Care for some live fish shooters? It's a Flemish custom that's drawing ire from animal rights activists.
Take a close look at the photo, those are live grondeling in a saucer of red wine about to get slurped by the man at the left with the classic sideburns. And note the druid in the background, watching intently. This is not your father's fraternity party. It's actually an interesting pagan-derived, church-sponsored ritual with origins deep in the mists of the region's history, perhaps derived from ancient Celtic traditions.
There's been a serious fight over the drinking of live fish, including litigation and a temporary halt in 2001. And in Geraardsbergen, the tradition predates the foundation of Belgium, which was established only in the 19th century. "Belgium is a creation from 1830," a spokesperson said, "Geraardsbergen was founded in 1068, and people are a lot more interested in what their forefathers did than in Belgium."
The fish are important bystanders in the practice, which may be no more cruel to the little groundeling than what would happen if they were eaten by predatory fish.