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The Horror

December 21, 2009
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Is it Luck reader Korbie sent me a disturbing article from the Seoul Times.  The article claims that in parts of China, soup is made with human fetuses.  The article backs up its claim with several photographs.  I really hope it’s a hoax.

WARNING: EXTREMELY GRAPHIC

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22 Comments leave one →
  1. December 22, 2009 10:34 am

    even just taking photos like that is disgusting. apparently there’s an artist (zhu yu) who did a show about eating babies. (after seeing this post, i had to google “eating human babies”… sigh) the soup thing, obviously fake… but the art show… is definitely real. (*pukes*)

    • Barry permalink*
      December 22, 2009 10:43 am

      What makes the soup thing obviously fake? It doesn’t look too obvious to me; I hope it’s fake, but I have no idea.

  2. December 22, 2009 11:01 am

    i’m trying to block out the possibility of this being true ahah.

  3. Barry permalink*
    December 22, 2009 11:08 am

    It’s funny that every time a phenomenon straddles the gulf between “meal” and “atrocity”, it’s done in the name of virility, yet Viagra, Levitra, and Cialis don’t claim to be made of shredded baby face dissolved in panda semen.

    This, of course, is why people who bitch about “Western medicine” being inferior to the ancient wisdom of the Orient are full of shit.

  4. Jonathan permalink
    December 22, 2009 4:56 pm

    You know, this got me thinking… I wonder if there is a law in the US against the consumption of human fetuses. I would be surprised if there were, actually.

    Anyway, what does it matter? It’s not like fetuses are alive, right?

    • Barry permalink*
      December 22, 2009 5:03 pm

      The laws would probably be state laws, and it wouldn’t surprise me either way. I would imagine that the pertinent laws would deal with the generic category of biohazardous medical waste, rather than fetuses specifically.

      As for the “alive” thing, I think your comment is informed by a false dichotomy. It’s not like we have an all or nothing heuristic to determine how we treat things. The American flag and gravestones are treated differently from toilet paper and skateboards. There is no reason why dead fetuses, even if they are not considered human beings, would not be entitled to some protections.

  5. Barry permalink*
    December 22, 2009 5:08 pm

    Ian’s friend in China confirmed that this is real. Also, Ian and I were just talking about this whole abortion soup thing, and I thought our conversation would be enlightening:

    Ian: i imagine abortion soup reminds one of dumplings
    me: I think technically it IS a dumpling.
    I mean, what’s the Platonic ideal of a dumpling?
    I would imagine its definition would involve
    1. that it is solid.
    2. that it is surrounded by soup

    • December 22, 2009 6:43 pm

      I eat dumplings all the time and there doesn’t seem to be soup anywhere near it.

      • Barry permalink*
        December 22, 2009 7:13 pm

        I call your bluff.

  6. Jonathan permalink
    December 22, 2009 8:03 pm

    The definition of when life begins is an interesting question. In some African tribes, such as the following, it begins a few months after birth:

    “A high infant mortality rate among the Maasai has led to babies not truly being recognized until they reach an age of 3 moons”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maasai#Culture

    Anyway Barry, I have to disagree. The question of whether or not it is OK to eat an aborted fetus, which would have been aborted anyway, rests on two questions:

    1) Is it safe to eat an aborted fetus?

    2) Is a fetus a human being?

    If the answer to question #1 is yes, and #2 is no, then I see no reason why a fetus which has already been aborted, and would have been aborted anyway, should not be considered fit for human consumption. I also see no problem with mothers accepting payment for the use of their fetus in this way. After all, it would have probably just been discarded as medical waste otherwise, and an abortion can run $500, and may not be covered by health insurance.

    • Barry permalink*
      December 22, 2009 8:10 pm

      So it is acceptable to eat anything that is not poisonous and not human? My goodness! All these years I have been keeping grandpa’s stamp collection when I could have slathered that sumbitch in Sriracha and gulped it down with some sweet tea. And so many paper towels I could have eaten. My fingernail clippings and scabs could have been sent to the local food bank!

      I kid.

      I think there is more to the decision than two binary choices, but I understand where you’re coming from.

  7. Jonathan permalink
    December 22, 2009 8:04 pm

    Also, my brother used to live in China, and was able to confirm this as true as well.

  8. Jonathan permalink
    December 22, 2009 9:29 pm

    A discourse/rant on cultural relativism:

    The glue on the back of the stamps may be toxic in large quantities, especially if the stamps are older. Also, your grandpa’s stamp collection may have a pecuniary value greater than its value as food. It is also likely that it has sentimental value, which would be lost if you ate it.

    The thing about this is, this is something that the Chinese do. It is just something that we don’t understand because a culture other than ours does it. And since we don’t do it, we attack others who do.

    I just get so sick over our ethnocentric worldview. It is like when we attack Koreans for eating dogs, without considering that they only eat one breed of dog, and that this breed has been bred as a food dog for thousands of years. Western culture tends to anthropomorphosis dogs, so we see it as being fucked up and try to stop them from eating dogs, but it is just what they eat. Our love of cow meat seems just as fucked up to Indians, but we don’t bother ourselves with that.

    Rudyard Kipling wrote about ‘the white man’s burden’ to civilize ‘savage’ people. He wanted England to go into Africa and India and all sorts of places and make those people more like the British. This is a concept that has found its way into the left and right of our country. Another thing we harp on is female circumcision, without considering that in parts of the world where it is performed, a yeast or bacterial infection can be fatal, and female circumcision prevents this.

    Obviously, eating dogs or fetuses, and circumcising females would not work in our culture. Neither would wearing burkas. But that is not to say that these things don’t work in other cultures. Many Middle Eastern women love their burkas. Our culture does not have the gold standard. No culture is that great.

    Anyway, how do you know that eating a fetus does not increase male potency in the Chinese? Even for wealthy Chinese, it can be difficult to get enough protein, and I am sure there is a lot of protein in a fetus. If you have ever gone hungry, you know that a protein deficiency can make a man kind of limp. Another thing I am sure a fetus has a lot of is naturally occurring hormones. Maybe there is a kind of hormonal effect in eating a fetus. I don’t know, these are only hypotheses.

    Americans in general have got to get into the mindset of leaving non-Americans be. It’s called cultural relativism.

    • Barry permalink*
      December 22, 2009 9:54 pm

      That you would compare the systematic abuse of women to eating dogs is surprising, but perhaps that is a topic for another day. I understand cultural relativism, and I think it’s perfectly acceptable under many circumstances. However, there are certain moral concessions that I am unwilling to make in the name of “to each his own”. For the most part, my concerns are utilitarian; any actions that deny happiness to half of the human population are going to be very hard to justify to me.

      Female genital mutilation brings physical and emotional anguish to countless girls and women who are unable to opt out of it. My understanding is that it’s done to keep women chaste. A practice of carving off labia and clitorises in highly unsanitary conditions and without anesthesia is not something to which I can turn a blind eye. It is torture, and torture is unacceptable.

      Modest dress is certainly more of a judgment call, as it is far less intrusive and harmful than genital mutilation. While I would not presume to tell women not to wear burqas, chadors, wigs, or other religion-specific signals of modesty, it is also true that these practices do not stand alone. Many religions stand on a foundation of patriarchy; subjugation of women is all too common. It is not the dress itself that bothers me, it is that the dress is an outward manifestation of a suite of restrictions binding women and not men.

      I don’t want to see women barred from complying with religious strictures, but I want them to have the choice. I would also like to see women have some hand in developing these practices they opt into or out of. I am perfectly happy to leave other cultures to their own devices right up to the point where other cultures ritualistically abuse a vulnerable class.

      As for your speculation on the sexual potency fetuses may provide: even if we stipulated that all of your speculations are correct, I can still name three pills that have been scientifically proven to treat erectile dysfunction, and none of them are made from fetuses. If you put aside the false dichotomy of “humans get treated with respect” vs. “everything else can and should be used however we want” for just a moment, you might agree with me that non-fetus-based technology is probably more sustainable than fetus-based technology. On that basis alone, Cialis, Levitra, and Viagra are the better choice.

  9. Jonathan permalink
    December 22, 2009 10:30 pm

    But you are assuming that non-fetus based technology is readily available to the Chinese. Perhaps fetuses are easier to come by in some parts of the world than Viagra. Also, the drugs you mentioned are very hard on the heart, and can cause health problems even when used correctly. It says on the bottle, ‘if your erection lasts more than four hours, call a doctor.” Well, what if you don’t have access to a doctor?

    I agree that Viagra is a better solution for us, but I can’t see why this would make it a better solution for the Chinese.

    As for female circumcision, perhaps it was a bad example. But male circumcision certainly violates the principals of medical ethics, causes pain to the infant, and decreases sexual pleasure, and almost all males in this country are circumcised. From what I understand, there are four types of female circumcision, and about 10% of circumcised females are unable to have orgasms or experience sexual pleasure. Anyway, yeah, it was a poor example.

    • Barry permalink*
      December 22, 2009 10:50 pm

      If you don’t have access to a doctor, then you wouldn’t have access to Viagra, etc. in the first place, so you wouldn’t have the side effects that necessitate a doctor’s visit. Of course, that scenario stipulated the efficacy of fetus soup; I was simply saying that if it worked, it wouldn’t be a better choice than medicine. Of course, no medical evidence that I know of says that it does work.

      With that in mind, even if Viagra, etc. aren’t good solutions for the people of China for any number of reasons, there is no evidence that fetuses are the slightest bit useful in the absence of such drugs. As I mentioned before, the list of folk remedies for impotence is long, bizarre, and largely useless. There is little plausibility that human fetuses are an exception. Especially because in China, an enormously disproportionate number of aborted fetuses are female. Your hypothesis that sex hormones in the developing fetus would aid impotent men, but that seems unlikely, as female hormones are used as a form of “chemical castration” in men. They reduce libido and erections.

      Also, I didn’t mention male castration. My opinion on the practice is not well formed. My understanding is that studies on the side effects of circumcision have yielded contradictory or inconclusive results. Circumcision has been linked to lower rates of HIV contraction in men. I lean toward the idea that the decision to circumcise or not should be left to the individual whose foreskin is on the line.

  10. Jonathan permalink
    December 22, 2009 11:03 pm

    But individuals who are circumcised are usually infants, unable to make those decisions.

    At any rate, my theory that the benefits of fetus soup come from the concentration of protein makes more sense than the hormone theory. I imagine fetus soup would be very useful if you were trying to bulk up with more muscle mass as well.

    • Barry permalink*
      December 22, 2009 11:06 pm

      I know that they’re infants. I was saying that we should probably stop circumcising infants and begin letting males make their own decisions.

      As for the protein argument, perhaps it’s correct, but it’s certainly not fetus-specific.

  11. Jonathan permalink
    December 22, 2009 11:22 pm

    From what I have heard, if you walk down a street in China, you will see people sellig bags of dry sea-horses, bugs, and other things. The thing is, the Chinese don’t like that stuff. That’s a myth. They just see it as a cheap form of protein. It is hard for us to imagine, but protein is hard to come by in that part of the world.

    I am reading about fetal hormones right now. Maybe there is something in human growth hormones (HGH) secreted from the fetal pituitary glands. This would make the fetus soup operate kind of like steroids.

    Anyway, if people say something works, I think it is worth investigating their claims before dismissing them.

    By the way, when I made the comment about doctors, I was just kind of assuming the Chinese would buy their Viagra on the black market.

    • Barry permalink*
      December 22, 2009 11:38 pm

      It is often worth investigating claims, but the decision to investigate should be subject to showings of prior plausibility and ethics. If the plausibility is low, it should be moved down the ladder of priorities. If it is unethical, it should be removed altogether.

      I don’t know exactly how to assess the ethical implications of fetal experimentation; certainly those as well-developed as the one pictured in the soup article would be entitled to more protection than the blastocyst destroyed for stem cell research.

      Anyhow, there is a flaw in your argument that fetuses provide protein not available elsewhere: pregnant women supply the protein necessary for the fetuses to develop. Ostensibly, their protein sources are as available to impotent men as they are to pregnant women. Again, granting for the sake of argument that impotence is caused by protein deficiency, that same deficiency would prevent fetal development, so we’re back to square one.

  12. Jonathan permalink
    December 23, 2009 12:27 am

    That is well thought out regarding the protein, but I think that getting small amounts of it from many different sources can not compete with the big blast of protein that must come from digging into a hot, juicy fetus.

    As for the ethics, I don’t really know either. Most of what we know about freezing in humans comes from experiments done on human prisoners by nazis during the holocaust, but we still use the knowledge to prevent death, even though it is controversial to do so. So it is conceivable that knowledge derived from ingesting aborted fetuses could one day be used to treat male impotency.

    Perhaps there is a way to see if ingesting HGH from fetal pituitary glands increases male potency without actually harming a human fetus. For example, we could make mice eat mouse fetuses. Or we could create HGH synthetically in a laboratory and then feed it to homeless people to see if it makes them fuck better. I had a friend who was homeless and he allowed all sorts of experiments to be done on him for money.

  13. Jonathan permalink
    December 23, 2009 12:38 am

    I might add that there is no question that injecting yourself with HGH, or using a nasal spray, will increase your vitality and sex drive. This is in essence what steroids are. The question here is 1) Will eating naturally occurring HGH in fetuses have the same effect, and 2) is there enough HGH in a human fetus to cause said effects.

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