AFPWhat will we sacrifice to maintain a high? This question was more or less posed at the opening of the Oscar-sweeping film "The Hurt Locker." The filmmakers were referring to an adrenaline rush far away from the lacquered tables of high-rolling American foodies, but that question came to my mind when I saw this week's New York Times article reporting that a Santa Monica sushi restaurant, The Hump, is accused of serving whale during a recent sting operation.
To keep up with our appetite for exhilarating gastronomic discovery, each food has to be rarer and newer than the last, and that can come at an increasingly high price to the land, to foreign cultures, and to the oceans.
The Academy Awards were on my mind because the sting was led -- in conjunction with law enforcement authorities -- by the documentary makers of The Cove, which took home the Best Documentary Oscar for its coverage of mass dolphin hunting in Japan .
The Times reported, "video of their meal shows the two activists, both vegan, being served what the waitress can be heard calling 'whale' - thick pink slices - that they take squeamish bites of before tossing into a Ziploc bag in a purse." DNA evidence from the meat, a $60 course in the chef's special menu, revealed that it was taken from an endangered Sei whale. The possession or sale of marine mammals is a violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and can lead to a year in prison and a fine of $20,000.
The Hump, a now unfortunate name for the restaurant, is actually a slang term for the Himalayas . The restaurant's lawyer hasn't commented other than to say they were still determining facts.
Cows, dogs, rabbits -- what is food to one person in one country is a dear friend to another. In this case, the intelligence of whales and the endangered nature of this breed, to me, means that this sushi-bar high costs the world an incalculable sum of diversity, sensitivity, and wonder.
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