The Battle of the Turtle Eggs - Feminists versus Naturalists

This story was reported in Zhejiang News Net.  For the purpose of reporting this story, a group of reporters went to a restaurant in Heilongjiang province.  What is the specialty here?  Look at the entrance, and you then have one guess.  As much as the Chinese are renowned to eat anything with four legs (except tables) or has wings (except airplanes) or swims under water (except submarines), not many of them have tasted tiger meat.  The tiger is an endangered species and the People's Republic of China has provisions against illegal hunting and killing of endangered species.  However, this would not be sufficient to deter the most enterprising ones.

The reporters spoke to the young hostess and asked about tiget meat.  She said that tiger meat was available at 800 RMB per plate, non-negotiable.

The reporter said, "The other restaurant only asked for 600 RMB.  Why is yours so expensive?"

"Would you eat something that's 600 RMB?" she said.  "Can they really get tiger meat?  They are all liars."  To convince the reporters, the hostess said, "I can guarantee that it is real.  You can take some for testing."

The reporters sat down at the table and they asked the server: "How come your restaurant can get real tiger meat, but others can't?  How do we know that your tiger meat is real?"

"Of course, we have connections.  Our boss has good connections with the director of the tiger farm.  The director will only supply us."

Then the server brought up the featured main dish -- she said, "Mountain cat meat."


One reporter pretended not to understand, "Didn't you say tiger meat?"

The server said, "We do not name the dish this way."

"If you don't tell us what this is, then how do we know that we are paying for the right thing?"

Seeing how upset the reporter was, the server said quickly: "This dish comes from the tigers in the tiger yard. ..."

The reporters did not try the dish.

Was it really tiger meat?  The locals differ in their opinions.  Some insider said, "All the tiger meat are fake.  They use beef that has been soaked in tiger urine."  Someone else swore that, "It is real.  It is definitely real.  I have asked a trustworthy person to get it for me."

Our reporter took a piece of uncooked tiger meat to the Life Sciences Department at the Northeastern Agricultural University and ask for verification.  However, the department did not have genetic data on the Northeastern tiger to conduct any comparisons.

Anyway, this is not even the main purpose of this post.  Instead, we will ask just what the Chinese might have problem eating.  Hmmm ... how about turtle eggs?  Why is that?  In Chinese, the term 'turtle egg' (龜蛋 or 王八蛋) is a term of insult meaning something like a cuckold, so it is unlikely that you will find this item on the menu of a Chinese restaurant.  If you go into a restaurant and ask for it, the workers may think that you want to pick a fight.

At this point, we switch over to the other side of the world -- Mexico.  There, some people love to eat turtle eggs.

(New York Times)  Turtle Eggs, Sex and Flirty Ads, Fixings of a Mexican Stew.  By James C. McKinley Jr.  August 25, 2005.

Women in scanty dress are used to sell everything from cars to cigars in Mexico, but the efforts of environmentalists to harness one model's sex appeal to stop men from eating turtle eggs as an aphrodisiac have created a stir here.  The advertising campaign features a buxom Argentine model in a swimsuit giving the camera her loveliest come-hither look. Next to her are the words "My man doesn't need turtle eggs." The caption below reads, "Because he knows they don't make him more potent."

The environmentalists behind the campaign say they are trying to reach men who buy turtle eggs from street vendors for a dollar and eat them raw with lime and a pinch of salt in the belief they are a natural form of Viagra.  "We said, 'Let's have a sexy girl saying that the man I choose doesn't need sea turtle eggs,' " said Fay Crevoshay, the communications director for Wildcoast, a San Diego-based environmental group. "This is what I call target marketing. We are talking to a certain type of man that will look at this and will get the message."


Every year, hundreds of thousands of turtles haul themselves ashore to lay their eggs on Mexico's Pacific beaches. Many fall prey to poachers who kill them for meat and steal eggs from the corpses to sell as aphrodisiacs. Other poachers raid the turtles' sandy nests to get eggs.  In recent years, the olive ridley turtle has been making a comeback, mostly because armed federal agents and marines guard its nesting grounds in the state of Oaxaca. It has been a different story, however, in the state of Guerrero and some other spots along the Pacific coast, where poachers still operate with little opposition.

Even in Oaxaca, the turtles are not safe. This month, poachers bludgeoned and chopped to death some 80 protected olive ridley sea turtles, ripping out their eggs and leaving their shells scattered on Escobillo Beach in Oaxaca.  Ms. Crevoshay said that while the government here had tried to protect nests, her organization had gone after the consumers of turtle meat and eggs with public awareness campaigns, thinking that poaching would never stop as long as there was a demand.

(Dallas Morning News) Edgy ad outrages women in Mexico.  By Lawrence Iliff.  August 28, 2005.

Showing some skin to reach Mexico's macho consumers isn't new. Sexy women sell everything from tools to beer. But the use of a Playboy model in ads to protect sea turtles has put one U.S. ecology group in the middle of a feminist flap.

Argentine model Dorismar rests in a provocative pose on one poster. The words "My man doesn't need turtle eggs" appear in large type above her. "Because he knows they don't make him more potent," the legend continues, as three turtles scoot along a Mexican beach.

The "sexy campaign," as the San Diego-based group Wildcoast calls it, is designed to stop Mexican men from consuming raw turtle eggs that have been illegally marketed as an aphrodisiac.  The eggs are sold on the Pacific Coast, in Mexico City and elsewhere.

"No more Smokey [the] Bear," the group said in announcing the campaign this month.  It features three posters with the model Dorismar in provocative poses ( They are to be hung in restaurants, bars and public places beginning in September - the height of turtle breeding season.  There also are plans for the ads to appear on billboards and buses. 

Here are the ads with Dorismar:

(New York Times)  Turtle Eggs, Sex and Flirty Ads, Fixings of a Mexican Stew.  By James C. McKinley Jr.  August 25, 2005.

But one woman's marketing is another's exploitation of the female body. Patricia Espinosa, the president of the National Institute for Women, a government agency, has denounced the advertisements as promoting a sexist stereotype. Her broadside has prompted the governor of Guerrero, the southern state where many of the turtle eggs are poached and sold, to retract a promise to let the ads be posted in markets next month.

"We are not against the campaign itself," Ms. Espinosa said in an interview. "What we are against is the stereotype of a woman as a sex object."

Homero Aridjis, a poet and naturalist who has fought for years to save the turtles, said the feminists opposed to the advertisements were being overly prudish and should turn their attention to the rampant violence against women in places like Ciudad Juárez, where hundreds have been killed.

Besides, he pointed out, semi-naked women are seen on billboards all over the country selling perfumes, lingerie, beer and tequila. Why, he asked, are the women in the government institute scandalized by one more model in a bikini?

"They don't understand the goal of the campaign," said Mr. Aridjis, who leads the Group of 100, an influential organization of intellectuals and environmentalists. "It is directed at men, to capture the attention of the macho Mexican man who uses the turtle eggs for sexual ends. The campaign tries to be sexy precisely to capture their attention. We are in a country where there are boring government campaigns every day that no one watches."

Ms. Espinosa, however, says the turtle lovers should find a different way to attract attention. "The end of discouraging the consumption of turtle eggs doesn't justify a campaign like this," she said. "I think this model, who is so lovely, could do the campaign, inviting people not to consume the eggs, without creating these stereotypes."

The reaction has stung Ms. Crevoshay, who vows to find volunteers to put up the posters even without the government's blessing. A veteran of the feminist movement, she regards the ability to show off the female form without shame as a fundamental right. She points out that the model used in the campaign, Doris Mar, is working for free because she believes in the cause.

"Why can Pepsi-Cola use a woman in short shorts and a little top, sweating in the desert?" Ms. Crevoshay asked. "If I put a picture of a turtle up, who's going to look?"