Cruelty on the menu

Two weeks ago I attended a discussion that featured travel writer Tom Parker Bowles (yes, he’s an offspring of the famous Camilla Parker Bowles) who warned the audience to go to new places with open minds and not admonish local people in far flung places for their seemingly eccentric food choices. While Tom’s argument stood up to scrutiny when he was discussing eating bee pupa and sautéed snake, I had to take issue when he told us that he had eaten dog in China. By his own admission, Parker Bowles was aware that folk lore dictates that the more violent a dog’s death, the more esteemed the meat is by middle-aged men with impotency issues.

I personally must draw the line at supporting local foods that perpetuate ignorance that leads to avoidable cruelty. My huge pet peeve is shark fin soup. I live in Richmond Hill, a suburb of Toronto that has a very large, affluent Chinese population. As a result we also have a lot of highly esteemed Chinese restaurants. Regrettably, almost all of the authentically Chinese restaurants in my area also offer shark fin soup on their menus.

If you haven’t seen the movie Sharkwater you may not realize how the Chinese thirst for shark fin soup is harming our oceans. I urge you to learn about how shark finning is cruelly killing one of the earth’s longest surviving creatures and throwing the ocean’s balance out of kilter in the process.

I have a feeling that once you learn more about this senseless practice that you’ll join me in boycotting restaurants that serve shark fin soup and, if you have time, please send an email to the UN asking them to officially oppose this so-called industry.

You can read more about the anti-shark finning movement at these sites and blogs:

Monterey Bay Aquarium
Big Blue Log
Stop Shark FInning
CBC’s The Hour

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35 Responses to Cruelty on the menu

  1. Amy says:

    This topic was quite a hot one a little over a year ago when a number of celebrities revolted…I’m pleased to see the sharks have not been forgotten. For a list of other endangered fishies to take a pass on, check out http://www.endangeredfishalliance.org.

  2. I agree. In the states, I’d prefer if the PETA people would put their efforts into stopping shark finning rather than foie gras production. I’ve known about shark finning since the 1970s, so I’m happy to finally see some protest. Unfortunately, with the market in China so large, people outside the country may be no more successful than they have been in stopping the Japanese from harvesting whales.

  3. danamccauley says:

    Thanks for the link Amy. That is a very good site for everyone to check before they head to the store to buy their fish.

    Peter, you make a great point. I’m hoping that by making the point here in Canada (and wherever else in the world I go out for Chinese food) that the word will spread somewhat. Ideally a large scale, international campaign is what is needed. That’s why I keep sending letters to the UN. So far no one has ever written back to me though. : (

  4. danamccauley says:

    Here’s a link to an interesting slide show my friend Shelley just sent to me via email that shows how common things like dog are in Chinese street food culture. No shark fin soup shown thank goodness!

    http://www.slideshare.net/pacho54/la-calle-del-hambre-en-beijing/

  5. I knew shark fin soup wasn’t such a good idea, but didn’t know it was that bad. Thanks for the info. It gets harder and harder to stay informed about ethical choices as the info changes so rapidly.
    Another good source of info is: IChefs Collabrative

  6. Shelley Aronov says:

    Thanks Dana for your advocacy and awareness of the utter disgust of what is being done to our wonderful friends in the sea and mother earth. People should also be mindful there are theories out there that state the food we eat has energy properties and if is it raised and killed witj with cruelty…then you can guess how it may affect our bodies.

    keep up the good work!

    Shelley

  7. Amy S says:

    Maybe if more people understood that the ramifications of overfishing and shark finning go far beyond the populations in the ocean… these changes affect our ecosystem and have global effects that we are already feeling on land….
    Every voice counts….good job Dana!

  8. Martin says:

    It’s great to see so many people commenting about this worthy topic! Please keep spreading the word about shark fin soup and other cruelties that are harming the planet. It’s up to all of us to do what we can.

  9. danamccauley says:

    Thanks for sharing that link Judith. I think it should be: http://chefscollaborative.org , though.

    Shelley, Amy S and Martin, it’s graet to see you here sharing your support for the planet and our food chain1

  10. farida says:

    I watched a documentary (can’t remember the name now) about sharks and how people catch them, cut their fins off and then throw them back into the ocean. it was something out of this human world! how cruel. and I bet these people who pride themselves in going to those luxury restaurants to eat shark fin soups do not have the slightest idea where the fins come from and how they end up on their tables. what a shame to human race. thank you for the very informative post.

  11. Christine says:

    Let’s not forget about dolphins, whales and seals. For people that call this a “sport” it is nothing but cruel and inhumane. What people are doing to these creatures are killing our oceans. One day, soon, I hope that people will realize what they are doing and stop before the damage is irreversible.

  12. heken says:

    um.. i sure hope you’re vegetarian, or better yet, vegan. if not, you might want to learn a bit more about the ‘normal’ eating habits we have in north america before you concern yourself so much about others’ eating habits. the seafood industry here has been putting our lakes and oceans out of whack for quite some time, and factory farmed livestock isn’t exactly good for the environment, nor is it cruelty-free.

    most dog in china are farmed much like the livestock (your beef, chicken, pork..) here in the west. these dogs are bred as food as well. the way livestock here is slaughtered is hardly humane either.

    and yes, i am vegetarian.. but i cannot stand high and mighty westerners who think that other peoples’ practices are somehow worse than our own (or bad enough that they are gonna campaign around it when they could be taking a close look at what goes on in our own backyard).

  13. heken says:

    i also hope dana and shelley and any others who believe it’s wrong to eat dog are also vegetarian. you know, your consumption of beef is appalling to hindus in india as well since you are eating their sacred cow. it’s all relative. like i already said, dog is bred as livestock over there, just as we breed cattle. no one is going after your precious pet with an axe.

    i really cannot stand this ethnocentric mindset so many people have.

    http://www.petatv.com/tvpopup/Prefs.asp?video=agri_short

  14. danamccauley says:

    Heken,

    The livestock I eat is raised humanely and slaughtered with as little pain as possible. While I understand that for Hindus this is not a good enough answer, my problem with eating dog isn’t that it is eaten but that the people who eat it think that the more violently it is slaughtered, the better. Quite different in my opinion.

    As for being high and mighty, I have traveled widely and do agree with Tom Parker Bowles that we need to keep an open mind about eating habits in other countries. I know that cultures evolved differently and deserve respect. I’m only suggesting that we draw the line at condoning foods that are unduly cruel. Shark fin soup and dog fall into that category for me.

  15. Martin says:

    I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw that shark week on the Outdoor Network included a shark hunting derby. A little behind the times and shortsighted of them to say the least. The oceans will be a desert in our lifetime if we don’t change our ways starting with public broadcasting the slaughter of sharks for fun.

  16. heken says:

    i actually come from a country where dog is eaten.. and it is not true that “the people who eat it think that the more violently it is slaughtered, the better” – you might want to fact check a bit before drawing that conclusion.

    i still stand behind my remark that you also might want to rally behind the inhumane slaughter of livestock that occurs in factory farms in the west before pointing fingers at people in other countries. having traveled extensively myself and as someone who does not eat any meat, i actually find that livestock in many of these countries you point your fingers at to be killed more humanely than over here. it is because they are often raised more freely (what we would consider to be ‘free range’ over here), and raised/slaughtered without the capitalist factory farming methods used in the west where we eat way too much meat to begin with.

  17. danamccauley says:

    Heken, I don’t disagree that undo cruelty to any animal should be rallied against. I’m also shattered to know that the average laying hen get’s less than a square foot of living space.

    As for the assertion that some people believe dogs are better to eat if killed with violence, a quick internet search brought up a number of references.

    Here’s a link to just one: http://www.geocities.com/yoons_choi/koreandogs.html as well as a pull quote from the article:

    “Many dogs are deliberately put to cruel slow death as a result of superstition that the more animals suffer the better the meat becomes.”

    Heken, although I do eat meat and you don’t, I think we are generally on the same page. I am not pointing my fingers at countries – as Martin points up above, the west glorifies shark hunting on TV shows – but at ignorance that leads to senseless cruelty.

  18. […] know I told you to avoid Chinese food restaurants that serve shark fin soup two weeks ago and that I shook my finger about tetra packs last week. I might seem pushy but I feel […]

  19. jauipop says:

    heya… if you’re still interested in this topic, check out my blog: http://savingsharksasia.wordpress.com

    it’s dedicated mostly to the finning industry (and other things environmental!!)

  20. danamccauley says:

    Jaulpop, I will always be interested in this topic and I will check out your blog. Thanks.

  21. […] own feelings net out on this issue. I admit to behaving hypocritically: while I vehemently oppose shark finning and boycott restaurants that serve shark fin soup, I eat veal often and enjoy foie gras on […]

  22. DavidC says:

    Dana, I love shark fin soup and will continue to eat it as long as it’s available. I do not by the claim by Sharkwater that the shark population has been reduced by 90% because of the consumption of shark fin soup – how do we not know whether the decline could be due to pollution in the world’s ocean or global warming? I am proud of my Chinese culture and heritage and I will continue to enjoy the pleasure of eating shark fin soup. Ignorant, pretentious, semi-celebrities such as yourself are not going to change my consumption behaviour any time soon just because shark finning is the “du jour” topic at the moment.

  23. danamccauley says:

    David, the claims in Sharkwater might be overstated (I’m not an expert) but the fact that the sharks are killed for only their fins and then left to die and rot offends me deeply. I’m a meat and fish eater generally and, as long as an animal is killed and all of his/her parts are put to use I can deal with it.

    Thanks for resorting to name calling. It really strengthened your argument.

  24. Lynn says:

    Thanks for this article. I can’t say I’d boycott a restaurant that had shark fin soup on the menu, but I certainly would not order the soup. Am I pretentious because I can both read the whole menu and notice that no one in the restaurant is starving, with no other choice but shark fin? I don’t think so. Semi-celebrity? I wish. As for ignorant, anyone who can access this discussion can also access the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Guide: http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/SeafoodWatch/web/sfw_factsheet.aspx

    Hey, get informed!

  25. danamccauley says:

    Thanks for your comment Lynn. I’ll go out to eat with you (perhaps not to a restaurant with shark fin on the menu) anytime!

  26. Peter says:

    Dana, I sometimes go to Asian markets and I see whole sharks on ice for sale…minus the fins. I’ve bought shark, the meat isn’t bad but I don’t think I can support the industry or a the supermarket that sells it.

  27. Cheah Hooi Giam says:

    With regards to your ‘advice’ on not eating sharks fins, I ‘d like to point you to a comment by Eugene Lapointe, a former secretary-General of CITES(the world gold standard on whether an animal could be traded etc) who points out that the anti-sharks fins campaign is based on cultural and personal bias.Most Nations are signatories to CITES.
    Please check your facts, most sharks are killed as a bycatch(at least 50% according to fisheries estimates). Sharks fins contribute only a small proportion of sharks harvested. Please check which top 20 nations harvest 80% of the world’s sharks. In fact, two species of sharks that are endangered currently, the porbeagle shark and spiny dogfish had been harvested to extinction for their prized meat for generations. Shark cartilage(of which shark fins is made from) is used in many western countries as a’ health food’ supplement and making certain arhtritis drugs. Just go into any health food shop and you’d see what I mean!
    Furthermore, if one should not eat sharks fins because its cruel, this statement is laughable if not hypocritical! Which animal that humans consume is not bled to death? it just seems so human centric to suggest that the shark is ‘wasted’ when the fins are cut and the carcass thrown back into the sea!
    Please also check how the anti-sharks fins campaign first came about and who funds it.

  28. […] I originally posted on this blog about the cruelty and destruction that the shark finning industry was causing, I got a very mixed response. While most of my regular readers agreed with me that this so called […]

  29. vicky sanderson says:

    Thanks for this information, Dana. So many of us are so disconnected from the sources of what we eat that we are completely unaware of the implications of our food choices. I look to experts like you to provide well-researched information on the subject, and hope you will continue to share what you learn through the site, which i read religiously.

  30. danamccauley says:

    Thanks Vicky! As long as I have readers like you, I can’t go wrong!

  31. Awesome site. I’m totally looking forward to seeing more articles :)

  32. Jarmila says:

    I hate the buggers who are doing this, as well as the people who support this… they haven´t a shred of conscience…

  33. I am genuinely glad to glance at this blog posts which consists of tons of valuable
    data, thanks for providing these information.

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