Rat meat is selling like hot cakes in certain pockets in southern India.
There is a growing demand for the new delicacy hamlets in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry. Villagers swear nothing tastes better.
That is a new phenomenon for the country. Still the consumption is confined to the poorer sections of the society. Rat meat comes cheap, at Rs 2.50 per rat, it should be remembered.
Baskar (29) hailing from Melazhunjipettu, Cuddalore district in Tamil Nadu, is hooked to the new found delicacy. "It (rat meat) tastes so good. I think those who taste it once will start eating it regularly. All our family members eat rat meat now," he said.
Competing with the villagers are the arrack and toddy shop owners. The potent brew and cheap meat are a big hit among villagers.
The paddy fields are the tribals' hunting ground. Snake-hunting Irula tribals, desperate to peddle their rodent-snaring skills, have succeeded in getting the meat on the kitchen menu of villages in Cuddalore district and the Puducherry Union Territory. The trend could catch on elsewhere too, reports Bosco Dominique in Times of India.
Each tribal hunter catches about 15 rats a day from the fields and divide their catch among villagers, arrack and toddy shop owners and save a few to take back home.
Said a young Irula tribal, Sakthivel, hailing from Cuddalore district: "Rat meat is one of the important food items of the Irulas. But other villagers too have acquired a taste for it and demand has gone up.'' Several Irulas settled in T N Palayam on the outskirts of the Union Territory eke out a living by selling rats to the villagers.
"The meat tastes even better than chicken. The tribals are the only source for it and we are grateful. But, they should understand our love for it and the growing demand here and should go in for large scale hunting of rats," Viswanathan, one of villagers said.
Confirming the growing demand, Raje (45), another tribal settled in the region, said his day's catch of rats would be sold out in a trice. But catching a rat is a laborious task. "The hunters use a pot to blow smoke into a rat hole and wait for long hours to force them out of hiding and then catch them alive," said Sakthivel.
According to dieticians, rat meat is protein rich. Several international research institutes, which have studied rat meat, vouch for it.