You sometimes deal with aquarium animal health questions in your column, so I hope you have an answer to my question. I get so disgusted when I read newspaper articles about the chef Andrew Zimmern, star of the Travel Channel's "Bizarre Foods" and "Bizarre Foods America." He goes all over the world eating unimaginable things. I don't know why people watch, except to be grossed out. When I read about Zimmern cutting slices off tentacles from a live octopus and serving them while they are still wriggling, I just about gagged. Don't these creatures feel any pain?
G.W., Fargo, ND Feb 14, 2012
I share your disgust. Zimmern gets a thrill out of challenging the squeamish, making a small fortune from his gross gustatory showmanship. Of course, that is not to say that slimy blue-green algae he eats is not a food of the future -- and a biofuel! In my estimation, Mr. Zimmern is simply an ignoramus, and I trust that once informed of his folly, he may reform. He seems to embody the sad trait of having less and less feeling for other living beings the less and less they look like us. Yet empathy is one quality that makes us human. It may be difficult for some to empathize with a creature like an octopus, which looks and behaves so differently from us. But scientific studies have shown that they are extremely intelligent creatures, possessing great dexterity and the ability to reason, use tools, show fear and avoid pain. Octopuses also have other emotional reactions, including a degree of empathy and cooperative social behavior with one another. So my philosophy is to show respect and compassion toward all living creatures since we really do not know what they are feeling and thinking, and to give them the benefit of the doubt with regard to their capacity to suffer. For more details see my new book, "Animals and Nature First" (published by CreateSpace, and available at Amazon.com). As for Mr. Zimmern being a "chef," there are cooks and there are COOKS! In my kitchen, a chef of the highest order is one who considers compassion and environmental sustainability as well as nutrient value when it comes to considering food ingredients, not simply taste and novelty!
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