Visiting a foreign country can be like a neverending buffet - and trying out colorful, exotic cuisines is all part of the experience. But some dishes may be made using ingredients that come from endangered species - or the preparation of the dish may have involved extreme cruelty and suffering to the animal involved.
In many Asian countries a popular delicacy is sharks' fin soup.
Birds’ nest soup is made from the nests of Asian swiftlets (the nests are made from saliva, sometimes mixed with grass and feathers). Nearly 20 million nests are traded annually in countries such as India and the Philippines, and are very often collected before the birds have had a chance to breed. This has led to their populations plummeting.
In some parts of Asia and the Caribbean, turtle eggs are eaten as bar snacks, and are especially popular because of their supposed (but unproven) aphrodisiac qualities.
In Japan, whale meat is sold in some restaurants as mentioned earlier. In addition to the threat this poses to whales, their meat and especially blubber often contains high levels of toxic substances such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and mercury.
The meat of reptiles is served up in many countries. In Central America, for example, iguanas can commonly be found on sale by roadsides and in markets. To stop them escaping before being bought, the tendons in the animals’ front legs are often cut and used to tie their legs behind their backs.
Some other exotic foodstuffs may not be endangered, but may involve a high level of cruelty.
The bushmeat crisis
In many parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America, people commonly eat the meat of hunted wild animals, often known as bushmeat. While it may seem exciting on a foreign trip to try out monkey, anteater or elephant trunk, the trade in such animals’ flesh has become massive and commercialised in recent years.