"Don't let them eat steak!" Will China ban barbecues?

The latest proposal to deal with the country's appalling air quality has sparked a heated debate

22 Feb 2013, 09:56

People, it's time to get serious. As we've all learnt from in-no-way-exploitative shows such as Intervention, Jeremy Kyle, and... er... The Simpsons, the first step in solving any problem is admitting its existence.

So kudos to China for having the cojones to tackle the smog that has choked its cities in recent times, forcing residents to don facemasks or simply stay inside while what has been termed "Airmageddon" or the "Airpocalypse" gets on with reducing traffic to a standstill.

Authorities have already tried restricting the number of cars on the roads, scrapping old vehicles, and even asking its denizens to forgo setting off firecrackers around Chinese New Year.

And when this hasn't had the desired effect, they've sensibly moved on to what is clearly the next biggest offender in the air quality stakes – steaks. And lamb skewers. And, well, anything else you might find on a grill. Yes, the Chinese right to barbecue is going up in smoke.

State media reports that China's environmental watchdog has drawn up draft guidance that "advises major cities to adopt legislation banning barbecue-related activities", encouraging the public to reduce energy consumption when cooking, prepare food using less smoke, and – again – set off fewer firecrackers.

Needless to say, it's not an idea China's food-loving citizens have taken to with relish. In fact, they reckon it's a bun deal.

"This is hilarious. What are they going to consider next? Banning fried food?" AFP quoted one user of Weibo, China's version of Twitter, as saying.

"What proportion of pollution comes from barbeques?" said another. "I wonder when the government will start banning breaking wind." Presumably, providing China's famously laugh-a-minute authorities with the next target on their air pollution hit list.

To the Tank's knowledge, Malawi has already tried a flatulence ban – with admittedly sketchy results. Beijing could now be next.

Obviously unremitted construction and a vast fleet of coal plants might be more obvious culprits, but we rather admire China's "don't let them eat steak" attitude – after all, the upside is it might spell an end to those "hilarious" naked aprons.

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