This article originally appeared on VICE Asia
Trying to eat a live octopus is a bad idea. Maybe you knew that already, but apparently it bears repeating, because some people don't seem to know.
Take this woman in China as a fairly strong case in point. In a video that’s gone viral over the past 24 hours, the vlogger—known online as “seaside girl Little Seven”—filmed her attempt to consume a very-much-alive mollusc. What was presumably meant to be a classic case of animal cruelty disguised as Jackass-style buffoonery quickly escalated into a fight for survival, as the octopus latched onto the woman’s face and clung on for dear life. Seaside girl Little Seven then spends a good 30 seconds of the video crying and trying to break the octopus’ grip, while the octopus basically tries to rip her face off. Eventually it lets go, leaving the woman with a small bloodied prick in her cheek.
“My face is disfigured,” she says, according to The Independent, before reassuring her viewers that she will “eat [the octopus] in the next video”.
There are multiple reasons why this kind of thing is ill-advised—the ethics of it, for one. Eating any old animal while it’s still breathing is pretty cruel, but an octopus also isn’t any old animal. They are, in fact, the smartest invertebrates in the world, with half a billion neurons putting them “close to the range of dogs” in terms of intelligence, according to The Guardian, while their impressive cognitive and emotional functions are prompting many people to question whether it’s morally defensible to eat them at all.
This quandary obviously gets taken up a notch when we’re talking about eating them alive. A few years ago, VICE spoke to cephalopod expert Jennifer Mather, PhD, about how a live octopus feels while it’s being consumed. “There is absolutely no doubt that they feel pain,” Jennifer declared. “It's a barbaric thing to do to the animal… I find it difficult to have any sympathy for people who choke on a live animal that they're eating piece by piece.”
Which brings us back to the video, and another very good reason why you should never try to chow down on a still-writhing cephalopod: because there’s always a pretty good chance it’ll stand up for itself and try to kill you. There’s a sense of karmic justice to seaside girl Little Seven’s video; a satisfying example of an animal exacting instant revenge on the arrogant human who’s essentially trying to torture it as a gag. But it should also serve as a warning for anyone who still hasn’t gotten the memo: trying to eat a live octopus is a bad idea—and if that octopus tries to deglove your head in the process you probably deserve it.
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