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YouTuber slammed for eating live octopuses in ASMR Mukbang videos: 'She clearly loves torturing animals'

The YouTuber called Ssoyoung has sparked outrage with her videos where she eats the animals alive, even as viewers can see them writhing on her cutting board, or even around her mouth
(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

A South Korean YouTuber called Ssoyoung has sparked outrage with her ASMR Mukbang videos. The YouTuber who has approximately 3.44 million subscribers has come under fire for her graphic videos where she eats squids and octopuses alive, even as viewers can see them writhing on her cutting board, or even around her mouth.

Among the many in the YouTube community who have called Ssoyoung out is Ethan Klein of H3H3Productions. Klein said in his April 8 video, “Ssoyoung’s Mukbang knows no limits. She eats her victims alive… Writhing in pain, headfirst into the demonic abyss of her mouth,” while showing clips of her eating live octopuses.

“I think she knows that if she wasn't acting at least a little squeamish and nervous about it, then she would be seen as a total sociopath,” Klein said. “But she clearly loves torturing animals. No question about it.”

Is Klein, and all the others, right to pass judgment on her? To understand that, we have to understand what Mukbang is. Mukbang (pronounced "mook-bong"), per Today, translates to “eating broadcast” in South Korea.

The explainer added that a big part of the mukbanging experience is the potential ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) component. Mukbangers have become a huge part of the YouTube ecosystem in the last few years. And with the increase in mukbangers across the world, some are bound to get a little more creative, aren’t they?

Which brings us to the next aspect of the outrage: eating squids and octopuses alive. The consumption of seafood, alive, is a tradition in many Asian countries. From China to Japan to South Korea, each country’s cuisine has elements that involve this. To Americans, it may seem odd, and even cruel. But in these countries, it’s a practice that has long existed.

The central theme of the controversy around Ssoyoung’s videos is thus not new.

In a 2015 report on Vice titled ‘How An Octopus Feels When It's Eaten Alive’, Hilary Pollack wrote: “The designations of welfare, cruelty, and simple squeamishness are not always clear-cut -- especially in issues surrounding the types of animals that we don't hold particularly near and dear. Why is it that we almost universally condemn leaving a dog out in the rain or kicking a cat, but haven't yet decided whether slowly dismembering a sea creature is truly disagreeable?”

The issue of cruelty versus tradition, however, isn’t the only thing. There is also the matter of physical safety. In April 2010, a South Korean woman collapsed and stopped breathing after eating a live octopus. She was taken to hospital but died 16 days later.

The hazard of choking on a live octopus’ tentacle, or even those of a cut one -- nerve activity in the tentacles make the pieces move posthumously -- is real. Nutritionist Jenny Tschiesche told Insider last year, “It's not recommended. There's a choking hazard predominantly from the suckers getting stuck to the inside of the throat, leading to the octopus causing an obstruction.”

“As far as the risk of food poisoning goes, an octopus is not at the top of the list for seafood,” added Tschiesche. “It's quite a low risk and perhaps this is why it is a Korean practice to eat it raw.”

But at the end of the day, it's still a debate on cruelty. Cephalopod expert Jennifer Mather, a professor of psychology at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta and author of numerous studies on octopus and cephalopod sentience, spoke to Vice's Pollack about this. Mather said, "It's probable that the octopus's reaction to pain is similar to a vertebrate."

Mather added, "My thought is that if you had a whole octopus and tried to eat it, it would be a completely repellant situation because the octopus would try to climb out. I find it difficult to have any sympathy for people who choke on a live animal that they're eating piece by piece."