Ruth is from Wales and has lived abroad for nearly 10 years, she enjoys her vegan lifestyle, loves animals and hopes to inspire others along the way. Her new blog is up and running at http://ruthculbreth.wordpress.com
I have lived in Korea for so long now that I feel part of the furniture. Sometimes I feel so in tune with this country that I don’t notice the language barriers, the different smells, or the cultural traits that are so far removed from my own.
Yet, there are moments that make me jump back and re-access my predicament and realise that I am actually, really, honestly living in South Korea!
For the most part, life is good and then I go into my kindergarten class one day and all hell breaks lose.
I teach 8 year olds in the morning. Bear in mind they are 8 years old in Korean culture, but really in Western culture they are 7 years old or even 6, (in Korea a baby is 1 when born and ages every 1st January even if born late December.) And sometimes I forget that they have a different culture, until I saw Roy last week.
Roy, a very smart young man, came to school with very unusual red dots on his top lip. The dots were in perfect formation and led me to scratch my head in wonderment at the non-rash-like problem on poor Roy’s face.
When I asked him what was on his face the answer was both disturbing and disgusting, “It is a bite from the baby octopus I ate.”
When my poor 7 year old victim told this information to me my first thought was that I would never want to put my child through the trauma of being attacked by something struggling for its life. Then I thought about the octopus.
I read an interesting article recently about the actual genius of the octopus. Their brains are so alien to us and so different from anything we usually study that we seem to be able to learn a lot from these sea creatures.
The most exquisite thing is that their brain is not centrally located like ours are but, instead, 2/3 of their brain is located in the eight arms. The arms work of their own accord, separate from each other but still as a team, something humans cannot do. This has given ideas to scientists and engineers for years about how to programme robots for the future and make them more remarkable.
So why, when octopuses are so astounding, do we wish to eat them alive?
If one eats an octopus, whose brain is located in its leg, then any form of chewing would be agony. If the octopus is dissected alive before eating, which it commonly is, the continual hacking at any of the cut-off tentacles would continue to be painful: The brain is in the tentacles.
Maybe the fact that we are so far removed from such an alien-like creature gives us grounds to swallow it down without thought. But then, what is the excuse for a mammal that we eat and a vertebrae that we readily consume?
We -humans- have forgotten that we are animals too and that we have used our assumed superiority to trample our way to the top.
What if we used our superiority for good?
What if we used it to observe and care for our amazing fellow animals?
What if we noticed a creature fighting for its life and we saved it rather than end it?
I do not know if Roy’s parents decided that their son shouldn’t be physically scarred again (even if only temporarily) or if they will continue to feed him live octopus, but I hope it’s the former.
I will end with a video of an octopus using a coconut shell to protect itself from harm -clever little things!