Eating is becoming more and more a political problem while the world seems to unravel politically. It is true that shark fin soup dates back to China’s Ming dynasty, however it was traditionally only consumed by a very exclusive and wealthy minority. My guess is shark’s fin was eaten by the elite and the meat and bones were a by-product for the poor. These days when you mention shark fin you almost need to run for cover, as the moral attitudes towards animal life play as important role as tradition once did.
In the 17th-century it was established by French philosopher René Descartes that animals do not experience pain and suffering because they lack consciousness. It wasn’t until 1975, when biological researcher Peter Singer authored of Animal Liberation, suggesting that consciousness is not necessarily the key issue in animals suffering. Just because animals have smaller brains, or are ‘less conscious’ than humans, does not mean that they are not capable of feeling pain.
Not only sharks suffer but it’s said and even scientifically based that all fish suffer pain. So what about all the fish that we see in tanks in restaurants, or those in glass enclosures at marine centers where many fish are trapped in unnatural habitat. Or in many restaurants around the globe where you see lobsters crowded under bright lights for customers to see them as “fresh” when just the opposite is true.
Lobsters prefer rocky ocean bottoms covered with algae. They can hide in the rocks, and the algae makes it easier for them to blend in. When lobsters cannot find rocks, they will burrow into pebbles, sand, or clay. Lobsters stay at the entrance of their shelters, claws out so they can defend themselves. Think about it the next time you go to a restaurant and see lobsters or fish swimming in a tank. Don’t think for one second that they are tasty because, they let off plenty of toxins in those kinds of unnatural environments.
Just off the topic for a minute. Japanese gyu – the cow in Japan and the famous wagyu. These animals cannot have the quality without the quality of life and farmers take extraordinary care to raise, feed and make their animals content, and some even play classical music for them.
But for decades, sharks have gotten a raw deal when they are threatened as much from overfishing due to both so-called bycatch and targeted fishing. Now a days, the prized fins to sell to Asian markets and the demand rises as a gruesome practice “finning” and has been under fire from conservationists. But isn’t a matter of banning shark fin altogether, it’s a matter of finding a way to control the practice of finning and encouraging responsible fishing practices.
How can you expect fishermen living on vessels for months at a time in the middle of nowhere, away from other human life to be humane. Greenpeace best illustrates how the fishing industry is destructive and how the technological ages are speeding up commercial fishing. They show fish aggregation devices (fads) scooping tens of millions of fish in huge nets. The target species is often tuna for canning by companies such as https://www.john-west.co.uk and during this process many other species are also trapped and die in the nets, including sharks. Many are classified as near threatened, and white-tip and mako sharks are also vulnerable, not to mention the Galapagos shark that’s near threatened. However, it is not just these sharks that get caught up in the catch, and any animal that is unfortunate enough to be in the vicinity of the FAD will get scooped up.
So are shark fins prohibited because of the nasty fishing industry that has no respect and the act barbaric and cruel. If certain species of sharks were targeted instead of the 143 shark species at high risk of extinction, then we could enjoy shark fin. Maybe the same way we enjoy caviar and its protected and using less critically populated sharks helps protects the species so we can to enjoy shark fin soup.
It doesn’t take finning to make us realize that the oceans and our resources are being mis-treated and depleted. These days marine life is under tremendous demand and pressure. But that’s nothing new, and to understand that humans have little regard for other human life is more keynote.
Take blast fishing or dynamite fishing in the Mediterranean, a practice often illegal is extremely destructive to the surrounding ecosystem, as the explosion often destroys the underlying habitat that supports the fish. The frequently improvised nature of the explosives used also means danger for the fishermen as well, with accidents and injuries.
Now take cyanide fishing, a the method of collecting live fish mainly for use in aquariums, which involves spraying a sodium cyanide mixture into the desired fish’s habitat in order to stun the fish. The practice hurts not only the target population, but also many other marine organisms, including coral and thus coral reefs. So when you buy a fish tank for your kids, or your for dentist’s office, remember fish feel pain and there are ethical and animal welfare implications. These include the consequences of practices involving commercial, recreational fishing, aquaculture and genetically modified fish used in scientific research. Yikes I am going to move plants 🙂
Worse off are the farmed fish that are trapped in farmed pools and fed pellets and then served to millions of consumers. I shutter to think about salmon which was once a delicacy and today is farmed. These fish are grotesque and are definitely not healthy to eat. But that never stops the tens of millions of consumers that eat salmon regularly for the omegas. I am sure you didn’t know the annual global production of farmed salmon has increased from 27,000 metric tons to more than 1 million metric tons in the past two decades.
Think about it the next time you eat fatty fish including yellow tail at the sushi counter because farmed fish are given a processed high-fat feed in order to produce larger fish. Farmed salmon is much higher in fat and it contains slightly more Omega-3s, but 3 times the amount of saturated fat. It also contains 46% more calories mostly from fat.
I am not trying to justify the catch and release of a shark after savagely cutting its fins, or the idea of harpooning a whaling, or the netting of dolphins. It’s all part of the human cycle and it takes a sense of collective responsibility and not just leaving it in the hands of the consumer alone.
I do feel a certain sense of responsibility for the welfare of what I eat, and enjoy. I can easily understand the frustration of anyone who opposes over fishing, or sadistic brutality of any kind of life. But at the end of the day, it’s a matter of both survival and education and not a matter of just social responsibility.
But the social responsibility cannot be left up to the client alone as we all have enough to worry about. Every where we look we eat foods that someone consider inhumane, including many animals considered slaughtered in a way that’s inhumane. Then poultry and think about chicken eggs when they are in coops on top of one another in horrifying conditions. Or if you travel in east Asia and see a pig or two (upside down) tied to the back of a motorbike on the way to slaughtered. When we see those kinds of things, it makes me realize that we all have different cultural standards. The same when it comes to the root of the cause which I believe is based on cultural differences. In Asia they consume prahok: https://mesubim.com/2014/03/05/khmer-cuisine-more/ and in America you would get sued for serving it.
While vegetarians and vegans would agree that no type of animal should be killed or eaten, there is so many other factors to consider as a consumer. In the end if we were all vegetarians what would we do about protecting our own lives? The chemicals and fertilizers used all over the globe are staggering yet big industry goes on and cannot be stopped. Take Monsanto who sells agricultural herbicides and fertilisers that are poisoning the entire globe, and Ajinomoto who sells MSG to the poor all over Asia.
So what about the shark finning issue and could you eat shark fin if the shark was treated with the same care as Japanese tuna. Japanese ‘put to sleep’ /https://mesubim.com/2014/11/14/its-all-in-the-eye-is-it-fish-paralyzed/ to avoid spoilage, as they have specialists working on fishing vessels tracking hon maguro. If sharks meat was considered tasty or valuable we would eat the entire fish and the fins as well. So if finning means that the main part of the shark wouldn’t be wasted, it could be acceptable to the conservationist or environmentalists?
But if we think about it for a minute, and realize that it’s a matter of human nature, and the world is a mess not only because we eat shark fins but many other reasons. Think of Lord of the Flies and the marooned characters on a deserted island. Some ordinary students, while others arrive as a musical choir under an established leader. The book portrays their descent into savagery; left to themselves on a paradisiacal island, far from modern civilization, the well-educated children regress to a primitive state.