The cruel cost of fish market freshness
A turtle sits on a bloody butcher block. The fish market vendor holds his knife, watching and waiting for the turtle’s snouted head to emerge from her soft shell. One, then two seconds pass before he gives up and moves on. He flips the turtle onto her back, grips the white underbelly, and begins to saw through her body. The agony is visceral. Her webbed feet splay wildly like tiny fingers. With every gash of the knife, her meaty shell is slowly severed, exposing a vertebrae and a bulging, beating heart. No one is waiting at the booth to buy this turtle. When her shell is nearly removed, her bloody, mangled body is dumped into a plastic bag and set aside, as she is made conveniently ready to be cooked and eaten by her future buyer.
Later, we will visit a softshell turtle farm, filled with stacked crates of hatching eggs and surrounded by a grid of pools housing the larger ones nearing slaughter weight. Though not a common food, the turtles are a delicacy in some East Asian countries, sought by a small number of consumers who either believe in its medicinal qualities or are drawn to its unique taste.