8 Animals That Are Eaten Alive by Humans

These animals are considered a delicacy when eaten alive.

hand holds freshly shucked alive oyster in palm with plate of oysters below

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The practice of eating live animals, whether it stemmed from old traditions throughout cultures or has been modernly implemented as a hot topic in the food scene, is quite controversial. Consumers do not subject animals to this for no reason, though, as some say the fresh meat tastes unique, is convenient to prepare, or just has been eaten that way for a very long time. Cruelty or culinary, you decide, but the following are animals that are eaten alive today across the globe.

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pink octopus with tentacles in deep sea with coral in background

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Most commonly seen in Seoul, South Korea, "sannakji" is a dish where a live octopus is cut into small pieces and served with its tentacles still squirming, sucking, and grasping on the plate. Those who enjoy Sannakji are in it for more than just the taste of the fresh meat, as the sensation of moving tentacles coated in sesame oil sliding down the throat is like no other. While not an entirely relaxing culinary experience because of the choking hazard that kills around six people annually, the dish is widely sought after.

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Japanese Ikizukuri served as live fish sashimi in restaurant in wooden box

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In Japan, "ikizukuri" is known as the preparation of sashimi from living fish and is considered a delicacy for being the freshest meat possible. The fish is typically filleted to reveal the meat but mostly intact, so that the consumer can see the beating heart and active movements. It is also served very simply, with mild accompaniments so the flavor can be savored.

In China, another dish involving live fish is popular, known as the "yin yang fish." Hence the name, the fish body is deep-fried in contrast with the head still raw, fresh and sometimes still moving. In reality, the fish cannot still be truly alive due to the preparations that have occurred, but its movement is caused by nerves continuing to cause the movement.

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Sea Urchin

Sea Urchin

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These echinoderms may not look too appetizing given their spiny exteriors, but they are prized around the world for their fishy-flavored roe and flesh. Though they are often eaten raw, such as in sushi (typically called "uni"), some people prefer to eat them immediately after they are cut open. Scissors are often used to get past the protective spears. Learn more about how to scavenge for sea urchins and enjoy them straight from the ocean. Eating them can be a boon for the planet, too, as they're an invasive species threatening kelp forests.

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large green bullfrog swims in lily pad pond in Japan

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In "frog sashimi," a dish that originated in Japan, most of the frog is served dead (and raw), but the meal begins by eating the frog's fresh, still-beating heart. At a restaurant in Tokyo named Asadachi where they are known for their creative dishes, a bullfrog is served alive but seconds later punctured with a chef's knife to death. The heart is then immediately given to the patron, while the rest of the body is sliced into raw meat for the rest of the meal. Having been described as chewy, light and fresh tasting, people enjoy the dish for primarily for its taste. This practice has understandably been roundly criticized for being torturous.

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crystal red live shrimp floats along rocky floor underwater

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"Drunken shrimp" is a popular dish in some regions of China where living shrimp are served in a bowl, still jumping around. Giving it the name "drunken shrimp," the sauce is liquor-based and slows down their movement upon reaching the table, which is exactly when patrons are recommended to start eating it. (Best not to try when they're still leaping.) Again, the unique flavor of liquor-submerged fresh meat is what draw people to this meal.

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Photo: By Benny Marty/Shutterstock

Eating insects is not an unusual practice in many places of the world, as they are nutritious, sustainable, and apparently flavorful. Many larvae, the immature forms of insects, are safe for consumption, though not always alive or even raw.

One example that is eaten both alive and raw is Australia's witchetty grub, a small, white, wood-eating larva. They've been described as "segmented marshmallows with orange heads or white cheddar Cheetos puffs." Australian Aboriginal communities have been eating the high-protein witchetty grub for years, and it is still a staple snack for anyone living in those territories today. The grub is foraged straight from the trees, and can be eaten immediately alive or cooked where the taste can resemble chicken.

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person's hands shuck and cut live oyster with green oyster knife

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Found widely across the world, oysters are commonly eaten raw, but what many do not know, still living. Oysters do not die until the moment one slices them from their shell, meaning when they are elegantly arranged on a tray of ice seconds from consumption, they are still fully alive. They lack a central nervous system, however, which suggests that they cannot feel pain.

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The widely renowned Danish restaurant, Noma, has used live ants in many of its famous dishes. The acclaimed chef behind this menu choice is Rene Redzepi, who in his Tokyo pop-up served the ants garnished on a prawn—that was also still alive. In an interview with Fine Dining Lovers, Redzepi insists the ants offer a hint of makrut lime flavor which is both sour and bright.

While not something you might add to your weekly menu rotation, protein-rich ants can make great survival food if you're ever lost in the wilderness.