Gross gimmick? YouTube star eats live tarantula and more to make a point

April 17, 2012 at 5:15 PM ET

YouTube /
Cole prepares to eat a live tarantula.

Don’t let Louis Cole around your pet goldfish. He might eat it. The Londoner started a YouTube channel last May called "Food for Louis," where he films himself eating the kind of things not normally found on most dinner tables. One of his videos, the one he called his “biggest challenge yet” and depicts him eating a live scorpion, hit a million views last week.

He’s also filmed himself eating live locusts and pig eyeballs, which he popped in his mouth like grapes. His specialty, though, seem to be meals that are still alive as he begins to chew them, like the live giant tarantula he ate for his Halloween special last year. His most controversial one yet has been the pet goldfish, which received comments such as, “Ewww! They have diseases,” and, “I'd be too scared to live with Louis in case he decided one day to eat me too."

Cole contends that his videos are an examination of the cultural constructs around food, and that his channel isn't just a quick way to get video views. "I guess I enjoy riling people up a bit and challenging them to the reality that to eat meat, they have to kill an animal," he told Oliver Thring of the U.K. paper The Guardian. And what you think is "gross" might just depend on where you're from. “I've been to lots of developing countries: in South Africa we were in a food market in one of the townships and they were selling cooked sheep's heads," Cole said. "People were cracking them open and eating the brains the way you or I would eat a kebab."

Cole first ate bugs after dares from friends. It began with a rotten apple, then there was a wasp and then a spider. He told The Guardian that most insects and arachnids taste “actually all right,” but cockroaches are another matter. “They’re absolutely vile,” he said.

Both the RSCPA and PETA have slammed Cole for being abusive to animals and unnecessarily cruel. PETA compared him to the James Bulger killers, two ten-year-old boys who killed a two-year-old boy in England in 1993. They suggested that Cole “undergo a thorough psychological evaluation followed by mandatory counseling.”

Cole denies he’s cruel. "I don't want to inflict any pain on these animals," he said, "which is why I try to kill them instantly. On all my videos, every animal dies within five seconds." That’s true. Most of the time the viewer can hear the crunch. And with each of his videos getting hundreds of thousands of views, people are hooked on seeing what else Cole will eat. He does take menu suggestions (which is how he ended up being bitten by live ragworms, which are like centipedes with jaws).

Tell us, are there foods you eat that others think is gross? What's the most exotic thing you’ve eaten? contributor Jillian Eugenios once ate haggis in Scotland and thought that was daring. Apparently not.

More from TODAY Food