Volume 91, Issue 66

Tuesday, January 27, 1998



Bogus penises taste like the real thing in Chinese markets

By Sabrina Carinci
Gazette Staff

The sale of seal penises as a Chinese aphrodisiac has been going on for thousands of years in Asia, but don't be fooled by the fancy packaging or the $650 price tag.

After studying 27 pickled penises, scientists from McMaster University in Hamilton and the University of Guelph found only one to be the penis of a seal. Scientists have recently found that cow and dog penises are just some of the types of genitalia being passed off as seal penises when sold as aphrodisiacs.

The selling of fraudulent penises has become common because a lot more money can be made from selling cow penises which are siad to be seal penises – the customer would never really know, said Bradley White, professor of biology and geneticist at McMaster.

"We wanted to know where [the penises] had originated from and if any of them were endangered species. However, we were only able to extract DNA from 20 of the 27 samples because some were too dry to collect samples from," White said.

The seal penis found by White and his associates came from a fur seal but they were unable to determine if the seal was an endangered Australian seal. The possibility of there being endangered seals on the market, however, is high, White said.

Seal penises are used for a variety of things, mostly three-penis wine – a combination which requires the penis of a seal, a dog and a deer, said David Lavigne, a scientist from the University of Guelph and executive director of the International Marine Mammal Association Incorporated. The aphrodisiac can also be taken as a pill or made into a drink.

Perhaps the most upsetting part of killing seals solely for their penises and testicles is that there is no scientific evidence the concoctions enhance any kind of sexual pleasure or function, Lavigne said.

"It's ludicrous – there's no basis for it," said John Wiebe, an endocrinologist and professor of zoology at Western. "It's an ancient idea. People used to eat hearts to gain courage and brains to become more intelligent – anyone in the 20th century should know better," he said.

There's a fair bit of evidence that in some men impotence is psychological, so if they use this aphrodisiac, thinking it will cure them, it just might, said Dave Ankney, a professor of zoology at Western. Yet there is a lot more evidence that suggests otherwise, Ankney added.

"The sale and trade of seal penises is legal," said Laurie Kingston, communication coordinator for the International Fund for Animal Welfare. "But it is a violation of policy to abandon a seal once its genitalia have been removed which is a large part of the problem as to the legalities of the issue," Kingston said.

An Angus Reid poll which was released Sept. 4, 1997 stated that 84 per cent of Canadians thought the hunting of seals should be illegal. Although there are no specific regulations as of yet, Kingston hinted the IFAW was working to change this fairly soon.

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Copyright The Gazette 1998