I walked into the food market with a squeamish certainty of what was coming. Under its covered way the first stalls were pungent with roots and powdered spices. Sacks of medicinal tree-bark lay heaped up like firewood, and the air was drowsy with musk. But when I peered closer I saw that several of these piles were desiccated snakes' coiled skeletons and clouded skins - or smaller snakes dried rigid like sticks. I came upon a monkey skeleton, and four bears' paws. There were cellophane bags brimming with dried seahorses, and python skins folded up like linen.
In shallow bins among the fish-stalls, yellow-headed tortoises scrambled over one another's backs - many already overturned and dead - and strings of frogs dangled for sale in pendants of pulsing gullets and legs. The vendors described their wares as "fresh", not "alive". They weighed and dismembered them as if they were vegetables. Throats were cut and limbs amputated at a casual stroke, turtles tossed about like small change.
Then I entered an arena resembling other countries' pet shops - but here it was a butcher's. From its banked cages rose the piping wails of hundreds of cats and kittens - mere scaffolds of fur-covered bones ... Customers bought several at a time, the meat on them was so scant. They were weighed in mewing sacks and lugged away. My revulsion, I knew, was hypocritical. When I passed the huddled quails and pheasants I felt nearly nothing, but the thrushes seemed pitiful and the tiered death-cells of the dulled and hopeless mammals angered me. The only dogs I saw had already been killed and skinned, but six or seven raccoons lay with their heads buried in their legs, one still hopelessly suckling its young.
Literally Lost 58: The book was Goethe's 'Italian Journey'. The action took place in the Bay of Naples. The winner is Mrs Somerville of London SE5.Reuse content