Chinese school allegedly fed their students rats described as duck

NEWS AND VIEWS – CHINA: An online furore is currently being played out on the Chinese social media website Weibo. It concerns the canteen at the Jiangxi Vocational Technical College of Industry Trade feeding their students duck neck/head when one student found the head of a rat in his meal among the rice. The Jiangxi college criticised the student for posting the picture online claiming that it was a lie and that the rat’s head was in fact the neck and head of duck. The college tried to silence dissent. Whatever it is (and it looks like a rat head to me), it looks disgusting. To ask anyone to eat it, is insane.

Rat or duck?
Rat or duck? Image: MikeB based on images from Weibo via What’s On Weibo.
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The neck of ducks is apparently a popular meal in China. But my research indicates that rat meat is also very popular in China. And I suspect that rat meat is cheaper than duck meat.

An enlightened blogger did a bit of work on this topic and came up with this blog post:

“The ‘is it a rat head or a duck neck’ incident has been fermenting online for several days now. But the most significant issue at hand is no longer about it being a rat or a duck, but about the school and the related department treating the students and the public as fools. Discovering a rat head while eating is not [even] the scariest part. What is truly frightening is that the public clearly sees a “rat head,” yet they insist on claiming it to be a “duck neck.” If it’s really a rat head, it would be better to calmly admit it. At most, this would be a food safety incident and one or two temporary workers might get sacked and a fine could be imposed, and that would be it. The current situation is that the school confirms the foreign object to be a duck neck and makes the students to also confirm it’s a duck. Even the local food supervision leaders have come forward to testify that it is a duck neck. The way that the school and the food supervision bureau have handled this matter is in complete opposition to the public and it is a provocation of social morality, completely inverting right and wrong and disregarding public trust in order to protect the “innocence” of one or two individuals. I wonder if these leaders are actually so stupid or if netizens are too naive.”

The post seems to sum up the incident. And one Weibo user took the time and trouble to compare cooked duck neck and head with cooked rat head (see image above). The difference is very apparent. This would seem to be conclusive evidence that students were being served up with rat rather than duck. Although of course the college would deny it.

As it happens, the college contracts out catering and therefore the college is not directly responsible but they are ultimately responsible for what is served up to the students. The college said that they were not involved in the “rat head incident”. That would seem to be trying to sidestep the problem.

But they claim that the incident occurred at a separate Chinese fast-food stall within the campus canteen which is not operated by the normal contractor to the college. The college must be responsible for what happens on their campus.

On a broader scale, I’m told that China is a big consumer of rat meat (‘pest food’). It is normally sold as raw meat in Chinese meat markets. Some markets in China offer live rats for sale. The point is that eating rat in China is not unusual. I wonder therefore why students are so up in arms about it. Perhaps it is simply the fact that allegedly the college misrepresented the food as duck rather than rat.

However, it seems to me that it goes deeper than that; the students perceive rat meat as of a lower quality than duck meat. But I would like to defend the humble duck. The rat and duck should be equal if we avoid speciesism.

Certainly, rat meat is not going to be any less healthy than duck meat once cooked properly. It is simply the perception that rats are pests and ducks can be livestock. Ducks can also be pets. Note the difference in these words is the single letter ‘s’.

Pretty girl kills and cooks a are giant salamander
Pretty girl kills and cooks a are giant salamander

It’s ironic that the students are complaining about being given rat meat when my perception of Chinese cuisine is that if it’s got four legs it can be eaten. And it doesn’t matter whether it’s a domestic cat or domestic dog or any other animal such as the rare giant salamander (see above). I’m told by the contemporary artist Ai Weiwei that animals need to be functional and utilitarian in China. Once their usefulness has expired due to old age the only way that they can remain functional is to be eaten.

The method of killing is arbitrary. It is of no consequence; cruel or not, as often animals are not regarded as sentient. That’s the only possible interpretation.

Note: My thanks to What’s On Weibo for the story and information.

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