City hopefully will ban 2 things that are eating me
By Doug Young
I thought I’d close out the year with a look at two upcoming bans that could have a profound impact on life in Shanghai in 2014. News junkies will know I’m talking about a ban on live chicken sales in local markets that will begin next month at the Chinese Lunar New Year, and another proposed ban on eating in the city’s sprawling Metro system.
Both bans look like good ideas to me, and I also like the way the city is implementing each. The live chicken ban is aimed at curbing and hopefully preventing another outbreak of bird flu in the upcoming flu season, and is quite strict. The eating ban is just a proposal at this point and still open for public discussion.
It does seem a bit odd to be talking about bans in my final Street View of the year, since this is typically a time for generosity and gift giving. But in my view, both of these bans would be great gifts for city residents.
The bird ban would reassure people like me who are worried about another flu outbreak, while the eating ban would rid our subways of an annoying and sometimes unsanitary habit.
Let’s start with the live chicken ban, which will formally take effect from Chinese New Year’s Day (January 31) and run through the end of April. Shanghai previously banned all live bird sales during the H7N9 flu outbreak earlier this year, but later allowed some markets to resume sales.
I previously said the city should permanently ban all live bird sales, but could also understand that many people who protested such a move think freshly killed chickens taste better than frozen ones.
In a bid to change some of that thinking, the city was working hard at a recent trade event to show that chickens killed and then frozen in more sanitary, highly regulated mass slaughterhouses can be just as tasty.
Organizers invited more than 20 famous local chefs to the event to make dishes using chilled chickens to win over the palettes of live bird lovers. At the same time, the city has made it very clear that all live bird sales will be banned for the four months during peak flu season, and that fresh chicken lovers will have to abstain or feast on frozen birds during that time.
This kind of authoritarian approach may seem extreme, but is still necessary when it comes to something as serious as bird flu that has the potential to kill thousands and cripple the city’s health system. While unpopular among some, the move should not only reassure worried people like me but also the thousands of city restaurants and other food sellers that saw their business plunge during the outbreak.
From the bird ban, let’s turn our attention to the less Draconian subway eating ban that has also captured headlines.
That proposed ban was the biggest attention grabber on a larger updated list of proposed forbidden behaviors on the city’s subway system. The list also included a much-needed ban on those annoying people who drop leaflets in your lap, but that’s a subject for a future Street View.
While it may be new for China’s mainland, this kind of eating ban is already common on most of the world’s major subway systems. Hong Kong has such a ban, and a conflict made headlines earlier this year when a local person got in a fight with a mainland tourist who refused to stop eating on the subway.
I’ll be honest and admit that I personally do sometimes bring snacks or drinks onto the Shanghai subway, even though I would never do so outside China.
But I generally take my empty wrappers and bottles with me and throw them in a proper garbage can when I leave the trains, unlike some riders who simply throw their waste on the floor or under their seats.
What’s more, I seldom bring strong smelling foods onto the train, and try to eat quietly when I do bring something. That contrasts with some people who eat snacks like stinky tofu that can smell up an entire car, and others like the woman sitting next to me a week ago who was chomping loudly on her bag of sunflower seeds throughout our ride.
Unlike the live bird ban, the move to forbid eating and drinking is a bit more democratic and is merely a proposal. A final decision isn’t due until later following public feedback.
I personally hope the subway operator will implement the ban, but would also understand if public backlash led it to drop the measure. At the end of the day, eating and drinking on trains may be annoying, but is certainly far less serious than bird flu and something we can all tolerate if necessary.