I'm not a vegan or even vegetarian, but find the sheer flamboyance of more hardcore carnivorism simply breathtaking in its audacity. Here's a quote from Bonobo Land (which might have moved to http://www.livingontheplanet.com by the time you read this):
"In Guangzhou (formerly known as Canton) the passageway between road and restaurant can be more exhilarating than the meal itself. Aquariums bursting at the gills with an assortment of fish and other water life. Cages of hissing cobras writhing around each other. Terrified, fully-grown pussycats (kittens don't have enough meat). Strangely silent dogs. Once I even saw a live calf tied to the front door of a local soup den, which you can imagine looked completely out of place in China.On our side, we have the horrors of large-scale factory meat farming, so I'm not trying to assert much superiority here. It would be a little more simple to know what to feel about this if the main opponents of the meat industry were less repugnant in their approach to the problems.
"I remember the first time I saw a civet cat outside a fancy restaurant adjacent to the Pearl River. The strange little animal, curled up as far from the cobras as he could get, perplexed my friends and me. In fact it wasn't until last year when the poor little fellas were first blamed for the SARS outbreak that I finally knew what that animal was. (Civet cat and turtle, I'm told, make for a great soup).
"But the worst was yet to come for me.
"One day while making my regular walk between the Friendship Store and home I saw the remains of a tiger splayed on a dirty footpath. Most of the flesh had been sold however the unmistakable markings and shear size of the beast left me without any hesitation that this was the real thing."
When I read about the turmoil about BSE in the beef industry and SARS in southern China, I think that somewhere, perhaps, there's a shade of Charles Darwin shaking his head over all this.