Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Behavior

guinea pig dinnerImage courtesy of the Travel Channel

Zimmern (right), holding a wryly guinea pig, unsupported and screaming.

Bizarre Foods, A popular series on the Travel Channel focuses on unusual regional cuisine from around the world which is usually shocking to viewers. One episode in particular has drawn the attention of animal lovers in the guinea pig community. Host Andrew Zimmern visited Ecuador where he sampled cuy, a meal prepared using a guinea pig.

“This small rodent has been revered as the national dish for thousands of years because it tastes great, it’s packed with protein, and it’s low in fat,” Zimmern explains on the show. While the show makes it clear that cuy is an accepted dish in some parts of the world, cavy enthusiasts are upset because they found Zimmern’s behavior disrespectful to the animals.

Zimmern compares the experience of dining on guinea pig to a seafood restaurant, telling viewers, “Just like picking out your lobster… you can pick out the guinea pig you want which isn’t the easiest thing to do if you’ve ever had Fluffy as a pet.” He’s then shown holding a wryly guinea pig, unsupported and screaming, just moments before it’s to become dinner. The death of the animal is not shown on the show but we do see several shots of the animal being prepared whole. Those opposed to the episode feel the animal should be treated with respect and should not be in this much stress or discomfort. Those in support feel the animal has reached its end and the stress or discomfort does not matter.

guinea pig farmingImage courtesy of the Travel Channel

Guinea pigs have been revered as the national dish in Equador for thousands of years.

“It made me cry, though, and I have been in rescue for 17 years now and I’ve seen a lot,” said Judi Lainer from Metropolitan Guinea Pig Rescue. “Mr. Zimmern obviously has no respect whatsoever for the animals he eats.” Lainer encourages those who are upset about what they see to write to the Travel Channel and share their opinions.

Is Zimmern educating viewers about these cultures by showcasing them in this way? This is debated. Guinea pig supporter Erika Walther commented, “What Zimmern is doing however, is not educating. He is perpetuating the polarization of cultures by engaging in these “bizarre” eating rituals in a flamboyant and arrogant manner rather than educating the US about these people and trying to encourage us to think about the reasons behind these cultures.”

A clip of the show can be seen on YouTube if you can stomach the scene. We’ll warn you by saying it isn’t easy to watch if you have a pet cavy. Share you opinion of this episode of Bizarre Foods by writing to the Travel Channel and letting them know how you feel. “I do hope people write so that our voices can be heard,” Lainer shares.

Season 1, Episode 3 featuring guinea pigs was originally aired March 12, 2007 but the episode continues to air. The show is now on Season 7 and has been retitled Bizarre Foods America with a focus on food in the United States rather than international travel.

What do you think of Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern? Is it acceptable or did he cross the line? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

If you have a great idea for an article about guinea pigs, please let us know. Guinea Pig Today is a network of guinea pig lovers and we’re always looking for the next great story. View our submissions page for more information on how to submit your idea.

Angela, Editor-in-Chief, GPT

Angela founded Guinea Pig Today and guest writes for CavyMadness. She volunteers with Metropolitan Guinea Pig Rescue and supports the ROUS Foundation. Her guinea pig, Papua, is the star of WHEK-TV/DT.

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4 Responses to “Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Behavior”
  1. Pam says:

    Humans are considered a delicacy in Papua New Guinea. Why doesn’t he go there?

  2. Alena Loiselle says:

    One day, I hope, we will learn to respect the animals some of us choose to eat. People like Zimmern are not making that day come any time soon.

  3. Sally says:

    I watched the video. I suspect some of Zimmern’s callousness was for shock value and to get the guinea pig to yell for the camera. It also may have been to disassociate himself with the animal he was about to eat. It must be harder to eat the meat you’ve just met a couple of hours before than something you bought shrink-wrapped at the grocery store. The natives didn’t handle the pigs as Zimmern did, but even they handled them as livestock, not as beloved pets.

    As for respect for the animal: I’ve heard the horror stories of how we, in the US, process our meat. I’m sure chickens are handled a lot more roughly and with a lot less respect than these guinea pigs were. Many of us are entirely removed from the origins of the meat we eat. If you replaced the guinea pigs in that story with chickens (or better yet, the lobsters he compared them to), I’m sure it wouldn’t be causing the reaction it is.

    All those emails/letters coming in about his handling the guinea pig? — what a joy for the Travel Channel! Ratings! People are watching to see what outrageous and callous thing he’ll do next! They’ll likely pat Zimmern on the back and tell him to keep up the good work.

  4. Kayla says:

    I watched it with remorse but understand that there is a food chain and many different cultures. In the episode the guinea pig was also scruffed as well as rubbed all over someone. If you don’t want to watch, change the channel. Chickens are also pets but many people handle them upside down by the ankles with them flapping in distress. Dogs, cats, rats, birds… All are eaten and handled as food at some point, not always gently as pets.

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