Food plays an important role in cultures around the world and as travellers, eating local cuisine helps connect us to the people and places around us. For food junkies, the next level of the local food experience may be ‘adventure eating’ with the more bizarre local delicacies. Think duck foetuses, yak milk, dog meat and more.
One example is the food served at the so-called Snake Village outside Hanoi, Vietnam. Long a popular spot with locals, it is becoming increasingly trendy with tourists.
Visitors pick out the snake they want then watch as it is killed in front of them, its beating heart removed and turned into a variety of dishes, and the blood added to a shot of rice wine. While this might appeal to the Bear Grylls wannabes amongst you or other extreme eaters, this kind of activity can contribute to the illegal or unsustainable trade of wild animals.
Although many reptiles at the Snake Village are raised on farms and are legal to eat, protected species such as King Cobra, which is illegal in Vietnam, may also be offered. Furthermore, snakes are often illegally caught from the wild and then laundered through farms, threatening wild populations with extinction.
Snakes are not the only wild species being eaten to extinction. There are a number of species around the world, from pangolins (a scaly anteater) to various kinds of turtles. So before you take that next bite, whether in Asia or at home, be certain that what you are eating is not a protected or endangered species and make sure that you are not contributing to illegal or unsustainable consumption of wildlife.
You can find out more about the wildlife trade and protecting endangered species at www.traffic.org
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Photo: Snake and lizard wine for sale in Vietnam © TSEA-GMP