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Eating live animals

Sannakji is live octopus that has been cut into small pieces and served with its arms still squirming.
Nuvola apps kaboodle.svg Youtube video of the preparation and eating of sannakji

Eating live animals is the practice of humans eating animals that are still alive. It is a traditional practice in many Asian food cultures as well as in Western television game shows. Eating live animals, or parts of live animals, may be unlawful in certain jurisdictions under animal cruelty laws. Religious prohibitions on the eating of live animals by humans are also present in various world religions. Animals are also eaten alive for shock value.


For shock value

Several television game shows such as Fear Factor, Survivor and I'm a Celebrity feature segments where contestants must eat live animals including spiders, cockroaches and grubs. Other shows such as Man vs. Wild also feature Bear Grylls eating various insects alive. There have been calls to ban eating animals alive on these shows. [1] A YouTube channel called "Food for Louis" shows Louis Cole eating live animals.[2]

Traditional food


In Japan, Ikizukuri ("prepared alive") is the preparation of sashimi ("pierced food") made from live seafood. The most popular sea animal used in ikizukuri is fish but octopus is typically the only species that is still moving on the plate.

Another fish dish invented by a Taiwanese chef from Chiayi, is called Yin Yang fish (also dead-and-alive fish) in which the fish's body (but not the head) is rapidly deep-fried and served while the head is still fresh and moving. It is prepared extremely quickly, with care not to damage the internal organs, so that the fish can remain alive for thirty minutes.[3][4]

In an interview, celebrity chef Raymond Blanc stated that in Japan, he had eaten live eels. He was advised to add vinegar and sake, which made them jump around, and then swallowed them whole.[5]


In 2012, a video showing a woman in Japan eating a live frog was posted on YouTube and went viral. In the video, a live frog is seen stabbed alive, stripped of its skin, and its inedible innards removed to be served as fresh sashimi on an iced platter.[6]

In 2007, a newspaper reported that a man from south east China claimed that eating live frogs for a month cured his intestinal problems. He also eats live mice and rats.[7]

Andrew Zimmern of the Travel Channel's Bizarre Foods ate frog sashimi. Though most of the frog is served dead (and raw), the meal begins by eating the frog's fresh, still-beating heart.[3]


Eating the beating heart and bile of live snakes is practiced in China and other parts of Asia.


In Korea, Sannakji is the preparation of live octopus that has been cut into small pieces or prepared whole, and served with its arms still squirming. Sannakji connoisseurs enjoy more than just the taste of the fresh meat; they enjoy the sensation of the still-active suction cups on the octopus' arms as they stick to the mouth. Novices are advised to chew before swallowing to avoid the threat of being choked.[3]

Sea urchin

Sea urchins are prized around the world for their briny-flavoured gonads. The gonads are often eaten raw, such as in sushi (typically called uni), and some people prefer to eat them immediately after they are cut open. Scissors are often used to avoid the protective spines whilst cutting the animal open. The gonads do not move, even when taken from the live animal.[3]


In China, one way that shrimp is prepared to be eaten alive is a dish called drunken shrimp. The shrimp, usually 10 per serving, are first doused in a strong liquor which makes them less likely to struggle while being swallowed and also creates a flavourful marinade. A plate is typically held over the bowl to prevent the shrimp from leaping out as they are much more active than when served as Odori ebi.[3][4]

Odori ebi ("dancing shrimp") is a type of Japanese sashimi that contains young shrimp, usually only one individual per serving. The shrimp has its shell removed and sometimes its head as well. These can be deep fried and served alongside the rest of the shrimp, which is still moving its legs and antennae while being eaten. The shrimp only dies when chewed.[4]


Oysters are the most common animal often eaten raw and alive.[3]


A chain of restaurants, based primarily in Copenhagen, serves a salad crawling with live ants. The ants are chilled so that they move slower, and are supposed to taste like lemongrass.[4]


Live cockroaches were eaten in a competition in Florida in 2012. The winner collapsed and died from 'asphyxia due to choking and aspiration of gastric contents'.[8]


Casu marzu is a traditional Sardinian sheep milk cheese that contains insect larvae.

One example of eating live larvae is the witchetty grub of Australian aboriginal cuisine, which can be eaten alive and raw or cooked.[3]

Casu marzu is a traditional Sardinian sheep milk cheese, notable for containing live insect larvae. It is found almost exclusively in Sardinia, Italy. Casu marzu goes beyond typical fermentation to a stage most would consider decomposition, brought about by the digestive action of the larvae of the cheese fly Piophila casei. These larvae are deliberately introduced to the cheese. The cheese received attention on Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern. Zimmern described the taste of the cheese as "so ammoniated" that " scorches your tongue a bit." The cheese is known to leave an aftertaste for a duration of up to several hours.[9] Similar milk cheeses notable for containing living insect larvae are produced in several Italian regions.[10][11][12]

Religious prohibitions

According to the Talmud (a central text of Rabbinic Judaism and the basis for all codes of Jewish law) the sixth law of the Noahide Laws (Hebrew: שבע מצוות בני נחSheva mitzvot B'nei Noach, lit. "Seven Laws [of the] Children [of] Noah", which are believed to apply to all humanity) sets out the moral imperative not to eat of a live animal (the Tosefta has the graphic language not to eat "a limb torn from a living animal").

According to Jewish law, this Noahide Law is (along with the other six) considered to be binding on all the "children of Noah" – that is, all of humanity – as the minimum set of morality laws to be practiced by all human beings, irrespective of their religion. The laws of Kashrut, on the other hand, set out additional regulations which are binding upon Jews only. Thus, Kosher laws further determine what is and is not fit for consumption by Jews, and under what circumstances even otherwise kosher foods become unfit for consumption for Jews (including how an animal must be killed by Jewish ritual slaughter before it is consumed by Jews). Thus, eating of a live animal is forbidden under Noahide Law and specifically for Jews under Kosher law.

Any non-Jew who adheres to the Noahide laws is regarded as a righteous gentile, and is assured of a place in the world to come (Hebrew: עולם הבאOlam Haba), the final reward of the righteous.[13][14]

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ Tring, O. (2012). "The man who eats live animals". theguardian. Retrieved January 4, 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Nelson, B. "7 animals that are eaten alive by humans". mother nature network. Retrieved January 4, 2014.
  4. ^ a b c d Griffen, S. (2013). "10 animals that people eat alive". Retrieved January 4, 2014.
  5. ^ Hinson, T. (2013). "Eating live eels and the world's best eatery: Checking in with Raymond Blanc". MailOnline. Retrieved January 5, 2013.
  6. ^ "Viral video of live frog sashimi sparks protest". 2013. Retrieved June 6, 2013.
  7. ^ "Eating live frogs, rats "cures tummy upsets"". Reuters. 2007. Retrieved January 6, 2014.
  8. ^ "Autopsy reveals Florida man who died after winning cockroach-eating contest choked to death and didn't have an allergic reaction". DailMail. 2012. Retrieved January 5, 2012.
  9. ^ "Video "Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern, Sardinia season 6"". 2011-07-15. Retrieved 2014-08-01.
  10. ^ Comuni italiani. "Cacie' punt". Retrieved 30 April 2011.
  11. ^ Prodotti tipici. "Formaggio saltarello" (PDF). Retrieved 30 April 2011.
  12. ^ Prodotti tipici. "Pecorino marcetto" (PDF). Retrieved 30 April 2011.
  13. ^ Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot M'lakhim 8:14
  14. ^ Encyclopedia Talmudit (Hebrew edition, Israel, 5741/1981, entry Ben Noah, end of article); note the variant reading of Maimonides and the references in the footnote