Stingray Cooking Contest Draws Online Fury

Contestants of Masterchef Thailand inspect an eagle ray before turning it into a meal.

BANGKOK — A popular TV cooking show became a boiling topic on social media Monday after it featured a rare stingray on the menu.

Sunday’s episode of Masterchef Thailand, a Thai franchise of a popular British TV show, instructed its contestants to come up with recipes to cook an Eagle Ray. The segment was criticized by many netizens, and a marine expert lamented that the show chose to use an endangered animal.

“To put it frankly, I’m very exhausted,” oceanographer Thon Thamrongnawasawat wrote online. “Today is World Wildlife Day, when people around the world pay attention to wildlife and sea creatures. This year especially stressed on rare sea animals.”

In a statement posted Monday afternoon, the show said the rays used in the cooking segment are commonly found and eaten as regional cuisine in many provinces, including Phetchaburi, where food made from Eagle Rays is a local OTOP product.  

“In fact, the [ray] has been presented in televised cooking shows on many channels,” the statement said. “Masterchef Thailand is not the first show to introduce this ingredient.”

Thon identified the stingray seen in the cooking show as either A. ocellatus or the more common A. narinari; they are listed as “Vulnerable” and “Near Threatened” by the UN, respectively. Neither is considered a protected animal under Thai law.

“Under Thai law, there is no protection for Eagle Rays, but is it appropriate to use animals under the Red List in cooking show?” he asked.

Masterchef Thailand airs on Workpoint Entertainment channel. Many criticized the show on its Facebook page for seemingly encouraging the hunt and consumption of rare animals, saying the fish should not be eaten even though the laws allow it.

“If this aired in other countries, the show would have been sued into oblivion,” user Supapij-Bee Xoomsai Na Ayudhya wrote.

“Does the show know that Eagle Rays are becoming rare animals in the seas?” Kullapavee Jariyapongsgul wrote.

In a statement, Masterchef Thailand says no law had been broken by using the eagle ray and insisted that protected animals would not be used in the show. Many netizens also support the show.

“I think they must have studied the issue well enough, otherwise they wouldn’t use it in the show,”  Pungpond Photirach wrote.

“This is very rare. I dive in the canal and I never come across it!” Weerayut Chalerm joked.

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