Finishing the Fin

by icedtehc

It’s on posters, its message was shared around Facebook at such a frequent rate, it’s even on some T-Shirts and recently it came to me in the form of a volunteer from the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF). I was impressed with the volunteers overall courtesy as well as her determination to spread the word, but it was quite displeasing to hear the way she presented her case about the Shark-Fin Ban Campaign with countless loopholes. I didn’t share my opinions with her though, she was a pleasant person to interact with, and I simply did not want my opposing opinions to potentially create unnecessary conflict.However, I thought through everything she said during my MRT ride home and came up with my own conclusion. Though I can’t remember everything she said, I’ll gladly share what I remember.

Right off the bat, I was taught the process of how Sharks are finned –

  1. Sharks are captured at sea and hauled onto a ship’s deck.
  2. On the ship, the sharks, often alive, quickly have their fins sliced off.
  3. The maimed sharks are then usually tossed overboard to drown or bleed to death.

There is no doubt that the cruelty is sitting right there infront of us. Even I cannot think of something to justify the process in which these sharks are killed. However, that’s where the similarity in opinions end.

From my perspective, the dish itself is a delicacy, and more importantly a tradition to the Chinese people, hence, it is no surprise that it may seem taboo to some Westerners. Traditions are meant to kept and passed on. Shark’s Fin itself is a sustainable economical source, due not only to it’s high price, but also to it’s high demand, especially within the Chinese community. Why can’t we leave the dish alone and fix the real problem – The Harvesting Process?

When solving solutions, we should learn and welcome alternative solutions, as it is these alternatives that usually allow agreements to be made. So here’s my idea (unless you’re vegetarian/vegan, hear me out):

To kill a shark simply for it’s fin is like killing an entire pig just for a trotter – a total waste. There’s a reason people eat almost every part of the pig, simply because we can! Similarly, shark flesh can be eaten as well! Why not just use the entire shark and enjoy the other “98%”? This not only prevents wastage and cruelty, but also allows increases in profits from the sale of flesh! Now, killing a shark for its meat is like killing any typical farm animal for their meat!

But of course, we can always bring in the status of endangerment. As a personal animal-lover, I too could never imagine a truly wonderful species of animal like the Shark going extinct. This is where breeding and conservation come into play. Compared to many other species, Sharks aren’t really all that endangered, but their numbers are falling at a critical rate. It’s definitely not to late to put in some effort into preserving these creatures. Breeding on the other hand, not only allows for a population increase, but also allows for easy slaughtering by ‘farmers’ and thus, a more steady and controllable supply of Shark’s fin and flesh. Re-populating might take awhile, but every step counts, and every step leads to another bowl of tradition sitting on the table of a wedding dinner.

Even with various good suggestions, the Internet is still further bombarded by rebuttals, particularly about the ‘dangers’ of eating Shark’s Fin as well as suggesting efforts to replace ‘tasteless’ Shark’s fin with something that also has its ‘easily-replicable texture’. For those non-vegetarians, or better yet, meat-lovers out there –

Would you rather enjoy a plate of real deal Char Siew, or just eat mock meat, made from flours, malts, etc.?

Also, to talk about ‘high mercury levels’ is simply an unfair statement, as it’s a rather common fact that large fish such as tuna, swordfish and of course, SHARKS, contain a high level of mercury, but as it’s not a staple food, but rather a delicacy for special occasions, the ‘health risks’ toward adults are completely negligible. Shall we ban sushi as well?! However, I can say that it’s also good to know that for soon-to-be pregnant, pregnant women, nursing mothers and young children, FDA/EPA have advised them to avoid consumption of fish high in mercury. Not only that, Shark’s Fin Soup has also been scientifically known to have higher nutrient (zinc, iron and phosphorous) levels than usual vegetable soups! There ARE benefits to this dish!

I am a Singaporean individual with Chinese roots and it hurts to see a tradition, especially one from my own roots, around since the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644), being broken down because of modernisations of a Western-influence as well as irresponsible methods involved in the industry. Hard work will be needed to fix the real problem – The Process, but once it’s fixed, traditions will stay, the animals will stay, it’s a win-win situation for all. However as I always say, in the end, the freedom of choice is yours. If you’re not comfortable with eating Shark’s Fin, it’s perfectly alright, but please do not force your opinions into my gullet – we all have different definitions of ‘Finishing the Fin’.