an outdoor treat

On the way back to Vientiane we stopped at a local market where my colleagues bought some treats for dinner: snails, frogs, fresh bamboo and the like. In fact, we had to open the boot every time we stopped for a pee break and shake the bags of living crickets so that they wouldn’t suffocate or die of heat before it was time to throw them in boiling oil. Yammie…. I have already seen quite a bit of ‘unusual’ meat on the markets but here, I encountered endangered wildlife for the first time. Well, at least I am pretty sure that it means nothing good when the market women hide their catch as soon as they see me approach with my camera… Half of those animals were still alive, people seem to like fresh meat. Makes sense when you cannot cool it properly…

But here’s what I don’t get:

How can you just not respect living beings!? Don’t get me wrong, although I am a Vegetarian out of various reasons, I would never claim that it is generally wrong to eat animals. I’m too much of a biologist for that but for me, there’s a huge difference between hunting, killing and eating an animal because you are hungry and killing for joy. Or worse even: keeping the animal alive and let it suffer. And that’s what happens on those markets: I felt sick when I saw that they had broken the legs of a big lizard in order to bind them together above its back. There were also bamboo rats with broken out front teeth and some animals I did not recognize at all, but you do not need to study Biology in order to see that they were paralyzed by pain and fear – yet still alive…

Yes, there are wildlife protection organizations and regulations in Lao, but they are not pursued properly. It really made me sad and angry. But here’s the crux: I am also ware of the fact that environmental awareness is part of my western privilege. It’s a bloody luxury to be educated enough to think about those issues. And not only to be educated enough but to have no more pressing problems to take care of – like keeping you and your family fed and alive. Of course people accept to cut down rainforest if they can’t find other jobs! Of course they use poisonous chemicals on their crop if that secures them a bigger harvest! I could keep ranting and raving, those were just a couple of exchangeable examples. It’s a shitty coincident really that the poorest countries also have the biggest biodiversity on earth. But it would be stupid and rash to actually blame those people. That would be like criticising South Americans for destroying the rainforest although being perfectly aware of the fact that the soy plantations feed the livestock we eat!

As you can tell, I had a very thoughtful bus ride back home. This week felt like an eternity measured by what I have learnt and dealt with.

Heavy stuff. So on a lighter concluding note: The cave we went to was much more thrilling than the local market. Easily accessible by foot it digs itself deep into the mountains. It’s illuminated in the most vivid and spectral colours (that was not me overdoing Photoshop…). Super cool 🙂

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