8 Animals That Are Eaten Alive by Humans

Woman looking at a frog perched on her hand

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The practice of eating live animals, whether it stemmed from old traditions throughout cultures or has been modernly implemented as a hot topic in the food scene, is quite controversial. Consumers do not subject animals to this for no reason, though, as some of them say the fresh meat tastes unique, it is plain convenient, or just a long lived tradition. Cruelty or culinary, you decide, but the following are animals that are eaten alive today, across the globe.

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Octopus

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In Korea, it's called "sannakji" — a live octopus that has been cut into small pieces or prepared whole and served with its arms still squirming, sucking, grasping, and wriggling on the plate. Sannakji connoisseurs enjoy more than just the taste of the fresh meat; they enjoy the sensation of the still-active suction cups on the octopus' arms as they stick to the mouth and attempt to climb back up the throat. Novices are advised to chew before swallowing to avoid the threat of being choked.

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Fish

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In Japan, fish that are prepared for sashimi while still alive are called "ikizukuri." The fish is typically filleted without actually being killed and served while the heart is still beating and the mouth is still gasping. Sometimes the fish is temporarily returned to an aquarium to swim around and recover for a second course. Another dish, popular in China, is called "yin yang fish," in which the fish's body is rapidly deep-fried and served while the head is still fresh and moving.

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Sea Urchin

Sea Urchin

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These echinoderms may not look too appetizing given their spiny exteriors, but they are prized around the world for their fishy-flavored roe and flesh. Though they are often eaten raw, such as in sushi (typically called "uni"), some people prefer to eat them immediately after they are cut open. Scissors are often used to get past the protective spears, but for more details on how to scavenge for sea urchins and enjoy them straight from the ocean, look at this guide.

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Frog

Yo! Japan and DaraKero_F/Flickr (frog).

In "frog sashimi," a dish that originated in Japan, most of the frog is served dead (and raw), but the meal begins by eating the frog's fresh, still-beating heart. At a restaurant in Tokyo named Asadachi where they are known for their creative dishes, a bullfrog is served alive but seconds later punctured with a chefs knife to death. The heart is then immediately given to the consumer, while the rest of the body is sliced into raw meat for the rest of the meal. Having been described as chewy, light and fresh tasting, people enjoy the dish for primarily for its taste.

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Shrimp

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One common way that shrimp is prepared to be eaten alive is via a dish called "drunken shrimp." Popular in China, the shrimp are first doused in a strong liquor that stuns the tiny crustaceans by making them drunk. This not only makes them less likely to put up a fight on the way down, it also creates a flavorful marinade. A plate is typically held over the bowl to prevent the shrimp from leaping out.

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Larvae

Photo: By Benny Marty/Shutterstock

In many parts of the world, the practice of eating insects is fairly ordinary. Insects and their larvae offer excellent sources of protein, and many who have been brave enough to try them will stand by their flavor. One example is Australia's witchetty grub, a small, white, wood-eating larva that can be eaten alive and raw.

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Oysters

Oyster

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Oysters are commonly eaten raw, and what many do not know, still living. Oysters do not die until the moment one slices them from their shell, meaning when they are elegantly arranged on a tray of ice seconds from consumption, they are still fully alive.

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Ants

Ants

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The widely renowned Danish restaurant, Noma, has used live ants in many of its famous dishes. The acclaimed chef behind this menu choice is Rene Redzepi, who in his Tokyo pop-up served the ants garnished on a prawn—that was also still alive. In an interview with Fine Dining Lovers, Redzepi insists the ants offer a hint of makrut lime flavor which is both sour and bright.