Since China’s recent dance in the spotlight, thanks to their hosting of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in the country capital of Beijing, the nation has come under increased scrutiny for their environmental practices, mainly concerning factory air pollution, which is main contributor to Beijing’s trademark smog.
While visible steps are being taken to reduce pollution, including temporarily halting public automobile use to installing new, cleaner-running factory towers that help conserve and recycle energy lost in factory exhaust, China does not seem to realize the extent of their practices not only on the local environment, but on the ecosystem at large.
Recently, however, to counteract the ecological destruction caused not just by pollution, but by illegal poaching as well, China released their “Green Dining Guide” to the general public. The Guide is available in most every major Chinese city, including Shanghai, Shenyang, Guangzhou and Beijing. The guide outlines what animal species are still good for consumption, and what species are not based on species population and legality. Unlike in the US, where we find most of our food at the grocery store, in many Chinese provinces food is still a very hand-on experience.
Divided into three sections the guide includes the “Green List,” which hosts the ‘Ring-necked Pheasant (captive bred)’ and ‘Chinese Soft-shell Turtle (captive bred).’ Both these animals are raised for consumption, as outlined in the guide, and therefore eating them would not have a negative impact on the population.
The Yellow List outlines animals and plants that are singled out for ‘health and ecological reasons,’ and while it is not illegal to eat them, it is highly discouraged due to decreased populations. List members include both the Alligator and Crocodile, as well as the Tea Orchid.
The Red List is the longest by far, with fifteen species singled out not just for health and conservation, but also because they are illegal to eat. Illegal animal hunting, as is the case for wild animals like bear (a member of the Red List) bypasses the country’s food inspection and quarantine process, exposing the public to serious health threats including disease and parasites. For us, this minght include species like Polar Bear, which are both endangered and facing their own ecological destruction.
But four species override the lists are gain spaces at the top of the guide. They are the Chinese Wild Salamander, Sharks, Wild Turtles, and Snakes, all fairly common in Chinese dishes, but singled out now due to endangered status and the health risk of wild animals.
China’s “Green Dining” is a good start towards a more eco-savvy environment, and with the recent economic boost of the Olympic Games, hopefully the Chinese economy can sustain food production that would make it unnecessary for citizen to turn to their own means of obtaining nourishment.