No (shark fin) soup for you!
After Calgary city council voted to ban the sale of shark fin products this summer, Vancouver has begun the preliminary steps, along with Burnaby and Richmond, to follow in Calgary’s footsteps. The proposed ban has sparked a lot of anger in Vancouver’s Chinese community, who suggest that outlawing shark fin sales is a culturally insensitive action.
David Chung, a Richmond resident and head of the B.C. Asian Restaurant and Café Owners Association, is putting together a petition to fight the ban.
“If the petition doesn’t work, we’ll demonstrate, if demonstrations don’t work, we’ll go to legal action,” Chung said in an interview with the Vancouver Sun.
Chung’s viewpoint is unconstructive, and takes the conversation into the territory of needless bickering. The shark fin ban isn’t about racism, cultural ignorance, or ignoring heritage – it’s simply an environmental issue.
Due to overfishing, many shark populations have been reduced by over 90 per cent. When animals high on the food chain are threatened, it endangers and damages an entire ecosystem. The majority of fins used are obtained through the process of “finning”, where the sharks’ fins are removed and the sharks are thrown back into the ocean to die. Millions of sharks are killed this way yearly.
At the heart of the debate is the dish of shark fin soup. The dish represents success in Chinese culture – serving shark fin soup at a dinner party or buying it while taking friends out for dinner has long been a sought-after status symbol. The flavour of the soup doesn’t even come from the shark fin (it’s practically tasteless), but instead from the chicken stock it’s usually made with. However, the idea of the soup, rather than the flavour, is what supporters are fighting for.
About 500 Calgarians have signed a petition opposing Calgary’s shark fin ban – citing the dish’s heritage, its place on special occasions, and the importance of old family recipes as why it should be allowed.
This argument holds absolutely no water. Jon Kauffman of SFWeekly wrote, “Globally, we’ve reached the point at which the collapse of an ecosystem has to take precedence over one culture’s culinary heritage.”
The practice is deeply wasteful, and it’s outrageous that this enormous damage is taking place just so people can have an expensive bowl of soup. Let’s stop using informal fallacies to make this conversation about race and instead discuss the real issue at stake – entire ecosystems and millions of animals’ lives.