Tesco Tortures Turtles
Viva!'s Response to Tesco's Standard Letter
If you have contacted Tesco to voice your concern about them
selling live turtles in China at their stores the chances are that
you will have received a standard response from them. It is vital
that we keep the pressure on them, and responding to this letter is
a great way to do this.
If you have any questions about this campaign contact Justin or Oriel on 0117 944 1000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Below we have put Tesco's response (in bold) and we have
systematically picked it apart. Tesco are hiding behind hyperbole
and half truths, please help us make sure they don't get away with
(see overleaf for ways to contact Tesco).
We appreciate you are concerned about the animal welfare issues
associated with the sale of turtles in China. So are we. That's why
we commissioned independent research, considered the available
academic evidence and have been in dialogue with the animal welfare
charity Care for the Wild so that we can make progress on a sound
As a result, we have made several significant improvements to the
way turtles are sold in our stores.
. the reasons that Tesco commissioned research was because people
like you have put pressure on them. If there had been no
intervention from groups including Viva!, consumer pressure or press
interest into what Tesco are doing to turtles in China it is
unlikely that the situation would have changed.
Tesco no longer sell red-eared sliders because they now agree that
this type of turtle cannot be killed humanely for human consumption.
However, they are still selling the Chinese soft-shell turtle. This
is despite the growing evidence that this type of turtle is equally
difficult to kill humanely. Leading turtle expert Clifford Warwick
told us that: ". Tesco are way off the mark with their
ill-informed conclusion re soft-shelled turtles that: '...these
turtles keep their heads out of the shell and can be beheaded
easily...'. Not only is it not a simple matter to decapitate these
turtles when their head is extended (because they are highly mobile,
fast and elastic movers - often causing bit of the head to be
chopped off) but also they commonly keep their head in, which they
are very capable of doing! Further, crushing the hard skull is
itself notoriously unpredictable. Added to that is the fact that
even a few seconds for a decapitated head is a long time even if it
were crushed completely and fairly quickly. Fish houses (which often
handle turtles) in the US have many accounts of the problems with
Tesco are still using decapitation without pre-stunning (a method
they could not use in this country). It is well known that, because
of their slow metabolism, a turtle's head can be conscious and
suffering for up to an hour after it is separated from the body.
Previously, in Tesco stores in China the turtle's decapitated head
would be allowed to suffer in agony in a bucket where it was
discarded until he eventually died. Tesco have now admitted that
this is unacceptable. However, incredibly their 'answer' to this
problem is now to hit the decapitated head with a hammer until the
animal is dead. As Clifford's statement shows, not only is a 'clean'
decapitation questionable, but also the hard skull and relatively
small size of the animal's head make this method literally hit or
We are also developing a public awareness campaign to help
consumers understand animal welfare and to provide advice on the
best treatment of live turtles where customers choose to take them
Can you imagine the outcry if Tesco started selling live animals for
customers to take home to kill in any way they pleased in this
country? Whilst we welcome any efforts to promote animal welfare
this is very much a half measure. Currently turtles are commonly
killed by being boiled alive or having their shells prized open and
their organs removed whilst they are still alive and conscious.
There is no guarantee that Tesco customers in China will follow
advice, and as already noted there are no humane ways to kill a
turtle for human consumption. Subsequently, every turtle sold by
Tesco in China will in all likelihood suffer a prolonged and
agonising death. Tesco cannot wash its hands that easily.
This approach to animal welfare and the sale of live turtles,
commissioning research, acting on it and educating customers, is
unprecedented by any retailer operating in China and we hope that
these actions will help to drive up standards throughout the supply
Whilst we're all for driving up standards, Tesco are operating well
below the standards they operate by in the UK (and as most people
know, farmed animals here routinely suffer appalling condition, on
intensive farms). As Tesco's profits are coming back to their
shareholders in the UK they should operate to the very minimum
British standards in their enterprises abroad.
Some organisations such as Care for the Wild and VIVA are now
asking us to stop selling live turtles completely and you may agree
with this demand. While we are committed to upholding the very
important issue of animal welfare, we also need to balance different
cultural attitudes, in this case respecting the different
traditions, expectations and values on this issue that exists in
Turtles are a popular and traditional part of the Chinese diet and
having addressed some important animal welfare concerns, we
currently continue to sell live turtles in our stores in China.
Tesco try and make out that turtles are widely eaten in China.
Actually, only two per cent of the entire Chinese population will
buy a single turtle in a year. Clearly turtles are not eaten as
widely as Tesco would have us believe. What is of concern, of
course, is the fact that research has shown that wild turtle
populations are in crisis. Tesco claim to farm (or ranch) turtles,
but these farms are regularly supplemented with wild caught turtles
to replenish breeding stock. This puts pressure on wild caught
As we have seen in the UK, supermarkets operate a 'pile them high -
sell them cheap' policy. By Tesco selling live turtles in China it
is not responding to a demand, rather it is creating one. It is this
promoting the 'popularity' of turtles that may drive them further
into a crisis that they cannot recover from. The only ethical thing
Tesco can do is withdraw from this trade and shame the other Western
companies (USA's Wal-Mart and France's Carrefour) into following
Complain to Tesco: Consumer power works, so let's use it!
Freephone: 0800 505 555
Write: Philip Clarke (Group Chief Executive), Tesco, Tesco House,
PO Box 44, Delamare Road, Cheshunt, Herts EN8 9SL
Click here for the 1-click campaigner
e-card to Tesco.
"Wild animals sold by Tesco are
captured, tortured and slaughtered
in the most horrible ways imaginable.
Clearly, every little hurts."
Hayley Mills, Viva! patron and star of ITV’s Wild at Heart
"Already threatened by habitat destruction and pollution, turtles now
have an unlikely but formidable foe - Tesco. It is unacceptable to allow
an animal to suffer in this manner. It is also hypocritical for a
British supermarket to sanction this kind of slaughter when Tesco's
would not allow animals to be killed in such an inhumane way in Britain."
Sanjida O'Connell, presenter of BBC's Nature's Calendar