Wednesday, September 30, 2009

(Cruel) Food For Thought

People in Singapore love food.

There are many exciting food blogs which promise great gastronomic indulgence. Some of these blogs make you want to chomp the recommended dishes right away. I am no gastronome and I am in no position to endorse any of those sites. I suppose visiting the 'Best 10 Food Blogs' which were the finalists for the 2009 Singapore Blog Awards may be a good start. (The winner is Cuisine Paradise)

I am going to do a food blog today too. It is going to be a 'food blog' of a different kind: Something to eat and something to think about.

Many people discuss about issues relating to animal cruelty from time to time (I am one of them). Normally, images of physically abused pets or strays would come to mind. Few would have thought much about animal cruelty in relation to the food they eat.

Food cruelty is indeed a tough issue to discuss because there is a strong linkage between food and culture. Being more familiar with our own culture, we tend to accept our ways better than others'. Inevitably, we will view the issue of food cruelty from our respective angle and there is bound to be some grounds for disagreement.

In Singapore, we are blessed with a wide variety of food choices which originated from different parts of the world. Even then, there are some food that will make us go 'Ewww..!' Try suggesting to anyone in Singapore about the idea of eating cats, you will be sure that the reception will not be a friendly one. (By the way, get this right once and for all, we do not eat dogs here!)

I have cats as pets and the thought of eating them is a horrifying one. In "Sorry Moggies", I wrote about how the people in Lima would eat cats during their annual 'Gastronomical Festival of the Cat'. While it is totally hair-raising to me, it is a 'norm' for the south Americans there.

If you think about it, some of the food we eat here do not really put us in a good light either. Here are just two examples.

1. Shark's Fin

Don't we adore this dish? In almost all Chinese banquets, we will find the host proudly include this dish in their 10-course menu. Shark's fin broth is considered a delicacy and the premium ones obviously do not come cheap.

What many people do not realize is that there is great suffering behind this dish. Sharks are captured live and their fins are hacked off while they are still alive. The sharks are then thrown back into the sea. There, they are left to die slowly, finless and bleeding.

This wasteful practice has become common because a shark's fins are so valuable while its meat is much less so.

I wrote "Sharks: Prey or Predator?" after some shark attack incidents took place at the Australian coastal area in Jan 09. I lamented that sharks were probably more of a prey than predator. After all, about 40 millions sharks are killed by people in commercial fishing every year.

According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, some 18 species of sharks are already listed as endangered. At the current alarming rates of finning, some may become extinct within the next decade.

Thanks to greater awareness and international pressure from shark conservationists, the Singapore Airlines and Thai Airways have stopped serving shark's fin on their flights in 2001. In 2005, Hong Kong's Disneyland also scrapped sharks fin soup from its wedding banquet menu.

In Jan this year, the Fairmont Hotel Singapore decided to 'make their culinary choice a responsible choice'. Sharks' fin has since been taken out of their menu too.

Some progress is seen but we still have a long way to go. The European Shark Week 2009 is coming up soon (10-18 Oct 09). You can help by sending in your petition to support shark conservation.

2. Foie Gras

Foie gras means 'fatty liver' in French. It is the fattened livers taken from ducks or geese. This dish is controversial because the birds were force-fed and the production process is considered cruel.

According to the World Society for the Protection of Animal:

"The birds are commonly fed using a pneumatic pump forced down the throat, which injects up to half a kilo of maize and fat in a couple of seconds. This is repeated two or three times per day for up to three weeks, so that by the time it is slaughtered, a bird's liver will have swelled to between six and ten times its natural size. Many ducks and geese die prematurely from cardiac and renal failure, and liver hemorrhage."

Some countries prohibit the practice of force-feeding for the purpose foie gras production. Amongst them are Germany, Italy, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland and UK.

As a French delicacy, Foie gras used to be promoted only at gourmet dining places. In recent years, this dish has become more commonly available in Singapore. It seems that the consumption trend here is hitting north for the time being.

Would you want to know what happens before foie gras is served to you? Watch this footage taken from the largest foie gras producer in Canada. Here is another.

Ignorance is bliss. I know.

I am not sure if 'humane killing' is considered an oxymoron. Somehow, it appears that if we have to kill the animals, the least we could do is to let them have the quickest and the most painless death.

Animals are both friends and food to us. Like I have said earlier, it is unthinkable to view cats as our food because they are pets to us. We tend to think that eating 'cute' animals is an act of cruelty. Does that mean that those which are less 'cute' deserve less? Well, is it their fault that some animals are just not so 'cute'?

Having said that, we do have people in the Andes raising Guinea pigs as food and the French have horse meat in the menu. Rabbits are also eaten in many parts of the world. Seriously, does the level of cruelty depends on the cuteness of the animals? I do not think so.

I am not suggesting that we should all become vegans. All I am saying is that we need not obtain our food in a cruel way.

Food for thought, literally.

"Until one has loved an animal,
a part of one's soul remains unawakened."

~ Anatole France~

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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Blogtiquette. Get It Right.

I posted 'Truly Amazing Race' on 15 Jul 09.

It was about my thoughts shortly after learning that Dr William Tan was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia. Dr. Tan is someone who has given me a lot of motivation and inspiration. Being wheelchair-bound, he has shown many able-bodies that handicap is a matter of the mind and not of the body.

I am more than happy to share my article with anyone within the cyberspace. Stories of beautiful people often remind us that we are more blessed than we think we are.
However, I was annoyed when my article was found duplicated in another blog.

The copied article is largely the same except for some substituted words. The choice of replacement words somehow made the copied article odd. I am puzzled as to why the 'writer' bothered to even do that.

The oddities begin right at the start of the article.

In the original writing, I began with:

"If you have not already known this person, you would at the end of this article."

This was replaced by:
"If you be imbued not already known this in the flesh, you would at the close of this article."

Somewhere in the article, I wrote,
"It was not until he was ten that he was given an old pair of crutches...As a kid, he was laughed at and that was to be the reason why he was expelled from Kindergarten while attempting to defend himself."

The 'writer' chose to say it this way:

"It was not until he was ten that he was arranged an old-time combine of crutches. As a kid, he was laughed at and that was to be the rationale why he was expelled from Kindergarten while attempting to parry himself."

I wrapped up my article by saying:
"Besides his impressive sports records, Dr Tan is also no stranger to many charitable organizations. He has done a great deal for various charities, raised millions of dollars here and abroad. Watch this video which shows some of the events in his life."

The 'writer' turned it into:

"Besides his exciting sports records, Dr Tan is also no company to diverse unsparing organizations. He has done a egregious arrangement in buttress of divers charities, raised millions of dollars here and about. Watch this video which shows some of the events in his flair."


I have no idea why the 'writer' had to translate my article from English to 'Odd English'. It is totally bizarre. I tried to contact the 'writer' but the site is largely in French and I could not make much headway.

It is perfectly fine with me if there is anyone out there who wish to re-post my article. However, I do expect the most basic netiquette to be observed: You will give due credit to the originator of the article.

Most bloggers are aware of the basic golden rules in the blogosphere. For completeness, here are some useful ones for those who wish to do a recap.

Rule #1. Everyone is Reading

You are in a public domain and your readers include everyone and anyone in the cyberspace. Posted articles are like spoken words, you cannot ever take them back again. You will be silly to post something which will get you fired.

Rule #2. The Record is Permanent

A young blogger may say something he would regret when he is older. Unfortunately, such records can become permanent. Before he can erase the marks, someone may have already re-posted it somewhere in the cyberspace. Potential employers who have taken note of some unintentional puerile comments may dismiss him as a suitable candidate for a a job. Whatever you choose to publish, be mindful of possible consequences.

Rule #3. Give Credit

If you are citing studies or researches, let others know where you get your facts from. If you see something you like and want to recreate it in your blog, do not 'blogjack'. You would need to give due credit to the original writer. Sometimes, you may even need to get prior consent. Being honest and trustworthy is always desirable.

Rule #4. Shhh...Do Not Shout

Do not write in ALL CAPS. NO ONE WANTS TO HEAR YOU SHOUT! Neither should you write everything in small caps or mixed-caps. Be nice to your readers, do punctuate and go easy on long paragraphs.

Rule #5. Be Civilized

Although the blogosphere is a free space, we ought to be responsible for our words and actions. Feel free to disagree and leave comments but leaving a negative comment anonymously is a cowardly act. When you receive a comment, do reply appropriately. Flaming and mounting personal attacks are unacceptable behaviors.

The above 5 rules are not exhaustive. Essentially, basic mannerism inside and outside the cyberspace remains the same. Everyone wants to be treated with due respect. Period.

Remember, writing in a blog is like walking down a busy street. Everyone is 'watching' you and you should get your Blogtiquette right.

Lastly, if there is anyone who can make some sense out of this bizarre copycat act, please enlighten me. It would even be better if you can figure out the contact info of the blog owner. (knowing some French would be helpful)

"I stay true to myself and my style,
and I am always pushing myself
to be aware of that and be original."


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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Elephant Appreciation Day

Every year, 22 September is a day for a big friend of ours.

We grew up learning our alphabets by beginning with "A for Apple" and so on. More often than not, "E" would be for "Elephant". From young, the elephants were introduced to us as big and friendly animals with unusual but useful long noses, which we later learned that they were called the trunks.

Today is "Elephant Appreciation Day". It feels right to rekindle our fond memories of this special friend on earth.
This special day was declared in 1996 by by WildHeart® Productions to celebrate the elephant because it

* is the largest land mammal of our era,
* is unique among mammals for its trunk,
* is the most noble of beasts on earth,
* is most undeservedly threatened with extinction,

* has been man's benefactor in numerous ways throughout history,
* is entertaining and amusing,
* is gentle and friendly,
* contributes to ecosystem development and maintenance,

and generally deserves to be appreciated and upheld as an example of courage, strength, self-reliance, patience, persistence, and general high quality of being.

My first sight of elephant was from junior picture books. No one could mistaken an elephant for something else. I do not know how to explain but I think you know why. You can't really define what is an elephant but you know it when you see one.

Perhaps it is their long noses. Perhaps it is their tiny eyes. Perhaps it is their giant ears. I do not know. All I know is that elephants do have very odd facial features which I would not describe as 'cute'. Somehow, they have a certain air of mystery and allure.

Yup, the elephants are just so unique.

My first love with elephant must have manifested through my love for Dumbo. It is an elephant character in one of the earlier Disney animated movies. I loved Dumbo story book, Dumbo movie and the Dumbo toy figurine I used to have. Fascinating how a baby elephant could fly by flapping his ears was enough to fill my tiny mind then.

Unless you live in the wild, the first time most of us get to see a real elephant must be either during a visit to the zoo or circus. I cannot remember where I took the first sight but all I can recall is that the first impression was a good one.

During a trip to the north of Thailand, I had a chance to ride on the elephants and go close to the magnificent animal. They appeared friendly and yet I was fearful of their sheer size. They appeared obedient and yet they seemed to have a mind of their own. They looked clumsy and yet they could maneuver themselves in the woods like all-terrain vehicles.

One thing I was quite sure: they were very intelligent.

During that trip, I was introduced to the 'usefulness' of elephants in the logging industry. Typically, the elephants are trained for 20 years before they begin their 35-year logging career. Then they would retire at 55 or 60. The elephants can live for 50 to 70 years.

Doesn't that sound familiar? We would graduate in our early twenties, work for about 30 to 40 years and retire at around 55 to 60. Just like them, we can live for 50 to 70 years.

While logging is the 'vocation' of the majority of the elephants in Thailand, some elephants found their 'jobs' in other fields. Some are in the entertainment industry performing dances or circus tricks. Some are in 'sports' such as 'elephant racing', 'elephant football' and 'elephant tug-of-war'.

Elephants are also used as 'vehicles' to carry people and goods over long distances. During the ancient time, elephants were used on battle fields, most notably in the 300-year war between Burma and Thailand.

In some cases, elephants are reduced to street beggars. They are trained to approach tourists and with a little curtsey, their owners hope to entice the amused visitors to part with their money.

The elephants are really special to the people of Thailand. It is no surprise that the white elephant has been used as an important symbol of royal power.

One of the unique characteristics of elephant is their huge tusks, which are actually their upper incisors. The elephants used their left and right tusks very much like how we use our left and right hands. Some elephants are 'right-handed' and others are 'left-handed'.

The tusk is also known as ivory, a well sought after material. It is the desire for elephant ivory that leads to overhunting, especially in Africa. The population of elephants in Asia and Africa is also threatened due to the loss of their habitats.

From the story of "The Blind Men and an Elephant", we were taught that people have different perspective of things. We have different ideas and we have different priorities. To many people, planning for the next holiday is far more important than counting how many elephants have died.

Many of us may not be able to do much about the threat of extinction faced by the elephants, but we definitely can help by not supporting the ivory trade. I cringe at the thought that someone takes the life of another human only to pull out his teeth with golden crown.

On "Elephant Appreciation Day", we all can do a little just to appreciate the fact that this special animal needs to be protected. The Singapore Zoo will also be celebrating this day of 'epic proportions'. Check out their programs.

Happy "Elephant Appreciation Day" to all the elephants which are still alive out there.

"Nature's great masterpiece, an elephant;
the only harmless great thing."

~John Donne~
(English Poet, 1572-1631)

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Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Singapore Blog Award 2009 - Results

After four months of voting frenzy, the Singapore Blog Awards (SBA) has come to a closure.

The winners were revealed on 16 Sept at the SBA Award Ceremony. Although I am not one of them, I feel that I have already won so much over the last four months. First of all, it was flattering to be shortlisted from about 1500 nominees as one of the finalists.

I started blogging because I just wanted to write and I did not think I was good in any way. Not that I was bothered.
The SBA episode made me take a greater interest in the blogosphere. I learned that blogging is not just about writing anything I want in a style of my choice. It is about engagement, honesty and responsibility as well.

The diversity in the blogging community gave me great enlightenment. Each of the finalists has blogging style which is intriguing in its own way. I have not found myself reading so many blogs within such a short time before.

The award ceremony was held at the Supperclub (Odeon Towers). I was not there to witness the excitement but I was following the updates on omy website and live tweets (#sba2009).

Supperclub originated from Amsterdam and now has its presence in Singapore, San Fancisco and Istanbul. London is next. It is a place which is said to defy definition and offer unusual dining experience.

According to the owner, Bert van der Leden, 'freedom is the keyword at Supperclub". Its all-white deco speaks for itself. At Supperclub, you can decline on a bed to drink. Bed!

The theme of the club befits the spirit of blogging: "Freedom". Very apt.

At the award ceremony, Guest of Honor, Minister for Foreign Affairs, George Yeo, gave an insightful speech . He shared his views on how the exciting new media can open up to new possibilities.

Catch his speech on this video.

Minister George Yeo claims that he is unfamiliar with the new media. However, I do note that he has two Facebook accounts! He opened the second account because the first account attracted 'too many friends' and it busted the 5,000 limit set by Facebook. (Wow!)

Besides that, he contributes in 'BEYOND SG' which is 'a blog about Singapore and our social and business connectivity with the world.' He also co-blogs at (which seems to be disabled at the time of writing). Coincidentally, his co-blogger, a Singapore Management University student, is also one of the finalists in the 'Most Insightful Blog' category.

I have this to say to Minister Yeo: "I am not sure if you can say that you are 'unfamiliar with the new media'. I know just too many people who have not even heard of the term 'new media', let alone laying their fingers on them."

The winners in each category are inspiration to other bloggers. They set the standard to what makes a good blog and allow others to emulate. Do check out the winners in the various categories.

To all the winners, CONGRATULATIONS!

In the past four months, many readers of my blog have supported me in one way or another. I would like to thank all of you who have visited my blog from time to time. Some of you even took an extra step to vote for me (I hope you turn out to be one of the lucky winners for the voters' prizes).

Here are some snapshots at the award ceremony and the media reports by the Business Times and Lianhe Zaobao.

Business Times - 17 Sep 2009

A chip off the old blog at this year's Blog Awards

MAS Selamat Kastari's escape blew the blogosphere away - so much so that it bagged the 2008 Most Blogged-About Event award at the Singapore Blog Awards 2009.

The awards, in their second year, are organised by Singapore Press Holdings' bilingual Web portal to showcase bloggers' creativity and popularise blogging.

The winners were announced at Supperclub last night after four months of online and offline vote rallying. More than 1,500 blog registrations were received for this year's event - a 50 per cent increase from last year.

Ten blogs were short- listed in each of the categories, which include Best Youth Blog, Photo Blog, Lifestyle Blog, Local Celebrity Blog, Individual Blog, Blog Shop and Most Insightful Blogs.

Foreign Affairs Minister George Yeo said at the awards ceremony that new media is very exciting.

'It has opened up a whole new perspective in my life, and I think it has had the same impact on a lot of people,' said Mr Yeo, whose own blog has the biggest following among those by Cabinet ministers.

Mr Yeo advised bloggers to establish trust with readers, saying that 'establishing trust in that universe (new media) is as important as in the parallel universe which is reality'.

The winners received a trophy and various sponsored prizes, such as a $200 movie premium hamper.

联合早报 (2009-09-17)

杨荣文分享心得:写博客 诚信最重要

● 李韵琳



Read More ...

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Picture Blog #3 : Body Art

We all know that an artist begins his painting with a blank canvas.

An art canvas is conventionally a piece of thick cloth mounted on a wooden frame. However, to an artist, anything can be a canvas. In this picture blog, we will look at the use of human bodies as art canvas.

Body painting is an old art form, probably date back to the cavemen era. Today, some indigenous people in places such as South America or Africa still paint their bodies in the traditional way.

Modern body painting became popular in the 1960s. Due to obvious reasons, one can easily relate body painting to nudity. Understandably, there has been endless debate on whether body painting can appropriately be considered as an art form in the first place.

We do not have to go into that argument for I will scope this picture blog to only hand painting.

Hand painting is an off-shoot of body painting. It involves the application of paints on hands which are held still in the position required by the artist. The painted hands usually look like an animal but it could also be other objects as well.

Guido Daniele (Italy) is one of the famous body artists. He has created many amazing animal paintings on hands which he called "Handimals". If I were to leave this unsaid, some of you may not have realised that the following paintings are done on 'hand canvas'.

From this first set of pictures of a cat, you get the idea of how Guido Daniele's detailed paint work plus the precise position held by the hand model give you a realistic look of the animal.

Now, let's admire the rest of the very awesome "Handimals".

In this last picture of a snake, you get to see how Guido Daniele created it at a live demo. Watch this video.

“Life is a great big canvas,
and you should throw all the paint on it you can”
~Danny Kaye~
(American Actor 1913-1987)

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