Over forty years ago, a film was released into cinemas that would forever haunt those swimming in the open sea. But the main star of Jaws, the infamous great white shark, sadly has more to fear from humans than we do from them. While we may think of sharks preying upon us, in this case it is humans that are at the top of the food chain.
Shark fin soup, a traditional dish in several East and Southeast Asian countries, requires the usual ingredients for a soup: broth, salt, and maybe a mushroom or two. But, as the name indicates, it also requires shark fins. As animal-based products go, it is not one with a pleasant collection method: fishermen catch individual sharks, before slicing off the fins to be processed, sold, and consumed in the soup. They are not fastidious about the shark species when obtaining the fins, nor are they picky about the treatment of the shark after the fins are collected. The finless individuals are thrown back overboard to face a restricted life at the bottom of the ocean – unable to swim again. > “Finless sharks are thrown overboard, to face a restricted life at the bottom of the ocean”
It may seem obvious that there is the need to find a more ethically-sourced soup to serve, but shark fin soup serves as a status symbol, presented at several special occasions, one being weddings. The traditional dish originates from the 10th century where it was a Chinese emperor’s dish of choice. More recently, it has slowly begun to dwindle out of fashion as charities, such as the Hong Kong Shark Foundation, continue efforts to increase awareness of the soup’s preparation methods.
The mega-corporation Disney even faced the moral dilemma back in 2005, when it had to make the decision on whether or not to serve shark fin soup at its brand-new Disneyland in Hong Kong. Having originally planned on serving the soup as a sign of respect to local residents, the corporation ultimately decided against it. More recently, several protests have occurred across the continent at restaurants serving the soup with the use of graphic costumes aimed at deterring customers from enjoying their meals. There have been suggestions that shark finning could help conservation efforts, but whether these claims have legitimate proof or are merely convenient arguments is yet to be seen. Given the moral implications and other options available, shark fin soup seems a bizarre choice for a meal. Especially given the fact that it’s tasteless!