The Daily Beast recently wrote an article about the mythic Asian machismo associated with drinking spirits containing tiger bones. Like many other superstitions of acquiring the two-dimensional, symbolic strengths of animals by consuming their horns, penises, flesh and bones – the black market in tiger bones exists as a luxury status symbol to many successful men in China who believe that these body-parts have medicinal, if not magical powers. In what is perhaps the most revealing quote from Li, a businessman who both drinks and distills the illegal drink, he states:
“If I ever had to face that thing,” Li Wen said as he pointed to the tiger bone steeping in his vat of rice wine, “it would kill me. But now it’s in a jar, like I tamed it.” He believes that consuming the spirit on a regular basis gives him the strength of a tiger and the senses of a predator. “I’m a better businessman because of it.” – The Daily Beast
Animals typically appear in this context as empty vessels without their own perspectives – to be filled with anthropocentric meaning, caricatures that represent one or two unwavering quality – one of which is almost always virility. But no, tiger bones will not help your boner. I have difficulty with medical practitioners and the faithfully-superstitious who use animals without acknowledging the scientific reality that these animals have their own complex inner lives that have nothing to do with the meaning assigned to them, the meaning we are all asked to accept as self-evident. Tigers represent ruthless power, nothing more, and so can you! This is a form of our own power, perhaps, but also a source of our dysfunctional relationship with nature and animals in general, and ultimately a sign of our unwillingness to validate the non-human world or to venture out of our own, selfish heads.
Tigers have it rough in China. In 1959, as part of the Great Leap Forward, Mao Zedong waged a public campaign in an attempt to eradicate the South China Tiger, as he considered the species “an enemy of man.” More recently, at a CITES meeting held in Geneva—CITES stands for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora—a Chinese delegate said, “We don’t ban trade in tiger skins but we do ban trade in tiger bones.” It was the first time that a Chinese public official acknowledged the existence of the tiger pelt trade within the country. The official ban on tiger bone sales has been in place since 1993—but why does the Chinese government see a difference between killing endangered animals for their skins and killing them for their bones? – The Daily Beast