though. Some of the searches were as colourful as these (I’m copy pasting them verbatim):
- nasty animal chinese eat
- why are chinese such dirty stinking nasty pig people
- most disgusting forms of chinese food
- why do the asians eat weird animals that shouldnt be eaten?
- chinese slug thing they eat
I’ve also seen many nasty comments on YouTube and newspaper articles which said things like “we wouldn’t be in deep shit now if the Chinese didn’t eat everything that moves”. It’s sad that so many people are so quick to point the finger and blame 1.4 billion people of eating “disgusting things”. Many of these reactions came from a video that was shared after it was discovered that the virus might have come from a wet market in Wuhan where wild animals were sold illegally. That video showed a Chinese woman eating a bat soup. The only problem being that… the video was from a travel show and it was filmed in Palau. Not in China. For the record, the virus is thought to have passed to humans not through eating a bat, but through eating another animal that had been previously infected by a bat. It’s not known yet what animal it was specifically.
And here comes the newsflash: No, bat is not a regular part of Chinese people’s diet, just in case anyone was wondering. I can promise you that in my 12 years of living in China, I have never seen bat meat sold in the supermarket. I haven’t seen dog, cat or rat meat either. Which doesn’t mean that these animals are not eaten in China at all; some people in specific areas do eat them. But it’s not a widespread thing. I’m also not sure if declaring those foods illegal makes any difference; cocaine is illegal in all countries (as far as I know) but people that want to use always know where to get it.
Another thing is that, even if Chinese people did eat bats, who are we to say that’s not ok? I don’t think anyone who is not vegan can say with a straight face that eating bat is wrong, while munching on a pork chop. We can say that eating wild animals is not ok because of the health risks involved, but not shaming people that have habits different to our own. The other day I read a very interesting article from Jared Diamond, the author, and Nathan Wolfe, a virologist. It was about preparing for the next pandemic that will surely hit us again in the not so distant future. This article argues how Chinese wet markets are the perfect breeding grounds for pandemics and I liked that the authors didn’t simply say “Stop eating wild animals, nasty Chinese”, but explained why some people eat wild animals and why it is hard for the government to control it. Here’s an excerpt:
How could the all-powerful Chinese government capable of locking down millions of people within days not have the will to put a quick and complete end to the wild animal trade? But wild animal products represent more than a mere delicacy for some Chinese populations. Probably a better analogy would be if scientists discovered that the trade in cheese or red wine were causing regular epidemics. How would the French respond to a global demand for a ban? For some Chinese populations, wild animals represent a more fundamental part of their culture than cheese and red wine do to the French. Yet despite the cultural challenges, China and other governments around the world must act quickly and decisively to end the wild animal trade.
Those people that search online about nasty Chinese foods and find my blog do so because of a post I published a few years ago and which I called “10 Chinese dishes that foreigners find gross“. The funny thing is that there’s nothing on that list that I personally find disgusting (I’m not in the habit of saying that what other people eat is disgusting, anyway), so those people must have been quite disappointed. They wanted gore and I gave them stinky tofu…
So, fellow stranger, if you were looking for pictures of disgusting foods or bat soups, I’m sorry I let you down. If you are interested about the food that Chinese people actually eat, you can have a look at some of my old posts, like Chinese dishes that foreigners love, Suzhou specialties, popular summer foods, or how the typical Chinese breakfast looks like. I promise you everything is quite tasty and harmless.
I just can’t write a post without mentioning the coronavirus, can I? No, I can’t. I’m really worried about Spain, my home country. In the 8 days since I published my previous post, Spain has passed from 10,000 to 42,000 confirmed infections and from 342 to 2,937 deaths. 12% of the infected are health workers. The death figure is most probably going to overpass China’s within today. In China, companies, individuals and the expat community are donating and sending masks to Spain. Let´s check back and see how things are in a week… I´m not very optimistic.