Cultures in Collision?
Date: Fri, 14 Apr 95 13:16:05 PDT
From: Peter Langston <psl>
Subject: Cultures in Collision?
[Here's an article that reminds me how easily we can convince ourselves that
the conventions of our culture are somehow absolute, if not divine ... -psl]
Forwarded-by: email@example.com (Tom Rossen)
The Electronic Telegraph 13 April 1995 WORLD NEWS
Chinese trade in human foetuses for consumption is uncovered
By Yojana Sharma in Hong Kong and Graham Hutchings in Beijing
ABORTED human foetuses intended for human consumption are being sold for as
little as 1 pound in the Chinese city of Shenzhen, according to reports in
Hong Kong yesterday.
The Eastern Express newspaper said journalists from its sister publication,
Eastweek, had gone to Shenzhen, across the border from Hong Kong, to see if
foetuses were being sold. Shenzhen hospitals carried out 7,000 terminations
last year, including a number on Hong Kong women seeking cheap abortions.
At the state-run Shenzhen Health Centre for Women and Children, a female
doctor was asked for a foetus. The next day, she handed the reporter a
"fist-sized glass bottle stuffed with thumb-sized foetuses".
The doctor was quoted as saying: "There are 10 foetuses here, all aborted
this morning. You can take them. We are a state hospital and don't charge.
Normally we doctors take them home to eat - all free. Since you don't look
well, you can take them."
At private clinics, aborted foetuses could be obtained for between 1 pound
and 1.75 pounds, the newspaper said. There was no evidence, however, that
foetuses were being sold in large quantities to middlemen for sale in Hong
Zou Qin, a doctor working at the Luo Hu Clinic in Shenzhen, said the
foetuses were "nutritious" and claimed to have eaten 100 herself in the past
She said the "best" were first-born males from young women. "We don't carry
out abortions just to eat the foetuses," she said, but added that the
foetuses would be "wasted if not eaten". The newspaper said the foetuses
were eaten as a soup, together with pork and ginger.
A woman doctor, referred to only as Wang, from the Sin Hua Clinic, Shenzhen,
was quoted as saying the foetuses were "even better than placentae" in
nutritional value. "They can make your skin smoother, your body stronger
and are good for kidneys," she said.
Dr Warren Lee, president of the Hong Kong Nutrition Association, said:
"Eating foetuses is a traditional Chinese medicine deeply founded in
folklore." However, he considered the alleged properties of foetuses little
more than old-wives' tales. Others said the practice was abhorrent.
The sale and consumption of placentae is common in China
Dr Cao Shilin, of the Hospital of Chinese medicine in Shenzhen, said aborted
embryos were taken to factories where they were used in the production of
She did not know if any were sold to private individuals, but said there
was little medical value in embryos older than eight weeks when, in Chinese
terms, they were classified as foetuses.
She had not heard of foetuses being sold in Shenzhen, but warned that eating
them could be dangerous, given the strong medicines used in abortions.
A doctor in Beijing, who declined to be named, said parts of foetuses would
have medical value, singling out the liver as something that could help to
But hospitals in Beijing had ovens for the destruction of aborted foetuses,
and she had not heard that they had been sold for individual consumption.
The sale and consumption of placentae is common in China, though frowned
upon by the authorities. Only those with good connections to the medical
world can obtain placentae, which cost between 2.50 pounds and 3 pounds
According to traditional Chinese medicine, it is regarded as particularly
beneficial for a nursing mother to eat her own placenta because it improves
her milk. It is usually drunk in the form of a soup.
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© 1995 Peter Langston