Honolulu Lite

by Charles Memminger

Wednesday, October 23, 1996


Animal rights
a consuming passion

SAN Francisco, that crazy little knucklehead of a town, is at it again.

When we last checked in to what is becoming Sillyville, U.S.A., Richard Ramirez, the serial torturer-murderer and Satan worshiper, had been allowed to wed some publicity-seeking bimbo in prison.

Now, this city of compassion and tolerance has been brought to the edge of rioting between animal rights activists and citizens of Asian ancestry.

The issue involves a matter of taste. See, many San Franciscans of Asian descent love animals. Chickens, fish, crabs, frogs, shrimp ... you name it, they love 'em. Specifically, they think they are delicious.

The other side loves animals in a more theoretical way. They think animals have rights, like the right not to be sauteed or roasted.

The controversy is being billed as a battle of cultures because the Asian San Franciscans prefer to personally dispatch their own entrees, instead of buying the critters pre-deceased in supermarkets.

Apparently, the wanton killing of animals shortly before consuming them by the Asian Californians is cruel and unusual punishment. Hanging thousands of chickens by their little feet so they can be swept away en masse on conveyor belts of death (i.e. commercial chicken production) apparently is a more dignified way of preparing dinner.

This city, that has no qualms about letting a people-killer like Ramirez marry and possibly spread his sick philosophy, is now considering banning the sale of live animals for consumption.

Most of us were raised in a culture where we prefer to think of our food as inanimate objects that provide nourishment. It is hard for us to imagine that 20-pound, rock-solid frozen turkey as actually once having a pulse.

Some citizens, however, are not in such self-denial. They know Chicken McNuggets don't fall from trees.

In San Francisco, there is a large Asian-American population that likes to buy live poultry, fish or crustaceans and prepare meals fresh, fresh, fresh.

This attitude caused one non-Asian San Franciscan - who no doubt is politically correct in every other way - to shout during a recent public hearing: "This is not China, this is the United States!"

Someone probably could have correctly pointed out that most of the animal-eaters being yelled at were not from China, but born in the United States. (Even sensitive chicken cuddlers - during times of stress - tend forget the difference between ethnic heritage and nationality.)

But it just goes to show you, it's ugly down there in the trenches of political correctness. Who cares about a hundred or so years of fighting racial oppression when it comes to saving the life of a four-pound fryer?

This is what happens when moral superiority and culinary culturalism go mano-a-mano.

In just about any city other than San Francisco - where everything has rights, including the furniture - this issue would be laughed out of the hearing room. Even Safeway carries live crabs, lobsters and oysters nowadays.

I don't know if you can buy a live chicken in Chinatown in Honolulu, but you can probably find one in Waimanalo or Kahuku. And the farmer would probably toss in some homemade teriyaki sauce to go with it.

Hell, some people even fly all the way from the mainland to catch a live animal to eat in Honolulu. We call it the charter boat fishing industry.

And let's not even talk about lobsters. No self-respecting restaurant would even think about serving a lobster that hadn't been frolicking minutes before reaching the table.

I think I better quit reading the wire so much. These stories from San Francisco are starting to make me crazy. I'm beginning to think Honolulu is normal.



Charles Memminger, winner of National Society of Newspaper Columnists awards in 1994 and 1992, writes "Honolulu Lite" Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Write to him at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, 96802 or send E-mail to charley@nomayo.com or 71224.113@compuserve.com.



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