About the Tesco Tortures Turtles campaign | Viva! - The Vegan Charity

About the Tesco Tortures Turtles campaign

Please note: Tesco have now stopped selling live turtles in their stores in China! Please see here for more on this victory. The information below is for archive purposes only.

Tesco tortures turtles

They saw the dinosaurs come and go but turtles now face the greatest threat in their 210 million years existence. Wild populations of red-eared terrapins and the Chinese soft-shelled turtles are under threat because some people eat them.


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They saw the dinosaurs come and go but turtles now face the greatest threat in their 210 million years existence. Wild populations of red-eared terrapins and the Chinese soft-shelled turtles are under threat because some people eat them.

Tesco tortures turtles
Turtles in the wild love exploring and have a zest for life!

What is Tesco doing?

When Tesco bought the Hymall chain of 39 supermarkets in China it continued the store’s policy of selling live turtles. Its sales assistants kill them to order or sell them live for their customers to butcher any way they choose.

Within weeks of Viva! announcing our Day of Action on July 14, Tesco have withdrawn red-eared terrapins because they now agree that a "humane killing method cannot be achieved". Hardly a co-incidence! However, Tesco appear to be adamant that they will continue to sell Chinese soft-shelled turtles despite many of the same problems existing. Also, it is reasonable to assume that they will now be selling more soft-shell turtles to make up for it. This isn't progress - it's more like moving the goal posts.

This is how Tesco kill them

Whilst Tesco are no longer selling red-eared terrapins, we still have very great concerns about the way that Chinese soft-shell turtles are killed. Tesco has announced that they will still be decapitated (without pre stunning), the head will then be crushed (possibly using a hammer). One of our greatest concerns about this trade was that, because of their slow metabolism, a turtle's decapitated head could survive (and be conscious and in pain) for up to an hour after slaughter. 

People in China can take turtles home to kill them any way they want
Decapitated alive in store or sold to customer to be taken home to be butchered any way they choose

This amended slaughter method is not only horrific, but it is also possibly imprecise - meaning that a turtle may be hit repeatedly before being finally killed. This is not the answer. The only way Tesco can wash the blood of these turtles off their hands is to take the one and only ethical choice there is: walk away from the trade in live animals in China.

Previously, with red-eared terrapins, if they could persuade the turtle to pop his head out of his shell, they chopped it off. If he wouldn't, they would smash open the shell to get at it. Once severed, the head can live for up to an hour.

The live turtles people take away may also be boiled alive, have their shells sliced off and organs and fat cut out leaving the animal still alive and in agony. Tesco have told us that they may start a "customer awareness campaign" for turtles taken home alive from store. This is a half-hearted measure - and one which will leave turtles at significant risk of suffering at the hands of those with no experience of slaughter.

Turtles in bags
No more exploring for these little turtles at a Tesco/Hymall store in China

How do Tesco excuse their actions?

They say: “Animals are killed immediately to minimise the risk of suffering.”

No they’re not. Experts agree - it is almost impossible to kill a small turtle painlessly because of its slow metabolism and ability to live on very little oxygen. As detailed above, crushing of the head may be an imprecise way of killing a turtle, which may take several excruciating attempts to succeed.

They say: “We comply with all the standards set in China.”

That’s easy – there are no welfare standards.

They say: “They are not caught in the wild and are sourced in a sustainable way.”

This makes the barbarity acceptable? Experts maintain that most turtles sold are wild caught and merely ‘laundered’ through turtle farms. Between 1996 and 2000, 25 million turtles were exported to China from the US - most were wild caught and many were bought by turtle farms. A further 12 million wild turtles are caught for the food trade every year in China.

Tesco know the situation because some of the biggest wildlife organisations have told them – WWF, WSPA, Wildlife Conservation Union, World Conservation Union, Traffic International, Care for the Wild and the Tortoise Trust. They’ve chosen to ignore them all.

They say: “It would be wrong to impose our values on other countries.”

So presumably we can look forward to Tesco Rwanda selling gorilla and chimpanzee bush meat?

Viva! agrees with the Tortoise Trust when it says: “We find Tesco’s attitude ethically repugnant and morally bankrupt.”

Please help the Tesco turtles. Consumer pressure really does make a difference. We have the materials - posters and leaflets- we just need you! Tesco Metros (usually in town centres) make an ideal place for an effective, peaceful demo. In just a couple of hours, you can put pressure on Tesco to end this trade – and spread the veggie/vegan message. Leaflets aren't suitable for door-dropping (nor for giving to young children), but please take some to give to friends, family, school or workmates.

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Contact Tesco

Read about our Day of Action Against Tesco

If you have any questions about this campaign contact Justin on 0117 944 1000 or email justin@viva.org.uk.