Are You Eating the 13 Most Controversial Foods? (Hint: They All Come From Animals)

Are You Eating the 13 Most Controversial Foods?

We hear a lot about GMOs, artificial sweeteners, flavors and colors in our foods. We’re concerned over antibiotics and trans fats. These are foods mired in controversy—and for good reason–but they might not be the most controversial foods out there.

In fact, it’s the animals many of us put on our plates every day—several times a day!—that are not only controversial for ethical reasons, but for environmental reasons as well.

According to the Daily Meal, there are quite a few foods more worthy of our concern. There are issues over the sustainability of certain foods (Bluefin tuna and shark fins, for example), and other foods call our ethics into question, such as veal and foie gras. We’ve added a few more to the list too:

1. Beluga Caviar: This expensive caviar hails from the Beluga sturgeon, a critically endangered species protected by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

2. Bluefin Tuna: Stocks of Bluefin are on the decline, as overfishing has depleted the much prized fish. But consumption has yet to decline to match the dwindling population, particularly in Japan where it’s still a mainstay of sushi lovers.

3. Bushmeat: It’s not uncommon in Asia and Africa and parts of Central and South America to see bushmeat on a table. These animals differ from wild game animals because they’re largely non-domesticated and often an endangered or threatened species, such as monkeys, great apes like gorillas and chimpanzees, hippos, fruit bats, and lemurs, reports the Daily Meal. What’s worse, improper handling can lead to health risks including smallpox, measles, rabies and HIV.

4. Chilean Sea Bass: The Patagonian toothfish, better known as Chilean Sea Bass, comes most often from unsustainable sources. Meanwhile, the catch method can also kill thousands of seabirds every year.

5. Dolphins: Yes, dolphins. You can purchase dolphin meat in Japan. And even though the animals aren’t technically endangered, their “nonhuman persons” status in several countries makes it a little more difficult to swallow. Literally.

6. Foie Gras: While California recently overturned its ban on the sale of foie gras in the state, that doesn’t make it any less heinous of a practice. It’s gruesome stuff: force-feeding ducks and geese until their livers are so big they’re about to explode.

7. Horsemeat: The horsemeat scandal that rocked Europe recently still has people squirming at the butcher, and for good reason. While some countries around the world still embrace horsemeat, it’s a little bit like eating your dog, even if you’ve never been on a horse, no?

8. Rabbit: Urban farms are getting in on the rabbit game and even Whole Foods is now selling rabbit meat—but not without protest. A number of concerned consumers have petitioned the store to ditch rabbit meat, not because rabbits are endangered or anything, but because they’re cute. And while that’s no reason to eschew one animal over another, it does make the discussion about the ethics of eating animals a lot easier for some folks.

9. Shark Fin: A delicacy in China, shark fin soup is wreaking major havoc. More than 70 million sharks are killed for their fins every year, and now as many as one-third of shark populations face extinction.

10. Veal: It’s been at the top of the controversial food list for a long time. After all, who wants to eat a baby? But the practice is still in effect, with these adorable baby cows living in dark crates away from their mothers.

11. Pork: Bacon may be the favorite food of Americans as of late, but it’s not doing pregnant or nursing pigs any good, as many of them are forced into gestation crates so small they can’t even turn around. Chipotle has taken a big stand against gestation crates, allowing its pork carnitas to be unavailable for months until its suppliers correct the issue.

12. Cheese: If there’s any food that trumps bacon, it’s got to be cheese. But don’t let your cravings blind you to this truth: dairy cows live long and stressful lives. They’re routinely impregnated and then separated from their newborn calves. What’s worse, milking machines create painful and often infected udders that require excessive antibiotics.

13. Eggs: Did your eggs come from chickens in your backyard? If so, consider yourself—and the chickens!—quite lucky. Most eggs are produced by hens raised in battery cages, which are so cramped they force the animals into unhealthy behaviors.

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Shark fin soup image via Shutterstock

Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites OrganicAuthority.com and EcoSalon.com, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better. www.jillettinger.com.