This line is the first half of a commonly quoted joke from The Simpsons. It appears in the sixth season episode Bart's Girlfriend (2F04), in which Bart becomes enamoured with Jessica Lovejoy, the local reverend's daughter. He tries to clean up his act in order to impress her, but it turns out she's just as much (if not more) of a ne'er-do-well as he is.

In one scene, Jessica teases Bart by holding his hand and then pulling the fire alarm with it. As students and teachers rush into the hallway in order to evacuate the building, Groundskeeper Willie also rushes out exclaiming "If I don't save the wee turtles, who will?"

He breaks down the door of a classroom and enters, but rushes out seconds later, turtles attached to every part of his body.

"Ack! Save me from the wee turtles!" 

The joke is a classic example of Simpsons-type humour: it begins as something that's reasonably funny in its own right, and once the viewer thinks the joke is over it expands into something funnier. It also gives us a glimpse into the character of Groundskeeper Willie, because he's more concerned about the school's pet turtles when children are potentially in danger.

The joke is often referenced in popular culture, even inspiring the name of a rock band called the Wee Turtles. A quick Google search using the quote suggests that it is not quite among the most popular quotes from the series; it yields 104 results ("I call him Gamblor!" brings up 4,880, "My cat's breath smells like cat food" yields almost 22,000), which is still reasonably respectable. And besides, there aren't many occasions for people to use a line about wee turtles outside of the Simpsons context.

It's just funny. 



The FDA and I will save the wee turtles.

You see, here in the U.S., it's illegal to sell baby turtles... but people do their damndest to buy them anyhow.


(b)Sales; general prohibition. Except as otherwise provided in this section, viable turtle eggs and live turtles with a carapace length of less than 4 inches shall not be sold, held for sale, or offered for any other type of commercial or public distribution.

The restriction basically has to do with restricting the spread of salmonella. Back in the 70's when baby turtles in their little turtle islands were so popular, tens of thousands of children went to the hospital with salmonella poisoning, because small children are too stupid to not put turtles in their mouths.

The infection got so bad that it ended with no small number of verifiable cases of salmonella-related deaths. At this point, the FDA passed this set of code.

They're serious about it, too. Any person who violates any provision of this section ... shall be subject to a fine of not more than $1,000 or imprisonment for not more than 1 year, or both, for each violation, in accordance with section 368 of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 271). (That's PER TURTLE.)

However, what no one mentions the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of turtles (mostly red eared sliders) that died as well.

Turtles need a lot of care, especially tiny baby hatchlings like these guys. Aquatic turtles make horrible first pets or impulse buys. This is an animal that gets a foot across, lives 30 years, likes to bite as it gets bigger, and needs about $200 of equipment--minimum--to survive and thrive.

The damn little "turtle islands" provided none of the 4 essential pieces of equipment: UV light, heat lamp, filter, and heater in the water. The filter and heater are slightly negotiable. The two lamps are not.

Without the heat lamp, the turtle will stop eating, food will putrify in its gut as it cannot digest its meal, and it becomes more prone to bacterial and fungal infections with each day it cannot warm itself. Without the UV light, the turtle cannot absorb vitamin D3, so in turn cannot process calcium correctly. It is unable to build a strong, healthy shell, and basically rots from the inside.

All of these little nuggets of plague were themselves doomed to short, painful lives full of suffering. If they were lucky, they died quickly, within weeks. The unlucky ones might make it six months or two years, before following the same path.

In making it hard for people to buy "OMG KYUUUUUTE BABY TURTLES!", the FDA actually did the animals themselves a favor as well. Just like a lot of folks love kittens and puppies but hate cats or dogs, a lot of people want a baby turtle with no thoughts of what it will grow into. But the people that have educated themselves ahead of time and are willing to own the turtle once it's larger than a quarter make better homes and give their pets the potential for long, happy, healthy lives.

As for me, NO I won't sell you a baby turtle (unless you are a teacher and have paperwork--then it's legal for educational purposes). It's illegal, no I won't bend the law "just for you", and no it's not my fault I "ruined your child's birthday" because I wouldn't sell you "JUST ONE LITTLE TURTLE, I PROMISE I WON'T TELL!". Quite frankly, even if it were legal I wouldn't do it. The animals are in better care in my hands than in those of an impulse buyer.

wuukiee and the FDA: saving the wee turtles since 2006.

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