GUTTER FOOD
IN TIMES OF A GLOBAL HEALTH CRISIS

February 5th, 2020
 
The world is frantically trying to get to grips understand and contain the Wuhan corona virus. Several countries have placed blanket travel bans on anyone traveling from China, Macau and Hong Kong, others are enforcing a mandatory 14 days quarantine. In Hong Kong, the battle hardened, germphobic public who have weathered the likes of SARS, Avian Flu, H1N1 and more are clearing supermarket shelves of anti-bacterial wipes, alcohol gels and surgical face masks. All schools, non-essential government offices and sports centers have been closed down. All major events have been cancelled. In neighbouring Macau, all casino’s have been shut down, the staple of the small territories income. Everyone it seems is taking this pandemic very seriously, well everyone except the dried seafood traders/ shark fin traders of Hong Kong.
 
The virus allegedly had its source in the wild animal markets of Wuhan. These markets are cesspools, bacterial melting pots that have provided the world with many of the global pandemics. Because of this, the Chinese Government has temporarily closed down all of these wild animal markets across the country, an action praised by animal welfare groups globally who would like to see a permanent closure.
 
However in Hong Kong the same measures have not been taken by the authorities. A walk through the streets of Sheung Wan’s dried seafood district we find traders still drying shark fins, sea cucumbers, abalone and fish maw in the street exposed to all the forms of bacteria that Hongkonger’s are desperately trying to protect themselves from. These so called “luxury food items” that fetch top dollar in high end restaurants are all supplied from these traders. Worse still these items are not just for local consumption. Hong Kong is a transport hub for the worlds dried seafood,  with shipments leaving Hong Kong for the USA, Europe, Australia as well as other SE Asian countries and of course China.

 

Mask covered public walk past shark fins drying in the gutter and on the sidewalk at the height of the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic.

"In a germphobic society such as Hong Kong, it is insane to witness the disconnect in regards to so called luxury cuisines lying in the dirty streets and back alleyways. This is GUTTER FOOD literally."

Gary Stokes

As with much of modern society, there is a complete disconnect as to where the food on the plate in front of you has come from. In supermarkets people purchase plastic wrapped meat that bears no resemblance to the actual animal they will be consuming, a convenience or ignorance that has become the norm. The same goes for the dried seafood industry. When we have given educational talks on shark fin soup it was incredible to hear so many people completely unaware that it actually came from the fin of a shark. This may be down to its translation, “wing soup” as it has been known as on some menus. When shown how these fins were obtained and the brutality and cruelty involved, many decided there and then that they will no longer consume.

For the general population however, they do not make the connection. You do not need to go out to sea on a longline fishing boat to make the connection of where your food comes from. People walk down the streets of Hong Kong past shark fins, sea cucumbers, abalone and fish maw, collectively known as the “Four Treasures of the Sea”, lying in the filthy street and then walk into a high end restaurant and buy a bowl of shark fin soup, or an abalone dish oblivious to where it has come from.

At a time when hygiene is on everyone’s priority, where are the HK authorities tasked to protect the public?

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Feb 3rd, 2020 : Passers by look on at shark fins lying on the street whilst the city is at a hightened hygiene alert due to the Wuhan corona virus