Eating live seafood

Girl eating oysters, circa 1658 by Jan Steen

The practice of eating live seafood, such as fish, crab, oysters, young shrimp, or young octopus, is widespread.

Live seafood dishes

Location Name Image Description Video
China Drunken shrimp Drunken shrimp is a popular dish in parts of China. It is based on fresh-water shrimp that are placed in a strong liquor, baijiu, and then eaten, often while they are alive. Modified recipes are used in different parts of China. For example, the drunken shrimp can be cooked in boiling water instead of serving them while they are still live. In other recipes, the shrimp are boiled first and then marinated in alcohol.[1] Drunken Shrimp on YouTube
Yin Yang fish Yin Yang fish, or dead-and-alive fish, originated in Taiwan. It is a dish which consists of a deep-fried whole fish (usually carp) that remains alive after cooking. The fish's body is cooked while its head is wrapped in a wet cloth to keep it breathing. The fish is then covered in sauce and served live on a plate.[2] Some chefs say they prepare the fish this way to demonstrate it freshness to the customer.[3][4][5][6] Preparation of this dish is now prohibited in Taiwan and illegal in Australia and Germany. However, the practice continues in mainland China. Eating A Deep Fried Fish That's Still AliveHuffington Post
Japan Ikizukuri Ikizukuri, lit. "prepared alive", is the preparation of sashimi made from live seafood. Fish is usually used, but sometimes octopus, shrimp and lobster are used instead.[7] The practice is controversial, and ikizukuri is outlawed in Australia and Germany.[8] Live Sushi on YouTube
Odori ebi Odori ebi, lit. "dancing shrimp", is a sashimi delicacy in Japan. It includes live baby pink shrimp, usually dunked in sake, wriggling their legs and waving their antenna as they are eaten. The meal is prepared rapidly and quickly served to ensure the shrimp are still alive. Dancing shrimp are also eaten in Thailand, where they are known as Goong Ten, กุ้งเต้น. Eating live "dancing shrimp" in Thailand on YouTube
Korea Sannakji Sannakji is a type of hoe, or raw dish, in Korea. It consists of live baby octopuses (nakji), either whole, or cut into small pieces and immediately served, usually with a light sesame oil seasoning. The dish is eaten while still squirming on the plate.[9] Eating Live Octopus in Korea – Sannakji on YouTube
Widespread Live oyster Oysters are often eaten live.[10]
Live lobster Restaurants in New York City serve live lobster, advertising that they allow customers the opportunity to “pick belly sashimi out of its still moving body”.[11] I eat a live lobster in Japan on YouTube

Ethical viewpoints

Sannakji is live octopus that has been cut into small pieces and served with its arms still squirming.

Live octopuses are eaten in several countries around the world, including the US.[12][13] Animal welfare groups have objected to this practice on the basis that octopuses can experience pain.[14] In support of this, since September 2010, octopuses being used for scientific purposes in the EU are protected by EU Directive 2010/63/EU "as there is scientific evidence of their ability to experience pain, suffering, distress and lasting harm.[15] In the UK, this means that octopuses used for scientific purposes must be killed humanely, according to prescribed methods (known as "Schedule 1 methods of euthanasia").[16]

London resident Louis Cole runs a YouTube channel in which he eats live seafood.[17][18] The Guardian commented on the ethical issues raised by the behaviour of Cole that: "It seems objectively less cruel to kill a scorpion instantly than to rear chickens in battery cages or pigs in the most miserable pork farms.[17]

The view that oysters are acceptable to eat, even by strict ethical criteria, has notably been propounded in the seminal 1975 text Animal Liberation, by philosopher Peter Singer. However, subsequent editions have reversed this position (advocating against eating oysters). Singer has stated that he has "gone back and forth on this over the years", and as of 2010 states that "while you could give them the benefit of the doubt, you could also say that unless some new evidence of a capacity for pain emerges, the doubt is so slight that there is no good reason for avoiding eating sustainably produced oysters".[19]

Health issues

In India, the government provides support for an annual fish medicine festival in Hyderabad, where asthma patients are given a live sardine to eat which is supposed to cure their asthma.[20]

Infection by the fish tapeworm Diphyllobothrium latum is seen in countries where people eat raw or undercooked fish, such as some countries in Asia, Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, Africa, and North and South America.[21]

See also


  1. 醉蝦
  2. "Chinese diners eat live fish in YouTube video". 18 November 2009. Retrieved 26 July 2015.
  4. Leach, Ben (18 November 2009). "Chinese diners eat live fish in YouTube video". The Daily Telegraph. London.
  5. (defunct 28 June 2015)
  8. Microtrends: Ikizukuri
  9. South Korean fishermen, health officials tangle over octopus Loa Angeles Times, 29 October 2010.
  10. Kurlansky, Mark (2009) The Big Oyster: A Molluscular History of New York Random House. ISBN 9781409077930.
  11. Corn, L. (2011). "Eating live lobsters: Painful or delicious?". Retrieved January 5, 2012.
  12. Eriksen, L. (November 10, 2010). "Live and let dine". The Guardian. Retrieved April 15, 2015.
  13. Killingsworth, S. (October 3, 2014). "Why not eat octopus?". The New Yorker.
  14. Ferrier, M. (May 30, 2010). "Macho foodies in New York develop a taste for notoriety". Retrieved April 15, 2016.
  15. "Animals used for scientific purposes". European Commission. Retrieved April 15, 2016.
  16. "The Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 Amendment Regulations 2012". Retrieved April 15, 2016.
  17. 1 2 The man who eats live animals The Guardian, 17 April 2012.
  18. Food For Louis Louis Cole onYouTube
  19. Cox, Christopher (April 7, 2010). "Consider the Oyster: Why even strict vegans should feel comfortable eating oysters by the boatload". Slate. Retrieved 2010-04-12.
  20. Indians eat live sardines to cure asthma The Telegraph, 20 May 2012.
  21. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Medline Plus, "Fish Tapeworm," .
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