About,  Archive

A Dish That Divides

Exploring the ongoing controversy surrounding shark fin soup

by Leslie Clark
chee.hong on Flickr, January 30, 2008

We all want to make ethical choices when it comes to our diets. One dish that’s been debated about for this reason is shark fin soup. Some call it a delicacy, while some say it perpetuates cruelty and waste.

Those who oppose the sale of shark fin soup say that the process of obtaining the fins is unnecessarily painful and violent. The sharks are captured, have their fins cut off, and are thrown back into the ocean still alive. Because shark fin soup can be sold for up to $100 a bowl, and sometimes more, it’s something restaurants are reluctant to take off their menus. Some also say that it should be preserved for the sake of culture, as the dish is a centuries-old Chinese tradition served on special occasions (CNN).

Shark fins themselves are actually tasteless, and the soup is usually flavoured with chicken stock or other types of stock. They are only used to thicken the broth and provide bulk. It is also believed that they have medicinal effects, but this has never been scientifically proven (CNN). In fact, because they contain high levels of mercury, the United States Environmental Protection Agency warns that pregnant women and children shouldn’t consume shark fin products (EPA).

Stop Shark Finning is an organization dedicated to raising awareness about the process and getting it abolished. According to Stop Shark Finning, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature lists twenty species of sharks as endangered. They also say that since 1972, the populations of many species have fallen by over 90%.

Here in Toronto, this dish has been making headlines recently. On October 25th, the city passed a bylaw banning the possession or sale of any shark products, including fins. Fines up to $100,000 will be imposed depending on the number of offenses (CBC News). Despite this, the Toronto Chinese Business Association received a threat letter recently from an animal rights group threatening to poison meats and produce in Chinese markets and restaurants around the city (PostCity.com).

What do you think about the ban? Let us know in the comments.


Leave a Reply