Thursday, December 07, 2006

Zebra Steak, Very Rare

Recently eaten: curried chicken salad
Recent annoyance: scar tissue in my ankle

I thought I had reached at least a few meters below the heights of exotic eating. My chinese family is truly a champion eating group. So, imagine my surprise when I found these websites selling "exciting" exotic meats. I have never even smelled fresh biltong or kudu. In fact, I ahd to wikipedia pictures of these things to figure out if I would be eating white or dark meat. What does it matter, I suppose. As long as it's seasoned nicely.

Is it ethical to eat exotic meat?
For our Christmas night out, colleagues have booked dinner at an "exotic meats" restaurant. As a vegetarian, I wasn't comfortable with this and have opted out. Do they really kill zebras, kangaroos and crocodiles, then transport them half-way round the world just to appear as a novelty item on a menu?
Sionaidh K, Glasgow

Planet Earth viewers, please look away now. "Exotic meats" do, indeed, seem to be increasingly common in Britain, with more and more restaurants and gastropubs placing the likes of bison, wildebeest and camel on their menus. Vegetarians and vegans will argue, of course, that meat is meat and consuming any animal is wrong. If you've vaulted that ethical hurdle, then you move on to a gnarlier debate about which species are acceptable to eat, and which rearing and slaughter methods should be endorsed through your custom. For example, is consuming a chicken bred and reared to be eaten better or worse than eating a wildebeest that was shot by hunters?

As with most debates now about food, it comes largely down to provenance. We are accustomed to labels on our meat and dairy products that tell us whether they're organic, free range or otherwise, but this certification is much harder to come by with exotic meats.

Alternative Meats (, for example, sells a wide range of exotic meats. Its Lion's Share Party Pack costs £48 and contains two steaks each of springbok, eland, kudu, wildebeest and zebra. The company says its meats are "supplied by carefully monitored, EEC approved sources in the UK, Africa and Australia. All of these game meats are harvested professionally having lived healthy lives at liberty on the plains."

Kezie Foods (, which also sells a range of meats including rattlesnake, impala and musk ox, offers more detail: "All meat offered can only come to you as part of CITES [Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora]. This means it is either farmed - usually for the skin and the meat is a by-product, or under a hunting licence in order to keep the population under control so that the ecosystem is not harmed."

Without an awful lot more paperwork, certificates, first-person testimony etc to hand, it seems there's an awful lot of trust required here to be reassured that everyone in this long chain has acted impeccably. As for hunting wild animals in their habitats for meat, it is dubious whether this can ever be considered an act of conservation.

No comments: