Sharks Fin Soup
The sharks fin soup is a Chinese delicacy commonly consumed during banquets celebrating weddings or birthdays and even as part of business entertainment.
The main ingredient is of course the fins of sharks. The sharks are hunted and tossed back into the sea after its fins are removed. As sharks are difficult to capture, its scarcity transformed the sharks fin soup into a luxury food for conspicuous consumption.
Advances in fishing technology has increased the supply of sharks fin but have not changed its perception as a luxury and status food. As a result, sharks are under the threat of extinction.
Production of sharks fin is also an extremely cruel process. After the fins are removed, the sharks eventually die as they drown or fell prey to other sea creatures.
Save the Sharks
Environmentalist and lobby groups have emerged to raise awareness of sharks fin issue and the extinction threat. The lobbyists have had some successes; one of the high profile examples being Disney Hong Kong’s decision to stop serving sharks fin soup in 2005.
Recently, NBA star Yao Ming has also appeared in a bill board campaign in China to encourage consumers to stop consuming sharks fin soup.
Despite their best intentions, some lobby groups unfortunately use slogans and approaches that can be interpreted as Anti- China, racists and even arrogant.
Although commonly associated as a Chinese delicacy, sharks fin soup is also consumed in Korea, Thailand, Vietnam and Japan. Yet in many anti sharks fin literature, only the Chinese are targeted without mentioning consumers of other ethnic groups. One website even sells a T shirt with the text “Fin Soup a Tiananmen Square meal”.
Statements of this nature serve to remind Chinese of the unhappy China-Western relationship symbolized by the unequal treaties, opium wars and the burning of the Yuan Ming Yuan that remains sensitive to this day.
These approaches inevitably create resistance and instead of saving the sharks may lead to more being consumed.
Working together to save the sharks
To save the sharks, there are cultural avenues that can be pursued and go beyond the sharks issues to embrace environmental and ethical concerns.
Many Buddhist now opt for vegetarian banquets for wedding, birthdays and dinners. The rationale being that birthdays and weddings are about celebration of life so the taking of animal's lives to celebrate their life does not make sense.
So instead of taking lives, a Chinese vegetarian banquet allows guests to enjoy what they like without any animals being slaughtered.
Some Chinese vegetarian restaurants even serve vegetarian sharks fin soup; another evidence that you can enjoy the taste and texture of your favorite dishes without killing animals.
It is all in the preparation and cooking techniques and nothing to do with the taste of meat or in this case, sharks fin which has almost no taste on its own.
Abstaining sharks fin soup is a form of animal protection, 护生, similiar to animal liberation, 放生.
The Buddhist approach goes beyond protection of sharks to embrace compassion and love for all beings.
Meanwhile, one of the key principles of Taoism is to live in harmonic balance with nature. Animals are not created for human consumption but forms part of the physical and spiritual landscape that man strives to be in harmony with.
With regards to sharks fin, hunting of a species to extinction disrupts the balance between man and nature. Therefore, man needs to restore the balance by protecting the sharks or more specifically, stopping the consumption of sharks fin soup.
Save the sharks!
Both Buddhist and Taoist approach supports the notion to stop shark hunting and the consumption of sharks fin soup. By working with or through these philosophies, lobby groups might achieve greater success to protect the sharks.
Meanwhile, let us do our part by not consuming sharks fin soup and to encourage others as well.
To humans, it is a just another soup but to the sharks, its the end of their lives and also a likely extinction. It does not add up!
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