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"It looks like a ... "Dragon,” I say. "Artichoke,” says a colleague."
April 9, 2014 9:01 AM   Subscribe

The Most Trafficked Mammal You've Never Heard Of

An Adorable Pangolin (Scaly Anteater) Has A Really Good Time Rolling Around In the Mud

Boat filled with protected species hits coral reef
MANILA, Philippines (AP) — A Chinese boat that ran into a coral reef in the southwestern Philippines held evidence of even more environmental destruction inside: more than 10,000 kilograms (22,000 pounds) of meat from a protected species, the pangolin or scaly anteater.
An Animal That Looks Like An Acorn Is The Most Trafficked Mammal On Earth which references The Biggest Mammal Victim of the Wildlife Trade Is the Adorable, Endangered Pangolin
Pangolins are hunted both for traditional medicine and meat, which has led the IUCN to consider all eight species to be in decline, including the endangered Sunda and Chinese pangolins. Their scales are used in traditional Chinese medicine to promote blood flow (especially with regards to menstruation and lactation), reducing swelling, and as an arthritis treatment.

Like rhino horn (and fingernails), pangolin scales are made of keratin, which has never been shown to have any medicinal effects at all. Additionally, eating pangolin is considered by some to be healthy and, because it's illegal, a kind of counterculture thing, which is just plain dumb. The end result is that some amazing, and woefully understudied, creatures are disappearing before we can even understand them.
posted by the man of twists and turns (60 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Pity the pangolin: little-known mammal most common victim of the wildlife trade, with photos of pangolins, including trafficked ones, and the end results of the illegal trade.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:05 AM on April 9 [2 favorites]


Pangolins were mentioned on Monty Python, so they've got that going for them.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:15 AM on April 9 [1 favorite]


I don't know what it says about me, but I knew was a pangolin just from the headline. Dragonchokes indeed. Poor little dudes.
posted by theweasel at 9:16 AM on April 9 [15 favorites]


Chinese medicine is going to be responsible for a fair number of extinctions, I think.
posted by leotrotsky at 9:17 AM on April 9 [22 favorites]


I love pangolins and I love thinking about their keratin scales which makes them basically covered in fingernails. Creepy.
Sad that people are hunting them.
posted by rmless at 9:18 AM on April 9 [2 favorites]


Is there anything that traditional medicine can't kill off?

Well, besides colds.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:37 AM on April 9 [45 favorites]


I rode in a pangolin in Venice, once. Later on that same trip, I visited a shrine inside a five-storey pagolin, where my ability to speak fluent Pangolin came in handy. In all my travels I make a lot of friends through my musical skills on that most universal of string instruments, the pan-golin.
 
posted by Herodios at 9:38 AM on April 9 [9 favorites]


Seriously. I am beyond caring about being a racist with regards to this issue. "Traditional" Chinese "medicine" is blight on the world. It was superstition turned into orthodoxy by Chairman Mao.

Please stop killing endangered animals.
posted by GuyZero at 9:39 AM on April 9 [19 favorites]


They also have a release of Ubuntu named after them: (12.04.4 LTS, Precise Pangolin).
posted by James Scott-Brown at 9:40 AM on April 9 [5 favorites]


I read this previously but am still offended at the title - I have known about pangolins for a long time. I'm glad other people are finding out, but since the selfish aphrodesiac trade has little chance of abating, this animal will likely be extinct very soon.
posted by agregoli at 9:43 AM on April 9 [1 favorite]


1.3 billion Chinese trying to live their version of a mid-twentieth century American lifestyle is how the world ends.

It was bad enough with one America. There simply isn't enough stuff for six of them.
posted by Naberius at 9:46 AM on April 9 [7 favorites]


If the pangolin went to high school, it would be the drama geek -- elusive, nocturnal, rarely appreciated and barely understood.

If it were the drama geek it would be outgoing, funny and have a ton of friends. At least in my experience. Watching from the outside.

*sniff*
posted by brundlefly at 9:51 AM on April 9 [2 favorites]


"You don’t see them on the cover of National Geographic."

National Gee may have never put the pangolin on the cover, but it's not as if they've never covered the animal.

Here's a NatG article that devotes more space to "most trafficked mammal" and less space to "you've never heard of it".

Also, we apparently missed the third annual World Pangolin Day back in February.
 
posted by Herodios at 10:00 AM on April 9 [1 favorite]


When I was younger I thought "anteater" boots from pangolin leather looked cool. Now I'm glad I never invested the ridiculous money they cost in a pair.
posted by TedW at 10:40 AM on April 9 [2 favorites]


The headline writer at Vice clearly meant, but was too dumb to say, "Looks like a pinecone."
posted by Flexagon at 10:53 AM on April 9


The wonderful artist Ursula Vernon has drawn a few pangolins.
posted by nicebookrack at 10:55 AM on April 9 [1 favorite]


If it were the drama geek it would be outgoing, funny and have a ton of friends. At least in my experience. Watching from the outside.

*sniff*
posted by brundlefly at 12:51 PM on April 9 [+] [!]


If you hadn't made a habit of deliberately vomiting all over your lunch every day before you ate it, people might have found you more approachable. Just sayin...
posted by Naberius at 11:14 AM on April 9 [3 favorites]


GuyZero: “Seriously. I am beyond caring about being a racist with regards to this issue. ‘Traditional’ Chinese ‘medicine’ is blight on the world. It was superstition turned into orthodoxy by Chairman Mao.”

We really, really should avoid conflating disdain for so-called "Chinese medicine" with racism. It is no such thing. Neither is dislike of hip hop or spaghetti (although both of those things probably have more actual cultural cachet than so-called "Chinese medicine.") So instead of being "beyond caring about being a racist," maybe say you understand that it isn't racist to say that silly superstition is silly superstition.
posted by koeselitz at 11:25 AM on April 9 [3 favorites]


Waddaya mean "never heard of"? I almost got held back in kindergarden because when we got asked to name an animal with scales, I said "Pangolin," and my teachers told me it wasn't a real animal. My parents had to bring in this animal card thing that they'd subscribed me to that had a picture of pangolins on it.
posted by klangklangston at 11:28 AM on April 9 [24 favorites]


I went to the San Diego Zoo a year or so ago, and just right as I walked in at the front entrance, there was a keeper doing a show-and-tell with a pangolin*. The spiel talked about how most people had never heard of such a beast, but being a zoo nerd from waaay back I was all HOLY SHIT PANGOLIN THERE'S AN ACTUAL PANGOLIN FIVE FEET AWAY FROM ME HOLY SHIT the second I saw the thing. So exciting! It was the highlight of the whole day, and when I told my coworkers about it later, none of them even knew what a pangolin was, and they were looking at me like I was covered in scales of keratin or something.


* I don't quite remember the details, but it was found being smuggled or something and couldn't be taken back to the wild so they had taken it to the San Diego Zoo and it was the only legally-owned pangolin in the United States.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 11:29 AM on April 9 [4 favorites]


It's worth mentioning that Chinese "traditional medicine" would have almost certainly quietly gone the way of alchemy, bloodletting, and most other cultures' "traditional medicines" in the face of stuff that actually works, except that it was actively promoted by Mao.

As it turned out, he didn't believe in a whit of it. But it was good enough for the peasants and it worked ideologically, so it got promoted anyway.

Must have seemed like a good idea at the time.

(On rereading, I see GuyZero beat me to the same link. Reading comprehension fail. Apologies.)
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:33 AM on April 9 [3 favorites]


So instead of being "beyond caring about being a racist," maybe say you understand that it isn't racist to say that silly superstition is silly superstition.

I guess it depends on why you are saying it. There are a lot of traditional medicines, and some of them turn out to have valuable effects, and sneering at them as "heathen superstition" is as bad as embracing them uncritically.

More to the point, if I was at the doctor, and they told me that they could fix my vision, but the medicine would require boiling an endangered animal every couple of months, well, I can get by with my vision the way it is. "Doc," I'd say, is someone working on isolating the active ingredient? Call me when we have a synthetic, 'k?" Well, I like to think I'd say that.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:45 AM on April 9 [7 favorites]


I was moderately obsessed with pangolins when I was a little kid (I don't recall if it was Ranger Rick or the encyclopedia that brought them to my attention.) It kind of blows my mind that "nobody has ever heard of them." Because they are awesome and they look cool and it is really fun to say "pangolin."

I wish I could unleash seven year old me on all these people that have never heard of pangolins, because oh boy that kid would tell them.
posted by louche mustachio at 12:07 PM on April 9 [2 favorites]


While you are at it, unleash that omnipresent seven year old on all the pangolin-boilers. I bet she'd tell them, too.

Hmmm. It seems my spell checker hasn't hear of pangolin, wither. Of course, this is the same one that does not recognize "kanji" and suggests "ganja," so I assume it is high all of the time.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:11 PM on April 9 [4 favorites]


Slight (hopefully avoiding a) derail regarding: Chinese Traditional Medicine and the obliteration of various species.

You know what they call alternative medicine that works? Medicine.
posted by digitalprimate at 12:41 PM on April 9 [3 favorites]


They're pretty cute!
posted by zscore at 12:50 PM on April 9 [1 favorite]


Because they are awesome and they look cool and it is really fun to say "pangolin."

As Lynda Barry once wrote of the aardvark (and I am paraphrasing, because I cannot locate the strip online), "People are interested in it because of its unusual name and appearance, but it is not interested back."
posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:56 PM on April 9 [3 favorites]


I think someone's confused "acorn" with "pine cone". Which is sad in itself.
posted by The otter lady at 1:00 PM on April 9 [2 favorites]


Pangolins I Have Known
posted by starvingartist at 1:03 PM on April 9 [1 favorite]


leotrotsky: "Chinese medicine is going to be responsible for a fair number of extinctions, I think."

True dat. Over here in conservation biology, traditional Chinese medicine is such a common cause of population declines that in journal articles you will frequently see it just abbreviated to "TCM". As in, "population declines in Manis gigantea, the giant pangolin, can be primarily attributed to habitat loss, subsistence hunting, and TCM."

It's a plague.
posted by Scientist at 1:23 PM on April 9 [2 favorites]


Maybe not an acorn, but they probably meant an acorn cap. Which does look scaly.
posted by sweetmarie at 1:25 PM on April 9


So, there seems to be parallels between the illicit endangered animals market and the illegal drug trade. Both are driven by economic disparities between nearby countries, creating massive incentives for people to get into supply and distribution. I'm assuming the majority of demand is from China, which has borders as long as those of the US, making it difficult to police. (and yes, the pangolin are protected by the Chinese National Animal Protection law in China, as well as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species in surrounding countries [Courtesy of the translated Wikipedia], so there are actually folks in China and in the area fighting the good fight there.)

So I'm curious, similar to the legalization of marijuana, if somehow the market for these animals could be sustain-ably legalized (like the breeding of cows, pigs, etc), would this curb potential animal traffickers from getting into the trade?
posted by comradechu at 2:11 PM on April 9 [1 favorite]


Also, I see some folks are critiquing traditional Chinese medicine here and perhaps rightly so for its effect on endangered animals.

But that seems to me as helpful as people arguing that we should focus on reducing the demand for illegal drugs. Ok, how? Who's the demographic buying the pangolin? Is it status-oriented folk, like the first article mentions, or is it mostly patients desperately looking for a last-hope cure? And once you know the demographic, how do you convince a large percentage of them to alter their behavior, particularly if there's a long history of its societal acceptance and/or if they're largely uneducated?
posted by comradechu at 2:25 PM on April 9 [2 favorites]


I don't think the drugs/pangolin comparison is so apt. Education won't be as effective at reducing illicit drug usage because drugs actually work. It should work for the pangolin because medicine made from it does nothing.
posted by snofoam at 2:33 PM on April 9 [4 favorites]


Re: legalization of a sustainable pangolin trade, this unfortunately is not likely to be an option. In conservation bio we frequently do research into the maximum sustainable harvest of various species -- for instance we have simulation software and whatnot that can take existing demographic knowledge about a species or population and tell us how much of that species' annual growth can be skimmed off the top before the population risks going to extinction.

However, not all species can be harvested sustainably at all. For instance, a species which is already in decline due to for instance habitat loss already has a negative instrinsic growth rate and any harvesting at all will merely hasten its demise. This sort of thing -- the lack of any sustainable harvesting rate -- is actually one of the criteria used when deciding to put a species in Appendix I of CITES (no legal trading anywhere whatsoever) which is where pangolins are listed.

A critically-endangered species already needs a lot of active assistance and protection in order to recover its population. Such species frequently face many unmitigated threats, have small gene pools, and have long generation times and low fecundity that mean that every extant individual is important to the species' prospect for survival. I haven't looked into the con bio literature for pangolins (though I bet it's interesting and also depressing) but I suspect that is the situation for them. I would be very surprised if any sustainable harvesting of pangolins was possible, at any level.

Sustainable harvesting is great when it works. As a conservationist and environmentalist, I'm all for it. It allows humans to interact with the biosphere in a healthy and non-destructive way, to meet our legitimate needs for food and resources without causing damage. It also takes pressure off of threatened species, if we can find sustainable ways to extract similar resources from species that are robust enough to handle it. And, as suggested, it can be part of a plan to reduce destructive and/or illegal harvesting. (Though black markets continue to exist if the sustainably-harvested resource is considered too scarce, too expensive, or of inferior quality.) However, it is not always an available option.
posted by Scientist at 2:56 PM on April 9 [13 favorites]


As an aside, that simulation software I was talking about (e.g.) is a great example of how modern (circa late-'90s) computing power has been harnessed to the huge pile of basic ecological data generated by the ongoing biological traditions of hands-on fieldwork and also of searching for interesting patterns in nature just for the sheer hell of it to create a powerful new set of tools and techniques (a whole new subfield, really).

These new tools (which all boil down to algorithms for performing huge numbers of fairly simple statistical calculations on custom flat-text databases) have had huge public policy ramifications just in the last couple of decades since they were invented. A great many decisions about the management and protection of threatened species and ecosystems have been made in large part on the results of the simulations these tools perform. Many of these decisions have international legal standing and can lead to serious consequences for individuals or nations that disregard them. They're not perfect, but they are still a major force for good in terms of biodiversity conservation.

In fact, I would be very surprised if a quick search of Google Scholar didn't turn up some results for "Pangolin Vortex". (Achievement Unlocked: "Dragonchoke Tornado") Well, it does sort of. Nothing super compelling, but here's a Gibbon Vortex paper as a consolation prize. Anyway, just a minor aside into some semi-recent advances in conservation science and how they're changing the world.
posted by Scientist at 4:54 PM on April 9 [2 favorites]


"08" = whole tiger
"Yellow bamboo" = ivory
"CB" = rhino horn
"TH," or "tonti" = pangolin
"Jacket" = tiger skin
Anyone know more about these? I mean, I'm pretty sure I understand "jacket," but "08"? A soundalike thing, I guess?
posted by No-sword at 4:59 PM on April 9


It's worth mentioning that Chinese "traditional medicine" would have almost certainly quietly gone the way of alchemy, bloodletting, and most other cultures' "traditional medicines" in the face of stuff that actually works, except that it was actively promoted by Mao.

I've read some material about the "barefoot doctors" program in China, but the following is speculation that I'm open to revising if people have accounts of what TCM ingredients were consumed in the People's Republic of China between the '50s and the '70s. There's a difference between TCM as promoted by Mao as a last resort from the '50s through the '70s and as a massive business in present-day China of smuggling animal parts. I'm not saying some of the ingredients didn't have ecological side effects at the time*, but I think the peasants who got treated with TCM by the "barefoot doctors" did not generally get the ground kidney or whatever of some endangered animal. I think it was more "Let's give you some acupuncture or a traditional anaesthetic so we can pull these teeth" or "Here's some ginger to help alleviate your cold" and not "Here is a panda's testicle to increase your sexual potency".

It was part of a public health campaign that massively improved the Chinese population's "health profile" and enabled the majority of Chinese people to access health care.

*The Four Pests Campaign was very misguided but wasn't based around TCM
posted by Gnatcho at 5:47 PM on April 9 [1 favorite]


I received a picture book of animals from a cool aunt in about 1963, and one of the animals in the book was a pangolin. It's an enduring memory so I was immediately sucked into the story. The author writes without any guile, and it's easy to get the message. Thank you for sharing this.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 5:49 PM on April 9


Hey Disney: Make a pangolin movie!
posted by homunculus at 6:09 PM on April 9 [2 favorites]


I'm not a big fan of Chinese medicine, but I do think it should be noted that the vast, vast majority of Chinese medicine is not "endangered animal parts". It's various roots and leaves and nuts and bark. Pangolin parts are to Chinese medicine as eating cats are to eating meat.
posted by Bugbread at 6:21 PM on April 9 [3 favorites]


Brooklyn Pangolin Rescue.
posted by Obscure Reference at 6:45 PM on April 9


Education won't be as effective at reducing illicit drug usage because drugs actually work. It should work for the pangolin because medicine made from it does nothing.

@Snofoam, hey, I'm all for it if education is all it takes to make a change. Apparently the push to educate Chinese citizens on shark fin soup has been very effective with demand in China down by 50 to 70 percent in two years. But I guess I'm a pessimist when it comes to convincing large swaths of people to change behavior. If you think just the fact that the medicine has no effect will change people's mind, I'd say you're underestimating the play of psychology and irrationality in people's mental calculus. People still buy multi-vitamins, right?

@Scientist, thanks for the reply. So would sustainable fishery be an example of the sustainable harvesting that you mentioned?

And to bugbread's point, it's fascinating to see how folks here perceive (and have such aversion towards) traditional Chinese medicine. Much of my exposure to traditional Chinese medicine were these gross-tasting mixtures of roots and herbs. And the term "medicine" was a bit of a misnomer, with it being focused more on preventative health measure to keep you in good health, rather than to cure a particular ailment, much like how probiotics, kale, and other such super-health foods are being marketed now. I've no clue whether the stuff works, but to second bugbread's point, the endangered animal portion is not representative of Chinese medicines as a whole.
posted by comradechu at 8:37 PM on April 9 [1 favorite]


I've seen one of these in a cage outside of Jakarta. I was visiting a western friend there who took me to what he called an exotic pet shop. Basically, it was a street with a row of shacks on the edge of the forest. Each shack had a shop keeper who sold everything from eagles stuffed into budgie cages to lemurs, slow loris, pangolins and animals I've never even heard of.

All of them would have been endangered and any zoo in the world would have killed to have them in their collection. I asked one where he got them and he said they just caught them in the rainforest. He then presented me with a small brown paper bag. Then I looked inside it, there were two tiny creatures, about the size of a mouse which looked like a cross between a squirrel and a monkey. He wanted about five dollars for them. I asked him what they were but he didn't have the English word for it so I'll never know. I told him I couldn't take them home on the plane and he motioned to just put them in my pocket! I still think about that place and all of those poor trapped animals.
posted by Jubey at 8:51 PM on April 9 [1 favorite]


Step 1: intercept 25% of pangolin shipments
Step 2: adulterate with phenolphthalein or other industrial strength laxative
Step 3: wait until pangolin is a synonym for "shit your guts out"
posted by benzenedream at 9:26 PM on April 9 [3 favorites]


I have spent a lot of time pondering TCM because it threatens an animal near and dear to me, the seahorse. And my frustration isn't just at the wholesale destruction of species, but that it was promoted because China couldn't possibly manage a real healthcare system. So they got a pile of woo.

And in the US, I see the demand for alternative medicine growing as our government is failing to address the health care crisis it's citizens face. The same alternative medicine that is derived in large part from TCM. The parallel is mind boggling. Big Pharma is even trying to get in on the action and creating herbal pills for the Asian market. It won't be long before animal parts start showing up in the US market. If I were a more cynical person, this is how I would make my fortune.

So what we have, in short, is people tricked into believing in fake medicine because a government can't, or won't fix it's health care, and the price paid is whole swaths of animals being harvested to extinction.

I'm not a big fan of Chinese medicine, but I do think it should be noted that the vast, vast majority of Chinese medicine is not "endangered animal parts". It's various roots and leaves and nuts and bark. Pangolin parts are to Chinese medicine as eating cats are to eating meat.


The 25 million (or more) seahorses that will be harvested for TCM this year beg to differ.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 10:05 PM on April 9


Bugbread: "the vast, vast majority of Chinese medicine is not "endangered animal parts""

[insert clever name here]: "The 25 million (or more) seahorses that will be harvested for TCM this year beg to differ."

What does that mean? Are you saying that endangered animals make up the majority of TCM? I'm going to need to see some actual data to buy that. Being horrible and senseless and ineffective isn't what makes something a majority, being more-than-half is.

[insert clever name here]: "Big Pharma is even trying to get in on the action and creating herbal pills for the Asian market."

I'm not sure what you mean by "trying to get in on the action". Major pharmaceutical companies were already selling herbal pills here in Asia the first time I came, in 1990, so they've been "in on the action" for at least two and a half decades. In fact, considering that Japan's largest Big Pharma company, Takeda Yakuhin, was founded in 1781, I think it's far more likely that it started with TCM and "got into" the Western medicine "action" later.

[insert clever name here]: "So what we have, in short, is people tricked into believing in fake medicine because a government can't, or won't fix it's health care, and the price paid is whole swaths of animals being harvested to extinction. "

Unfortunately, it's not so cut-and-dried, otherwise TCM would be eliminated with proper health care, and Japan is a testament to the fact that proper health care doesn't really reduce TCM use (in fact, I'd wager that there's a lot more alternative medicine here in Japan than there is in the US, despite the US having a poorer health care system).
posted by Bugbread at 10:26 PM on April 9


That said, I suspect it's because of the proper health care and education here in Japan that the TCM tends to be all herbal this-and-that. It's easy for the average person to buy the idea that some root has some chemicals or compounds that inhibit some reaction or something in your body, which will make you better. It's not so easy for them to buy the idea that because a tiger is strong, swallowing its penis in powder form will make your own penis strong.
posted by Bugbread at 10:37 PM on April 9


Bugbread, bear in mind that Japanese 漢方 has about as much to do with actual TCM as Japanese カレー has to do with actual Indian food.
posted by DoctorFedora at 10:45 PM on April 9 [1 favorite]


DoctorFedora: Thanks, I was actually under the impression that they were largely similar (with kampo skipping the tiger-penis end of the spectrum (except for maybe snake and snapping turtle)), but you got me to read up on it a bit more, and discover some of my assumptions about kampo were wrong.

That said, I'm still largely seeing that herbs are the most common ingredients in TCM (not kampo), but because there aren't issues of cruelty or extinction, they aren't discussed much, giving the impression that TCM is largely about animal parts.
posted by Bugbread at 11:01 PM on April 9


To take the analogy way beyond a reasonable point, National Socialism wasn't mainly about genocide, but that part got a lot of attention, because it was a giant problem.

Not actually sure if my goal here is to pointedly paint TCM in a similarly unflattering light, because of the catastrophic consequences of what is allegedly a minor part of what it's nominally about, or if it's to illustrate why it's likely to be similarly difficult to have a nuanced discussion about how, hey, Hitler had kind of a neat idea to try to design an affordable car for the masses, except also the Holocaust.
posted by DoctorFedora at 11:30 PM on April 9


Good point. I'm not trying to defend TCM, but just pointing out a common misconception.
posted by Bugbread at 11:52 PM on April 9


What does that mean? Are you saying that endangered animals make up the majority of TCM? I'm going to need to see some actual data to buy that. Being horrible and senseless and ineffective isn't what makes something a majority, being more-than-half is.

Not to be pedantic, but you indicated the "vast, vast majority" of TCM wasn't animal based. I took the emphasis on vast to mean more than a simple majority. But, I was also speaking to the point that I knew the number on one small fish in particular off the top of my head, and that one of many different species used in TCM, many rare or on the brink of extinction, with many more on their way.

It does beg the question in if TCM is strip mining animal life, what is it doing to plant life? People do care less about plants than animals, so over harvesting of plants would be unlikely to inspire awareness. And much TCM focuses on wild ingredients over farmed, with farmed thought to not have the same potency or magic juju as wild. A quick Google search suggests medicinal plants are being over harvested for TCM, but I didn't vet the articles.

Still, it actually doesn't matter if animals are a big or small percentage of TCM ingredients, the current rate of consumption is pushing a large number of animals to the verge of extinction.

I'm not sure what you mean by "trying to get in on the action". Major pharmaceutical companies were already selling herbal pills here in Asia the first time I came, in 1990, so they've been "in on the action" for at least two and a half decades.

Fair enough. "Renewed interest" would probably be a better description.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 12:29 AM on April 10


Yeah, sorry, I should've been a bit clearer in that DoctorFedora exchange, that my impression of TCM was based on the TCM sold here in Japan, and I didn't realize it differed so much from the TCM sold in China. Chinese TCM has a different breakdown. From what I can tell, in China non-animal is just a simple majority, while in Japan, it's the vast, vast majority. So I was wrong at the start, and then confusing when I realized I was wrong.
posted by Bugbread at 1:01 AM on April 10 [1 favorite]


Want. I'm sure they have one to spare for my personal enjoyment.
posted by waving at 6:40 AM on April 10


or if it's to illustrate why it's likely to be similarly difficult to have a nuanced discussion

@DoctorFedora, I normally don't dig Godwin'ing, but in your case, I think it aptly sums up how people feel about Chinese medicine and its destructive effects.

With that being said, I'd ask that in future discussions, folks at least *attempted* more nuance when talking about it. I have relatives, who have various levels of belief in Chinese medicine, and despite my being born and raised in the US, it's played an non-insignificant role in what I think of as Chinese culture. So to hear folks dismiss Chinese medicine outright, without first disclaiming that they understand that it's not representative of all 1.3B Chinese people or that there are political, historical, and societal influences that lead Chinese citizens to buy endangered animals that we may not completely understand here, well it cuts as close to a "god-damn dem Chinese, stealing our jobs, po'lutting the earth and now killing all dem cute animals" statement that I've heard slip from less educated and articulate strangers. I understand why people feel the way they do, but frankly, this thread has come across as pretty tone-deaf and has been one of the most personally uncomfortable threads on Mefi for me.
posted by comradechu at 11:49 AM on April 10 [3 favorites]


I understand why people feel the way they do, but frankly, this thread has come across as pretty tone-deaf and has been one of the most personally uncomfortable threads on Mefi for me.

So I hear you. I totally admit to having a pretty non-nuanced view of TCM although I try not to let it blow into full-on anti-Chinese sentiment. Personally I can separate the people from the set of beliefs and I can think Chinese people are fine generally even if I don't like TCM. I mean, it's not anyone's place to judge China existentially. Just my personal perspective.

That said, I would love to understand why TCM gets into this whole thing with animal-essence when, say, Western homeopathy or other naturopathic belief systems don't. Maybe I missed it upthread.
posted by GuyZero at 3:12 PM on April 10


GuyZero: "I would love to understand why TCM gets into this whole thing with animal-essence when, say, Western homeopathy or other naturopathic belief systems don't. Maybe I missed it upthread."

My god, I think you've stumbled upon the solution: get people into animal-based TCM to also get into homeopathy. You could provide thousands of years worth of medicine to every man, woman, and child on earth using just a single animal of each species.
posted by Bugbread at 3:33 PM on April 10 [6 favorites]


My god, I think you've stumbled upon the solution: get people into animal-based TCM to also get into homeopathy. You could provide thousands of years worth of medicine to every man, woman, and child on earth using just a single animal of each species.

Better yet, you could just wash the animals, dilute the bathwater, sell it, and build a refuge with the proceeds! It would be a win-win-win-win situation.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:38 PM on April 10 [6 favorites]


Pangolin are off the menu, thanks to China’s new policy that will jail people caught eating rare wild animals. The policy is a new interpretation of criminal law from the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, and those who don’t abide by the law could be jailed for a decade or more, according to Reuters. The new interpretation will also make it illegal to knowingly purchase any wild animals killed by illegal hunting.
posted by homunculus at 4:34 PM on April 26 [2 favorites]


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