Crabs on sale in Zhejiang. The harvest of mitten crabs from Suzhou's Yangcheng Lake is eagerly awaited each year. (Photo/CNS)
News that Chinese mitten crabs are considered a pest in Europe and used as animal feed has caused uproar after the reports filtered back to China, where the crustacean is considered a delicacy, reports the Economic Observer in Beijing.
Many local people have volunteered to help eliminate the crab from Europe by eating them, said the newspaper. With the EU looking anxiously to a somewhat reluctant Beijing for help to overcome its crippling debt crisis, it may be comforting that here is one area where Chinese assistance to eat up the problem may be readily forthcoming.
The species, also known as the Shanghai hairy crab, was introduced to Europe from Chinese trading ships in the early 20th century and has gradually proliferated because of the favorable environment and an absence of predators. The crabs have become a nuisance however as their burrowing undermines embankments and clogs drainage systems while forcing out indigenous species, causing damage estimated at more than €80 million (US$100 million) a year in Germany alone, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature.
A tourist official from Netherlands stationed in Beijing has invited Chinese people to visit her country and feast on the crabs in order to control the reproduction of the invasive species and boost tourism at the same time.
The Economic Observer's report commented that the case of the crabs is another example of the different tastes of Europe and China with regard to food. The newspaper quoted Jiao Lin, a Chinese student who studied in London for three years, as saying that her British professors refused to eat at Chinese restaurants in the mistaken belief that these restaurants sold dog meat. One young British man forsook his love for a Chinese girl after seeing her eat pig's intestine.
People in France are less squeamish than the British when it comes to eating innards, the newspaper noted, citing the French love of foie gras and the sweetbreads. There is no accounting for taste, the newspaper concluded philosophically.