México en el Paladar is a restaurant in a Mexico City market that specializes in what it calls "exotic," "pre-Hispanic" cuisine that includes grasshoppers, worms, ant eggs—and, for a very brief stint recently, tarantula tacos. A few months ago, the restaurant started serving warm tortillas slathered with smashed avocado, a squeeze of lime juice, and a freshly seared Mexican red rump tarantula. The finished product, which frankly looks a little unwieldy, sold for 500 pesos, or about US $26—that is, until the federal environmental protection agency in Mexico seized four tarantula carcasses that were on the premises earlier today.
It's not the eating of arachnids that's an issue—plenty of people worldwide cook and eat tarantulas as more than just an Instagram stunt—but this particular species of tarantula is under threat of extinction and designated as protected. (Plus, 26 bucks for a single taco?!)
México en el Paladar began advertising the taco on its Facebook page three months ago, with a short video showcasing a chef blow-torching a tarantula (which appears to already be dead, if that helps). That was all the evidence the government agency needed to raid the restaurant when someone sent the video to authorities.
And in case they wise up now that the story has gone international and delete the video (or if you need a GIF for a "BURN IT" situation), here's a little bit of what that looks like:
Since the news broke this morning, critics have started commenting on other posts on the Facebook page, interrogating the restaurant about their tarantula taco practices. As of now, it appears the only public statement México en el Paladar has provided was a response to one of those comments (translation ours):
Good afternoon, indeed PROFEPA [Procuraduría Federal de Protección al Ambiente, or “Federal Environmental Protection Agency”] went to the premises and advised me in terms of documentation and took the tarantulas because, at the time, I did not have the documentation. Unfortunately, I haven’t taken the time to go get the tarantulas back with the proper documentation. However, that doesn’t mean that I’m not working legally. These days I will go to PROFEPA with the documentation and will make it public for your knowledge, and for my part I will stop selling [the tacos] until I resolve everything with PROFEPA. Thank you.
But the ignorance defense doesn't quite hold up. A few weeks ago, a biologist wrote a detailed note on the restaurant's Facebook page raising concerns that the tarantulas were not legally obtained, specifically citing the price as a source of suspicion. "Professionally, I’ve always fought for the sustainable use of wildlife for different purposes, so in no way am I scared that you buy, kill, cook, and sell tarantulas. I’m even curious to try them," he wrote (translation ours).
But I was seriously concerned when I saw that the cost of the taco is 500 Mexican pesos, which tells me that the variety you sell most likely come from illegal capture, since no specimen of the size you show and assure come from a hatchery would have that ridiculous price. Which is why I would like to kindly request that you show us (although you’re not obligated) the documents that guarantee the legal origin of the specimen and indicate the registration number of the hatchery.
He goes on to express concern that the restaurant is complicit in a larger black market for this particular species, which is a popular, although illegal, pet stateside (truly this world contains multitudes). It's unclear if México en el Paladar will be slapped with any sort of punitive action but if all this talk of tarantulas is making you hungry, might we suggest learning to make your own?