I am here to rant about the recent controversy over banning the selling of sharkfin soup to combat the threat to sharks all around the world. While I am still fuming, I hope I will be able to write a comprehensible piece...
Recently, the municipal governments of Vancouver and Toronto, Canada, has been trying to place bans on the selling of sharkfin. For anyone not familiar with the Chinese tradition, sharkfin is an ingredient used to make sharkfin soup, a traditional delicacy to the Chinese people and a classic dish for the special event. There is almost no Chineses banquet I have attended in which sharkfin has not been served, and dried up specimens can often be seen in displays in Chinese seafood restaurants and shops selling traditional Chinese herbal medicine. In recent decades, sharkfin has become more accessible and demands have been enormous, threatening wild populations of sharks. In lieu of conservation demands, the municipal governments have attempted to place bans on the selling of sharkfin.
Here in Vancouver, this has been met with some success, as sharkfin has been banned in some parts of the city. Better yet, Chong Qing Seafood Restaurant, the first Ocean Wise and sharkfin free restaurant of its kind, has recently opened its doors to the public.
However, the success this movement has had can only be matched by the hindrance it has also met. Just tonight, I was watching the news. Apparently, the ban has not boded well with the Chinese Community in Toronto at all and the result is a failure of the ban, as the Judge who was responsible for this case admits that "the ban pertains to some elements of racism" and that they do not actually have the rights to make this ban effective. Later, the newscast interviewed several people of the Chinese Community, who were celebrating their "victory". Translations best as I could:
"The greatest victory for us is that the Judge admits that this bylaw pertains to racism and therefore should not be enforced...There has never been a bylaw that has been targeted at a certain group of people like this..."
"If 'Westerners' can eat shark meat, than why can't we Chinese people eat Shark Fin?"
I am still fuming, so I will just have to say this: as Chinese person, I am absolutely disgusted and ashamed at the logic that is being used here.
In summary, there are a few reasons why the Chinese Community is responding to this with negative attitudes:
1) The bylaw is targeted at the Chinese Community and is therefore racist
Why would the government place this ban? Inherently, the reason springs from environmental concern. The government was responding to the demands for restrictions to fisheries to control shark-fishing for the sake of Shark conservation. It just so happened that the Shark Fin (one of the major reasons sharks are being overfished worldwide) is a Chinese Delicacy, and so it happened that confronting this environmental concern would also involve confronting a Chinese tradition.
Therefore, Chinese people are not the target of this ban. Rather, the tradition that is upheld by us is the barrier to a very important environmental goal. There is no racism in these actions.
2) Sharkfin is a Chinese tradition and should not be removed from menus
There are 5000 years of Chinese history, and with it, traditions. I am almost certain that the so called unchanging traditions have changed within that time, as dynamically as the times itself. Therefore, traditions are prone to change and completely malleable to the times.
What isn't going to change, if this tradition does not, is the extinction of sharks, or at the very least, the rapid depletion of sharks. So which should it be, the Sharks, or our soup?
Sharks are an important controlling factor in the aquatic ecosystem. Without them, the ecosystem can be flipped on its head and not only will we lose the sharks, the collateral damage associated would mean we could also be losing and affecting thousands of other species.
Should we then, for the sake of upholding a ritual, ignore all planetary responsibility and continue feasting on shark fin (which by the way, has very limited nutritional value)?
3) Why can Shark Meat be eaten and Shark fin not be?
They shouldn't be. Remember, our goal is to conserve sharks. Therefore, if a ban is to be placed on sharkfin, naturally, a ban should also be placed on the selling of any parts of the shark, as long as it involves the death of the shark. Saying that someone else is doing something equally wrong as you doesn't make you right.
|For Tradition's Sake|
For another thing, I want to apologize to all the sharks of the world (yes I am apologizing to sharks that can't hear me if I was next to them because they don't have ears). I have not eaten a shortage of your fins at Chinese banquets either, although I have raised feeble efforts to look worried and concerned and refrained enough from eating you that I have been able to make my table-mates aware of my reasons for doing so.
I will continue to try and raise awareness of this issue whenever I can for your (sharks) sake. In addition to that, you can be rest assured that there will be none of your fins for when I wed and must have a banquet.
I will speak in your place, because you have no voice box and there are some who wouldn't listen if you did, because of your fins.