Sierra Magazine: Explore, enjoy and protect the planet.

From 2015 onward, new posts will appear only here: http://www.sierraclub.org/greenlife


The Green Life: The Shark-Fin Soup Ban Extends to Asia's Oldest Hotel Brand

« Green Your Feet: Friendly Footwear | Main | Green Your Feet: Compost Your Clippings »

November 28, 2011

The Shark-Fin Soup Ban Extends to Asia's Oldest Hotel Brand

Soup from AsiaI ate shark-fin soup once. Dining from a prix-fixe menu a lifetime ago on a trip to Asia, I had no idea what it was or that sharks had been maimed for that day’s “delicacy.” The taste simply didn’t translate. I might have managed the broth if not for the bland-tasting intruder. As I hesitantly chewed on a rubbery bit, its slimy coating slid disconcertingly around my mouth. To humor my host, who paid a lot for the meal, I chewed maybe two more bites . . . but that was too much. I’ve eaten odd foods before and since. None has made such an impression on me as shark-fin soup did.

So when California and Toronto recently passed bans, I was among those who did not shed a tear. I ate it out of ignorance before the issue had gained so much attention. But many people around the world buy and sell the soup's key ingredient with full knowledge of the cruelty and controversy involved. Because of its popularity at weddings and business banquets, hotel chains typically offer shark-fin soup on event menus. But as the practice of shark-finning came under increasing scrutiny several years ago, a few hotels responded by offering other soup options, often in a footnote on the menu. But shark-fin soup still sits prominently on many menus, even at a number of Western chains.

Leave it to Asia’s oldest hotel company to remove it from the menu completely. The parent company of the prestigious Peninsula Hotels announced its decision a few days ago. Clement K.M. Kwok, the CEO of Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels, said, “By removing shark fin from our menus, we hope [to help preserve] the marine ecosystem for the world’s future generations . . . [and] inspire other hospitality companies to do the same . . . Our industry will play a role in helping to preserve the biodiversity of our oceans.”

At the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in Hong Kong, Silvy Pun works to protect sharks. She explained: "The Peninsula hotel chain is setting an example for other hotels and restaurants to follow. The decision also suggests that consumers have become more eco-conscious and market demand is changing. Shark-fin soup is no longer a must-have item."

Though other major companies have adopted the same policy, many advocates hope the Peninsula chain’s move will send a strong message. Pun offers perspective on the progress: The number of new caterers signing on to the WWF's alternative-menu program increased over the past year from 12 to 97, "but it was a challenging time when we first started."

As awareness of the need for shark conservation increases, restaurants are succumbing to the pressure and celebrity chefs are calling for change. Grassroots action may be key, as the experience of one restaurant owner shows: He removed the item from his menu after objectors stood outside his restaurant outlining the issue for potential customers. In September, a prominent Singapore supermarket chain announced the end of its shark-product sales. And as citizens speak up, governments are responding — last Monday, two more municipalities in Canada (London and Pickering, Ontario) passed bans.

This shift is good, but the issue is still urgent: Over the past five years, the number of threatened sharks and related species has grown, mainly because of overfishing. That's a fact that's distasteful in more ways than one.

--Carolyn Cotney / image: iStockphoto


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference The Shark-Fin Soup Ban Extends to Asia's Oldest Hotel Brand:

User comments or postings reflect the opinions of the responsible contributor only, and do not reflect the viewpoint of the Sierra Club. The Sierra Club does not endorse or guarantee the accuracy of any posting. The Sierra Club accepts no obligation to review every posting, but reserves the right (but not the obligation) to delete postings that may be considered offensive, illegal or inappropriate.

Up to Top

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...