Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Shark fin soup: status symbol or shameful practice?

Status and power are very important in Chinese culture and shark fin soup is considered to be one of the key culinary status symbols. It is considered a symbol of wealth, power and prestige and is traditionally served at special occasions such as weddings and business deals. With a bowl of shark fin soup costing up to $100 the shark fin business is highly lucrative for fishermen, retailers and restaurants.

However, the consumption of shark fin soup is surrounded by much controversy as the practice of ‘finning’ - the removal of the fins from the sharks - is often criticised as being cruel and wasteful. Fishermen cut the fins of the live sharks and throw the rest of the animal back overboard where usually bleed to death or die from suffocation.

Shark finning is largely unmanaged and unmonitored and every year, the fins of up to 73 million sharks are harvested and sold, the majority of which end up on plates in luxury restaurants in China and Hong Kong. In the lst 30 years, global shark population has dropped by 90%, mostly as a result of finning.
The saddest part is that the fin doesn’t actually contribute to the flavour of the soup but rather adds a certain texture which can also be provided by other ingredients such as eggwhites, which is often used in Chinese restaurants overseas.

Fortunately, public opinion is slowly turning against the practice of finning and the consumption of the soup with an increasing number of businesses pledging not the buy or sell the soup. Hong Kong Disneyland, for example, has removed the dish from its wedding banquet menu and the University of Hong Kong has also stopped  serving the dish on campus. Let’s hope more restaurants will follow suit.

Not all locals feel the same way and some are so set on having their beloved soup  that they get pretty upset if they don’t get it. For example the lady in the video below.

See you next time!

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