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Is Eating Octopus Moral? Alexander Payne Calls on Greeks to Stop Habit

Is eating octopus moral? Credit: Greek Reporter

Acclaimed filmmaker Alexander Payne sparked a heated debate in Greece after recently pronouncing the killing and consumption of octopus to be immoral.

The Greek-American director, who became a Greek citizen in February, said during an interview with the Greek daily Kathimerini:

“There is something I do not understand about the Greeks. How can they eat octopuses?”

He added: “They taste fantastic, but they are some of nature’s most charismatic creatures, with intelligence and grace. So, I do not care where you go for food, as long as the menu does not have an octopus.”

Several animal rights activists and social commentators took to social media in support of Payne, highlighting the fact that octopuses, which have blue blood, three hearts, and a doughnut-shaped brain, possess remarkable intelligence.

It’s a well-known fact that octopuses have eight arms, but few people know that each arm contains its own “mini brain.” The creatures often respond to the world around them by changing color and shape in an effort to defend themselves.

Some even routinely paint, apparently as a way to process the daily stress of dealing with other octopuses.

Now, scientists have proven that the multitalented cephalopods can use tools in a different way, often throwing things at each other when they feel threatened or offended.

“I do not eat octopus and other beings that I respect and admire”

Theodore Georgakopoulos, Director of diANEOsis, an influential non-profit think tank, wrote that he stopped eating octopuses. The creatures, he said, have been on Earth maybe for perhaps 500 million. “In all the mass extinctions of various life forms on our planet, the dinosaurs and 75 [percent] of the species that lived on Earth became extinct. The octopuses are still here,” he wrote.

Georgakopoulos continued: “I’m not vegan, I do not eat very healthy and as a rule, I do not hesitate to try strange or exotic flavors. But somewhere I also put a limit. And it turns out, that my limit is that I can not eat beings that I respect and admire.”

His views found many supporters, including the Minister for Development and Investment Adonis Georgiadis and the spouse of Greek PM Mareva Grabowski-Mitsotaki, who both retweeted the article by Georgakopoulos.

Grilled octopus is the perfect plate to accompany ouzo

Many Greeks, however, regard the octopus as one of the most famous summer mezedes served in Greek fish tavernas.

It is regarded as a perfect accompaniment to ouzo or wine. The most common recipe for octopus in fish taverns is the grilled version, according to which the octopus, which is often fresh, is grilled over charcoal and seasoned with fresh lemon. Grilling is not enough, however, as octopus needs special preparation in order to be tender and properly grilled.

The fisherman traps the octopus and kills it by cutting a nerve between the animal’s eyes. The octopus is then beaten on a rock up to a hundred times to wring out the water. This procedure is very important in order for the meat to be tender upon grilling. If the octopus is grilled immediately with its water, it will steam it into a rubbery mass.

The fresh octopus is then hung for hours on a clothesline to dry in the sun. Usually, the fishermen hang their catch first thing in the morning and do not take it down until the evening. Some people even boil the octopus before grilling it to tenderize it.

In the days before freezers, people would leave the octopus in the sun for many days until it shrunk and then place it in a small carafe. In this way, they stored the food, and the octopus expanded to its original size when cooked.

It should be grilled for thirty to forty-five minutes, depending on how long it was in the sun, and then seasoned with lemon.

After this lengthy process, it’s ready to be enjoyed with ouzo or wine for a traditional, light, sun-infused summer plate!

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