Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Anti Shark Fin Soup Campaign Will Fall on Deaf Ears

And there seems to be no end for it in sight.

There's an ad campaign on CNN these days with a swimmer named Li Ting who pleads with people to give up shark fin soup. You can see the ad in the 'World Champions for Wildlife' Campaign video section (scroll down for her contribution):


It's a thoughtful attempt to use the Chinese themselves to get people to stop their age old soup making practice. I doubt, however, Chinese will give up their fins easily.

The fact is that the ad was on CNN which I doubt many Chinese get to watch. Even in Taiwan where we have CNN (although I have no idea if Taiwanese really watch it or just whiz over it in their channel surfing), the practice of selling shark fin is still quite alive and well. Most expensive and lavish Taipei weddings I have been to have had it on the menu (yes, I have eaten it and it is delicious).

Talk a walk through the DiHua Street Market during Chinese New Year and take a look at the prices of the shark fin hanging on the wall.

Wikipedia has an interesting account of spokespeople against shark fin soup. Even Yao Ming, a 'supposed' wildlife advocate (his video is also on the website above):
"pledged to stop eating shark fin soup at a news conference on August 2, 2006. [HOWEVER] Yao's comments were largely unreported in the Chinese media and drew a reproach from Chinese seafood industry associations. Ironically, one of the items on Yao Ming's wedding dinner menu was shark fin soup."


Exotic animals of all types are been prepared in restaurants all over Asia. The Chinese speaking world is pretty well immune from conservation wildlife eating taboos be it China, Hong Kong, Singapore or even Taiwan.

Specifically with shark fin soup, governments everywhere lack the will to do anything about the problem in the face of a public that demands its shark fin soup. Doing anything in Taiwan would be political suicide without a thorough public education campaign, which so far has been absent.

If anything, I only see the strong handed governments of China and maybe even Singapore being able to implement such a ban effectively and perhaps become role models. It is ironic that these governments have the power to implement a policy while the democracies, mostly bending to public will, do not. However, so far, as far as these countries being leaders against shark fin soup, it remains to be seen.

This campaign really has an uphill battle worldwide. Just like Yao Ming's wedding blunder, or like the Chinese government, at times, itself, sharks have a serious public image problem and there doesn't seem to be a good way to spin it any better in the media. And you can thank Steven Spielberg's JAWS for that!
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