Animal rights activists are outraged after learning about a religious festival in a town south of Lima, Peru called La Quebrada which involves cats being barbecued and eaten.
The festival, which is called Santa Efigenia, also includes cat racing, fireworks, dancing, drinking and other activities.
Each year, Peruvians who trace their ancestry back to African slaves travel to the town to honor a black saint named Santa Efigenia, who was well-revered among that population.
The ceremonies of the festival are quite elaborate, with the devotees singing joyful Afro-Peruvian songs, as well as more solemn Roman Catholic hymns, as they proceed through the streets of the town. Following the march into town, a young boy stands next to a bier which holds a statue of Santa Efigenia and recites verses about the arrival of slaves from far-0ff lands like “Angola, Mozambique and Timbuktu,” who came to work in the sugar cane fields of the region. And, girls dressed in brightly-colored dresses form groups and dance to the beat of a donkey jawbone striking a wooden box.
But, of course, it’s the fact that cats are being barbecued and eaten at the Peruvian Festival which is causing concern.
Each year, food stalls are set up for a special feast called, in English, The Gastronomic Festival of the Cat. For this feast, cats which have been bred just for this occasion are cooked into a variety of Peruvian dishes – such as a spicy stew or grilled with herbs – for the festival-goers to eat. Those who have consumed the meat say it is quite delicious, tasting more like rabbit than chicken. It is also claimed by the Peruvians to have powers as an aphrodesiac.
Congressman Juan Urquiza and animals rights activists are calling for a halt on the feline feasting, citing concerns about public health and animal welfare. And, while the Health Minister, Midori de Habich, has expressed a desire to stop the activities, nothing has been done so far.
The residents are defensive of their annual tradition, saying that the cats are specially bred for the occasion and only a handful are killed. Animal activists place the figure at over a 100 animals, however.
While consuming cat flesh is considered to be taboo in many parts of the world, it is not necessarily dangerous to eat it, experts say. Unless the animals carries a disease, there should be no risk involved in eating it. In fact, in some cultures, such as certain areas in Asia and South America, it has historically been considered to be perfectly acceptable food.
Although those objecting to cats being eaten at the festival did cite health concerns, it does not appear that there have actually been any incidents of residents becoming ill from consuming the meat.
A Spanish-language report about the festival can be found below; but, if you are a cat lover, you may want to refrain from watching. It contains graphic images of cats being barbecued and eaten at the Peruvian festival.