In February, when PETA sent an observer into Toronto restaurants, it wasn’t to get them to dine out but to investigate how live animal dishes are served to customers.
Japan and Korean and Cantonese food have long used live animal, or very recently killed animals, as dishes. One of the most popular of these dishes is a Korean one called “sannakji.”
If you’re eating “sannakji” you’re eating live octopus. The PETA observer went into Marado Sushi and watched as an octopus was pulled from a tank, then tossed onto a cutting board, pinned down and cut into pieces.
The chef started at the tip of each arm and leg and worked his way up, chopping off section after section, before finally dicing up the octopus’s head. The limbs were served still writhing.
At neighboring Gal’s Sushi, PETA eyewitnesses also watched as a chef removed a live octopus and took it directly into the kitchen.
Moments later, a plate of squirming, severed tentacles was served to patrons. PETA’s position is that these dishes show animals in distress.
When it comes to experiencing pain, the science is clear: As cephalopod expert Dr. Jennifer Mather explains, octopuses “can anticipate a painful, difficult, stressful situation—they can remember it. There is absolutely no doubt that they feel pain.” Octopuses are so intelligent that they’re often referred to as “primates of the sea,” and like orangutans and chimpanzees, they use tools. They’ve been observed carrying coconut shells to assemble later as housing and stockpiling rocks to fix gaps in their dens. In captivity, octopuses have been known to open childproof jars, play with Mr. Potato Head dolls and Legos, deliberately short-circuit bright lights, and make daring escapes after determining that no one was watching.
A Toronto Star article about PETA’s observation quoted Sang Kim, a chef and author of a memoir about his adventures with food called Woody Allen Ate My Kimchi, who owned Korean and Japanese restaurants Windup Bird Café, Yakitori Bar and Seoul Food Co. in Toronto, says sannakji emerged in North America because Koreans have long craved dishes they grew up eating.
He calls the complaints about sannakji by animal rights groups an example of the “moral self righteousness” of the West.
“To be picking on a culture because they have been eating something a certain way for thousands of years tells you less about what they think is the welfare of an animal than it does about their sense of superiority,” he says.
Kim finds it frustrating that the dish is haunted by politics. It’s no more controversial than turkey, foie gras or meat from cows — all which have been dogged by criticism, but are still widely accepted in North America, he says. of sannakji, a traditional Korean food, says PETA complaint to Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is an example of Western ‘moral self righteousness’
See below for a video from Bryce Bruns on the largest fish market in Seoul, South Korea.