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Japan TV Broadcast Angers Viewers

July 10, 1998

TOKYO (AP) _ A Japanese television network provoked angry protests from animal lovers after it aired a gourmet-food program featuring a controversial dish: stir-fried Bengal tiger, Cantonese-style.

The endangered animal was served up to Japanese television stars at a restaurant in Shanghai, China, in a segment of Fuji Television’s ``World Gourmet Trip,″ which was broadcast Thursday night.

The Worldwide Fund for Nature, an international conservation group, called Fuji to note that trade in Bengal Tigers is barred under the 142-nation Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

``The program shows absolutely no recognition of efforts to save the Bengal tiger from extinction,″ Sakiko Takada, a fund spokeswoman in Tokyo, told The Associated Press today.

Between 3,030 and 4,730 Bengal tigers live in the wild, according to the group’s statistics.

Other viewers called the network to protest, saying the program was ``in bad taste.″

But Fuji defended it, saying the tiger had not been killed especially for the program. The network also said the animal had died a year ago in a Chinese zoo and was preserved in the restaurant’s freezer.

``We don’t believe this program violated (the international convention),″ Fuji said in a terse statement.

But it did make a concession to the sensibilities of the protesters, adding: ``We will be careful to consider the feelings of animal lovers in the future.″

Fuji spokesman Seitaro Murao explained that Bengal tiger isn’t on the featured restaurant’s menu. Customers, he said, can request it if the establishment happens to have the meat in stock.

``World Gourmet Trip″ is one of many food and travel programs on Japanese television, in which celebrities go to exotic locations and sample unusual local delicacies.

After the tiger dish was served on Thursday’s program, the Japanese diners were impressed with the exotic cuisine, with one remarking: ``Today’s food was delicious!″

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