January 22, 2012
Just say ‘no’ to shark fin soup
On The Beat by WONG CHUN WAI
Let us usher in the Year of the Dragon without the popular
IT has taken me a long time to come to this decision but it needed to be made. I
will no longer consume shark fin soup.
Enough is enough when it involves the senseless killing of sharks just for their
fins, which are quite tasteless by the way.
I feel the timing is appropriate because, over the next few weeks, there will be
the endless round of Chinese New Year celebration dinners to attend. Shark fin soup is compulsory at these
eight-course dinners and no Malaysian host would go without it..
But more and more young Malaysians are now saying no to shark fin soup in line
with the campaign to prevent the killing of sharks for their fins.
Getting the support of the young is crucial in the campaign because of the massive
increase of the middle class in China and other Asian cities.
If the younger set is prepared to say no to shark fin in their menu, it will be a
major step forward in the global campaign against shark-finning.
Roping in retired Chinese basketball icon Yao Ming in the fight against eating
shark fin in his homeland last September was a major coup.
Together with British tycoon Richard Branson, he then made an appeal against
eating shark fin to a group of 30 of China’s richest and most influential business people.
“When demand happens, the buying happens and the killing happens,” Yao, the
seven-foot-six-inch-tall (2.29m) former centre who retired in July due to injuries after eight seasons with the
Houston Rockets, was quoted as saying.
Yao is now using his post-retirement free time to help campaign against the
slaughter of sharks, which is said to involve around 1.5 million sharks a week and is taking some of the species
close to extinction.
The event sponsored by the conservation group WildAid is aimed at starting a
conservation movement in China “not just to protect the sharks but to protect tigers, and to protect other species
that are in peril of extinction,” Branson said.
News reports have quoted anti shark-finning campaigners as saying that fishermen
kill more than 70 million sharks each year for their fins, which can sell for US$700 (RM2,175) a pound (450g) while
the soup can cost up to US$80 (RM248) a bowl.
It is said that the fins are cut from the sharks and their bodies are discarded,
leaving them to die.
Last week, the Shangri-La group declared that its 72 hotels would no longer offer
shark fin or other shark products in their menu.
It is not clear whether the order came from Robert Kuok, the Malaysian tycoon who
owns the luxury chain of hotels worldwide, many of which are in China.
Its rival, the Peninsula chain of hotels, which also has operations in China,
stopped offering shark fin in their premises on Jan 1.
The Shangri-La’s decision is crucial because over 90% of shark fins are consumed
in China and countries with huge Chinese population, including Hong Kong and Taiwan.
With an increasingly affluent Chinese population, the demand for shark fins has
shot up sharply in recent years. This means more sharks would be hunted for their fins, and that means the
population of sharks will disappear much faster than anticipated.
Besides soup, shark fin is also used in some dim sum delicacies, especially in
some dumpling wrappings.
Westerners are only familiar with shark fin soup but the product is also widely
used in other forms of cooking.
The campaign against eating shark fin involves film and music celebrities but
businessmen must also be included as they wield tremendous power. At a practical level, they host dinners almost on
a daily basis, especially in China.
They can set an example by taking shark fin soup off the menu for corporate
dinners, thus sending a strong message to their staff, clients and even rivals. It is good corporate practice now
to stop eating shark fin products.
Politicians should also join in the campaign because this appeals to the young set
of voters who are revolted by the practice of shark-finning.
Many hotels and restaurants have also responded positively by offering artificial
fins without compromising the taste of the soup.
Customers are happy to pay for the fakes as they feel that the restaurants are
ready to meet the changes.
As we usher in the Year of the Dragon, the topic of conversation at the reunion
dinner should not just be about political sharks, who need no saving, but of the global campaign to save the real
Let’s all join the campaign!
Source: The Star