German Zoos Said Raided
As Meat Scares Grow
By Imre Karacs In Berlin


What a sad place the little city zoo in Berlin's Kreuzberg district is. Children weep for their missing favourites; Gustav the gander, his wings drooping in sorrow, pines for his harem. All the other geese have vanished in recent days, along with four ducks and seven hens. The staff have eaten them.
Nothing seems sacred any more as Germans, confronted by empty shelves at the supermarkets, go foraging for food. With BSE beef already off the menu, followed by sausages and now pork, filling a German belly is becoming nearly impossible. As hunger grips, no one, not even the dedicated Kreuzberg zoo keepers, will object to a bit of free-range poultry.
Other options are fast running out. Even those still willing to risk steak are finding that restaurants are no longer serving it, while meat counters have at best only a token display of browning beef.
After the first scare in November, shoppers switched to game. Now the consumers are being informed that venison is also dodgy, because deer in German forests are apparently fed on the same kind of bone-meal fodder that has brought BSE to cattle.
Lamb is to be avoided, scientists warn, because of scrapie. Battery chickens come laced with salmonella and occasionally dioxin. Cats and dogs, in case anyone should fancy them, are out because of the low-grade beef they consume.
Other pets, such as hamsters and guinea-pigs, are equally unwholesome because they, too, have been unwittingly munching on the remnants of animal carcasses for years.
That, more or less, leaves fish, largely unknown to German cuisine apart from the roll-mop variety. Fresh fish, in any case, is hard to find.
There was also pork, of course, prepared in hundreds of ingenious ways from the humble fried chop to Helmut Kohl's beloved Saumagen, or stuffed pig's stomach. No German would starve while there was pork around in abundance.
Unfortunately, officials discovered last week that millions of Bavarian pigs have for years been fattened up with the help of illegal drugs, including the sort of anabolic steroids that enabled East German female athletes to swim as fast as men, at the price of growing hair on their chests.
To someone who does not wish to repeat the feat, pork is looking rather unappetising.
It is bad news for most Germans, who would rather die than become vegetarian. What are they supposed to eat? That is the question preoccupying much of the nation's media, with television channels scheduling special programmes every day in search of the elusive answer. But so far, consumers have only learnt from these what they cannot eat, not what they can.
That leaves Alfred Biolek, Germany's best-known TV chef, with the task of educating the masses. Mr Biolek is trying to wean people off their traditional greasy meat and stodgy veg. Viewers learnt the secrets of gnocchi with chanterelle mushrooms last week. They got the recipe for sauerkraut soup a week earlier.
What people can eat is also a political question in certain sensitive areas. For instance, the German parliament's canteen appears to have banned both beef and pork. Its latest offerings include cabbage stew, elk ragout, and organic vegetarian cannelloni.
Beef has also been declared verboten in the armed forces, presumably on the grounds that you cannot have mad soldiers. But too much muscle has never done the troops any harm, so pork is still allowed.
Everyone else must get used to elk, reindeer, ostrich, crocodile and other exotic meats which have recently turned up at the shops, or go hunting. In this frenzy, the sheep in Kreuzberg are probably safe for the moment, but the rabbits had better watch out.
Old Gustav, by the way, survived the zoo keepers' feast because he was thought to be too chewy.
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