As if novel coronavirus is not enough to engulf the mankind, a man from China's Yunnan province lost his life soon after he was diagnosed with Hantavirus on March 24! It's worthwhile to mention that Hantavirus is caused by rats' excreta and urine and also by eating its flesh, cooked or uncooked.

There's no gainsaying the fact that this life threatening problem originated from Wuhan province of China which incidentally also has a wet/dirty market where one can get the meat of all creatures in the universe! Much has been written on the dietary predilections of Chinese people and the social media is deluged with posts of Shoaib Akhtar, English cricketer Kevin Pietersen, among others condemning the Chinese for eating anything and everything. Dietary preference is a socio-cultural issue.

Ethnicity is involved in it with geographical concerns and considerations also chipping in. Every community and every race has certain food preferences, one might even call them dietary or gastronomic idiosyncrasies.

Bengali community's fondness for fish, Muslim and Zoroastrian communities' interest in non-veg food and Sikh community's weakness for chicken (kukkadshukkad) are parts of culinary folklore in the Indian food scenario. In international context, Japanese people love veal and sushi, New Zealanders gorge on lamb chops, Hollanders and the people from Oz devour pork cutlets etc. etc.

The point is: there are specified food preferences, almost unwritten universal food parameters, that are prevalent across the globe. As responsible and rational citizens of the world, we cannot and shouldn't cast aspersions on certain food choices as obnoxious and outright reprehensible because food preferences are purely subjective.

Yet, a caveat remains: At this critical juncture of the very survival of human race, shouldn't the rest of the world have a right to question the extremely dangerous and downright food habits of Chinese people? Way back in 1972, world's most authentic and prestigious medical journal Lancet raised this issue in its editorial that the Chinese people's proclivity to eat the uncooked flesh and blood of all creatures could create a hazardous health issue for the whole world.

Their tendency to eat raw addled eggs and a monkey's brain was criticised in that editorial which wrote that, 'This medico-ethical issue related to Chinese people's bizarre food habits would one day jeopardise the whole mankind.' That prophecy has come true! While there could be other reasons and factors responsible for the outbreak of the novel COVID-19, but applying Occam's Razor, it can be surmised at first blush that the Chinese dietary idiosyncrasies cannot be ruled out as quasi-responsible factors or contributing causes.

It's really strange that given the Chinese is such an old, food habits of those people haven't evolved, despite Confucius stating in old Cantonese (the second less prevalent language after Mandarin) En Chuing, Ve na Uing (the direct translation of Sanskrit dictum: yatha annam, tatha manam: jaisa anna, vaisa

mann in Hindi).

Even Laotse exhorted people of China to eat meaningfully. But seeing them devour roasted rodents in blood soup, one really feels nauseous. One more important thing that's not being discussed in the hustle and bustle of COVID-19 is Chinese people's extreme, nay pathological food preferences also have a direct bearing on the erosion of ecological resources and the elimination of many animal species. Chinese give great importance to aphrodisiacs and to them a rhino's horn or a tiger's testicles can enhance one's bedroom performance manifold.

If you read ancient Chinese manuals, preserved at Shanghai University, you'll find that all animals, small or big, and their body parts have been aphrodisiacs to Chinese people since time immemorial. Though they've an inalienable right to eat whatever they want to, the rest of the world also has the right to ask them if they can't change or at least mitigate their peculiar food habits for the survival of the mankind. Lastly, recently WHO urged people to turn to vegetarianism.

The plant-based diet has been found to be much more healthy and clean than meat-based diet. Of course, the choice is yours. At this moment, we all need to think globally and rise above our subjective instincts to pave the way for objectivity and universal consensus. That only can save the mankind from this immediate calamity, ready to gulp us down the way Chinese people nonchalantly swallow small half-fried rats!

The writer is an advanced research scholar of Semitic languages, civilizations and cultures. Picture Courtesy: ResearchGate

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