Page last updated at 09:54 GMT, Monday, 1 June 2009 10:54 UK

Snake-bite chicken 'off the menu'

Chicken in market, China, awaiting slaughter, Jan 09
Restaurants in China frequently seek exotic ways of preparing dishes

China's health authorities are reported to be putting a stop to restaurants serving chickens which have been bitten to death by poisonous snakes.

The dish, which is served by a small number of restaurants in Guangdong and Chongqing, is billed as detoxing.

But it has generated a storm of controversy in the media and among bloggers after a video of its preparation was circulated online.

The video shows a cook holding a snake and forcing it to bite a live chicken.

A week of intense internet discussion has reached the near-unanimous decision that it is cruel to kill live chickens by forcing deadly snakes to bite them repeatedly.

Some voices noted, however, that they found the cooked dish delicious.

"It's disgusting and really cruel," read one post on the popular portal

"Not only is it cruel and blood-thirsty, but totally amoral," the Chongqing Business Daily cited a neighbour to one of the restaurants as saying.

"Although nobody has been poisoned, this at the very least is an irregular way of slaughtering poultry," the business newspaper quoted a local health official as saying.

According to Reuters news agency, health authorities in Guangdong have already told restaurants to stop serving "poisonous snake-bitten chicken". It said officials in Chongqing had joined the ban.

Restaurants in China have long specialised in exotic dishes which have provoked condemnation from animal rights activists and health watchdogs - such as monkey brains scooped from a live animal, civet cat and deer foetus soup.

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