Dancing Shrimp: Inhumane, or Delicious?

April Peveteaux

dancing shrimpEating live animals isn't something most of us are interested in doing. So most restaurants -- in North America anyway -- don't give us the option. (You'll see most of the live dishes laid out previously on The Stir are not local.)

Until recently, a sushi restaurant in Sacramento, California, was serving live shrimp to customers. Called "dancing shrimp," the live shrimp were doused in cold sake, tails removed, then served to diners. In Japan, dancing shrimp -- or odori ebi -- are a delicacy, so it's not surprising a sushi restaurant would replicate a prized dish.

But Sacramento is not Tokyo, and PETA was called by concerned citizens.

You might wonder, if it's alive or dead, it's still an animal that you're going to eat, so what's the problem? The problem was that even as the shrimp were doused in sake, the customers were encouraged to squeeze lemon juice on the living creature to make it "dance." Which really means writhe in pain.

Studies have shown that crustaceans behave as an animal would if it has a wounded paw when acid comes in contact with their skin. So essentially, the act of squeezing lemons on shrimp to make them dance is torture.

After PETA received a number of calls complaining of the practice, they contacted the restaurant, and the restaurant agreed to take the shrimp off the menu.

I used to walk by a restaurant in Midtown Manhattan that boasted, "Home of the Dancing Shrimp," but a quick check of their website shows they are no longer bragging about that specialty item. Although it's still listed on their dinner menu. I wonder if PETA will target the Redeye Grill next.

What do you think? Is selling dancing shrimp wrong?


Image via prilfish/Flickr

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