A traveller from Australia in southern China claims to have seen a live koala for sale and consumption at a restaurant. Diners could have it either braised or stewed, and while that may sound appetizing to a few strange gourmands, this Australian tourist was none too horrified. For a mere $20 Australian, one could have 500 grams of delectable, exotic and bizarre koala meat prepared in one of two styles. Some have speculated that it was not a koala after all, but rather an asian tree bear, a species that resembles the koala. The following is from an account from Geoff Basillie, a Melbourne based businessman who was similarly horrified by the edible fauna he found in Chinese restaurants:

“I was taken to a restaurant for lunch by my host … and after the lunch I went to check the plumbing and found all of these cages with all these animals, so I took a few photos,’ he told radio 3AW. There was an egret, a marmot, some water fowl and a few others. I’m not sure whether they were on the menu. There were signs on the cages with numbers on them, telling you how much they were. I don’t know whether that was for a gram or for the whole beast, but they were obviously for sale. There was also the fish and snakes and the turtles and all the other things that they normally eat as well, but these animals were the ones that sort of got to me.”

Though many different cuisines are known for their exotic tastes, Chinese cuisine stands out among them for its willingness to try bold new things. Whether or not the caged animal was koala is unknown, but what is certain is that Western tastes are still both horrified and mesmerized by the exotic and the foreign. Aside from the animal cruelty, which is abhorrent, I do not criticize the Chinese taste for the exotic, I just do not share it.

[The Sydney Morning Herald]