BEIJING – Authorities in southern China have opened an investigation into the slaughter and sale of a protected leatherback sea turtle by local fishermen, media reported Saturday.
The case grew to national prominence after cellphone video circulated showing the 200-kilogram (440-pound) turtle being sliced into pieces and sold to eager villagers in a fishing village in the southern province of Guangdong. The meat sold for aboujt 70 yuan ($10) per kilogram, the official Xinhua News Agency said.
Xinhua that six villagers have been referred to investigators. It said area residents were told by fishermen that the turtle was dead at the time it was caught.
Liang Daichong, a local fisheries policeman quoted by Xinhua, said the incident was the result of "bad eating habits" and simple ignorance of regulations.
China's growing animal rights movement has sought to raise awareness of abuses ranging from the slaughter of canines for an annual dog meat festival in a southern city to the farming of bears milked for their bile to be used in traditional Chinese medicine.
Social media has played a major role in mobilizing such sentiments, although a push to enact animal protection legislation has made little progress through the national legislature.