Warning: Confronting images
A Chinese celebrity vlogger has defended a gruesome video showing her eating a bowl of bat soup after it went viral in the wake of the new coronavirus outbreak, causing global outrage.
Wang Mengyun broke her silence on the clip, which has been viewed by millions of people, in a long post to her website after she was inundated with abuse, including death threats, reports news.com.au.
"Sorry everyone, I shouldn't eat bats," Wang began, before launching into examples of the hate mail she has received.
"'You should go to hell. You should be killed in the evening. You're abnormal. You're disgusting. Why haven't you died?' These are the messages I just received today."
Bats have been identified as a possible carrier of 2019-nCov, which was first detected last month in vendors at a wet market selling live and dead exotic fauna in the southern Chinese city of Wuhan.
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Like its deadlier cousins MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome) and SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), the new strain is believed to have jumped from animals to people and then mutated to enable human to human transmission.
So when footage of Wang using chopsticks to tear into the wings of a bat, cooked whole with face and fangs intact, supposedly filmed at "a Wuhan restaurant" found its way online last week, the backlash was swift and severe.
While she doesn't deny the video is real, Wang says it was not filmed in Wuhan — or even China — but in Palau, Micronesia, three years ago as a travel segment for her vlog.
She says the footage was hijacked by "some (social media) accounts sponging off the heat and fanning out malicious panic" as coronaphobia grips the world.
"It's all because, in 2016, when I was screening a tour program in Palau, a South Pacific island, I ate a soup of local people's daily food," she writes.
"Back in May 2016, I didn't know what the virus was at that time. When the video was released I only want to introduce the lifestyle of the local people. I don't know bat will become the host.
"Although it's a local fruit bat, I didn't refer to expert info and fail to clarify the danger before eating the bat … There is not much information about eating wild animals on the internet, so the anger naturally points to (my) 2016 travel program.
"Here are some special points I want to make:
"1. The video was shot in 2016 and released during 2016-2017. Recently it was turned over by some accounts sponging off the heat and fanning out malicious panic.
"2. When shooting the video, I really didn't know there was a virus. I didn't know until recently.
"3. In the video, fruit bats are raised by local people, not wild ones. Many countries around the world eat this. It's a daily dish in many countries, but it's also a bat, can't argue with that."
Since Wang's bat soup clip was recirculated, scores of graphic videos featuring people hoeing into live baby crabs, spurting sea cucumbers, octopuses, frogs, lizards and other creatures as they wriggle helplessly, have made their way online.
On Monday a NSW university student became Australia's fifth confirmed coronavirus case. The outbreak has killed at least 80 people in China and sickened thousands of others, several hundred of whom remain in a serious or critical condition, according to official figures.