Truly disgusting story from China

Maybe if enough other people read this extract from a Spectator article my feelings of nausea will somehow be dissipated. Worth a try.

*"…Excrement collection in China is a daily routine. The contents of your potty end up on a cart, the cart goes out to the fields, and the poo ends up on the veg. Human manure is keeping the nation’s 400 million smallholders in fertiliser as it has done since time out of mind. In Beijing’s … ancient alleyways, they now use motorised shit-tankers with glass-dial indicators. You know the container is full when the glass goes brown.

The nightsoil collectors are, or were, true heroes of the collective… …One celebrated nightsoil man…became a hero of the Cultural Revolution. He was a connoisseur of nightsoil. This old man (according to the former China correspondent, James Harding) said that the best nightsoil came from the richer meat-eating districts, the poorest from the workers’ communities where the diet was just rice porridge. How could he tell? By dipping his finger in and dabbing his tongue: the saltier it was, the better the quality…" *

[churning-stomach smiley]

Are you grossed out by the night soil man or the poo ends up on the veg.
If the former, then what do you think happened before flushing toilets?
If the latter, is there really a difference between human poo and other animal manure?

Nonsense. For one thing, the meat-eaters’ feces would breed disease which would kill, or sicken, crops and the consumers of those crops. (Feces and gas only stink when they come from an animal that’s been eating animal fats; think of the pleasant smell of horses.)

This is why vegetable gardeners are warned not to toss dog or cat excrement into their compost heaps; because dog and cat food is made from animal products, it will breed germs and disease, and you don’t want to eat anything that’s been fertilized with it.

Also, as noted parenthetically above, it’s very easy to tell without tasting what kind of diet someone has. Just follow your nose.

And yes, I realize that there’s some kind of contradiction in the meat-eater/vegetarian dichotomy, since eventually everything is based on plant-eaters. Actually, to take that a step or two further, everything is based on photosynthesis. But apparently there’s a big difference when the plant has already been eaten and converted to meat and fat. You see what I’m saying.

Ahhh, those inscrutable Chinese…

Composted human manure is perfectly acceptable and not bad-smelling and has been used in the U.S. for years.

Tasting the raw stuff, however… {shudder}

“Nonsense” as in you don’t believe it happens, or “nonsense” as in you believe it’s a nonsensical thing to do?

“Nonsense” as in I don’t believe the article. I’ve lived in Asia, and I lived with a Chinese family (in the US) for about five years, and they are extremely hygienic, civilized people. Granted, conditions in rural China are not the same as here, but (a) I believe their sense of hygiene is strong enough that no one would taste human waste, and (b) with 5,000 years of recorded history, I believe they have figured out by now how to tell by smell what people eat. It’s not hard; this round-eye picked up on it pretty quick.

Oh yeah, and © this guy who tastes it, if he’s been doing it more than a few weeks, would certainly have gotten sick from it by now. No offense to The Spectator, but they’ve been duped. (And I have not checked out the original article, but I’ll trust our OP that the story ran as quoted.)

Mmm, nothing like the sweet smell of horse shit in the morning!

Ahh, those crazy Americans… :wink:

It is my understanding that the Japanese used human manure for centuries. But their diet was mostly vegitarian with a little fish, so maybe that made the difference. Anyway, where do you think manure came from before cattle were raised for beef? Not meaning to start a fight or anything. Just askin’.

I think you’re projecting your own (Western, and slightly patronizing?) ideas of “hygenic” and “civilized” onto a culture that you might not understand quite as well as you think you do. I found hundreds of pages on nightsoil in China after doing a brief Google search, including this delightful page o’ pictures

Understatement of the year. :rolleyes:

Nightsoil is standard operating procedure throughout China, and much of Asia.

Tasting the nightsoil is complete and utter bullshit. Maybe just maybe there is someone that likes to eat shit and they happen to work as a night soil collector, but this is no way no how any kind of general practice. File it under one of those tall tales that sound “realistic” only because it takes place in China.

Having spent 3 years in the countryside during the 1980’s, I can attest that some of the toilets are truly foul, but a lot has changed since then. This reporter is trying for some sensationalization. Also tales of self sacrifice reported during or attributed to the cultural revolution should always be taken with a giant grain of salt.

While I would agree as regards horse manure, if you don’t think horse farts stink well, then you’ve never stood behind one.

Exactly. Like Lei Feng washing his comrades’ socks. Remember such Cultural Revolution-era songs as “The Nightsoil Collectors are Coming Down the Mountain” (quite a rousing ditty, in its way).

Did a Google search on James Harding and found no evidence of a reporter of that name in or around China at that time.

Still, you’ve got to hand it to whoever thought this stuff up - 10 out of 10 for memorable imagery - “…dipping his finger in and dabbing his tongue…”

Enjoy your lunch!

I don’t buy that ‘meat eaters’ feces will breed bacteria that will kill or sicken the plants and those who eat the plants.

First off, Dogs and Cats that are domestic are no longer ‘meat-eaters’. The dry animal chow we feed our pets is something like 80% rice or some other carbohydrate with processed protein and other crap. That’s a far cry from a natural diet of whatever creature they can eat. While I can imagine a disease being passed from animal to animal (by eating) then to plant (by crapping on the plant) then to human (by eating the plant). If you cut out the first step I don’t think there would be a problem.

Second, a lot of livestock are raised on feed that contains animal productes. Remember the BSE scare?

Third, shit is… well undigested foodstuffs. It’s been digested, most of the viruses and bacteria are already dead. Stomach Acid is nasty stuff to living organisms. So what you’re left with is the bacteria in the intestine. This is the good bacteria that breaks down food even farther… ya know bacteria that doesn’t make us sick. So I’d imagine that human feces would contain the E.Coli that doesn’t harm us, and would have a very small likelyhood of hurting other humans. When you change species I’d imagine that would increase, the whole improper host-pathogen issue.

Fourth, disease causing organisms live in O R G A N I S M S. E.coli doesn’t live on grass, or at least won’t for long and it won’t be doing to well. Feces could have either viral particles in it, or bacteria. And virus in feces used as fertalizer won’t last very long. Maybe in the order of hours before it’s totally broken down by light, temperature and tonicity. Also, the virus would be a human or animal virus, which poses little threat to humans and no theat to plants. The bacteria issue… They will live longer, and some bacteria can spore, but sporing bacteria generally don’t live in the gut of animals unless they are quite sick. Again, time spent outside their natural replicating enviroments will reduce bacterial populations. Throw in rain (while will dilute out the population) and I don’t see a problem.

But then again, I don’t farm.

And FYI horse shit stinks to high hell!

Gee, CRorex, haven’t you ever heard of cholera, or hepatitis?

That shit be nasty.


I’ve lived and travelled in Asia for 7 years. In Indonesia, China, Vietnam and Thailand in the rural areas, the toilet is often a wooden construction on stilts that is positioned over the rice fields (it used to be in Japan before the '70s and wealth). The human waste just goes directly onto the rice plants. In the cities, why wouldn’t the collected waste be put onto crops? Dunno about tasting it, but can’t see why they wouldn’t - stranger things happen.

Anyone who’s picked enough stalls can tell you that horseshit can be as disgusting as any other kind, meat eater or not. My horses got grass hay, a little alfalfa, COB mixture as a treat once in a while, no meat or by-products whatsoever and I promise you, at times it was the worst smelling shit I ever stepped in…

I heard a story about how some friends of my parents went to have dinner at some other friends’ house, and in the salad they had really plump and tasty tomatoes, which the hosts proclaimed that they had found and picked themselves.

Where did they pick them?

On the banks of a holding tank at a sewage treatment plant. And you know how the tomato seeds got there . . . and you know why they grew so big . . .

Can we get a cite for jackelope’s claim that fertilizing with meat-eater’s shit will cause disease but fertilizing with herbivore shit (presumably this includes vegan human shit) will not?