Posted by: jauipop | March 5, 2012

Been away… But now I’m BACK!

I’m not sure if anyone out there will read this, but hopefully once I start posting a bit more, I’ll get some attention… please? Haha…

It’s been a few years since I last posted here and much has happened in my personal, vegetarian and work lives.  I would like to start off by saying that I’m not a vegetarian anymore and do eat meat once in a while.  I still advocate the vegetarian diet (and vegan diets), but I have personally found it hard to keep to it.  My meals are mostly vegetarian – about 90-95% of what I eat is meat-free.  I plan to one day make that number even less and perhaps just eliminate meat for good.

I still hold the belief that sharksfin soup is evil and still needs to be stopped.  Currently, there has been a little bit more momentum on the topic and more people are starting to be aware of the issues.  Sure, there are some who don’t care and still go ahead with being ignorant, but internationally, effective work is being done.  The killing isn’t going to end overnight, but it will hopefully happen at this pace.

On my work life, I have actually opened a vegetarian/vegan café that’s attached to a restaurant that’s not open yet.  The concept is fresh foods, mostly healthy and completely meat free!  I say mostly healthy because there are some things on the menu that are a tad indulgent, but people need to treat themselves once in a while.  We also have the best coffee in KL, roasted in the café and we have the best machines to get the sort of cuppa that you would get in Melbourne (and other cities with awesome coffee).  It’s been a long year and there are many more challenges ahead, but it’s been fun so far.

Another interesting note is that we made sure we used as much material that was environmentally friendly and sustainable as possible: Bamboo flooring and table tops, non-toxic varnishing on the sustainable woods, biodegradable takeaway containers and energy efficient lighting.

I would like to note that we’re not using biodegradable, post-consumer waste coffee cups at the moment (we did when we first opened) because we made the big mistake of putting our trust in a company (based in Penang) that had containers made out of sugar cane waste and also manufactured biodegradable plastic bags.  They convinced us to put down a lot of money for a large order and they did make their first delivery.  The deal was that they would store the rest of our order for us and we could get it delivered free as and when we needed stock.  This obviously did not happen and trying to get our stock from them was like trying to extract teeth.  More to be done on that issue in the future.

Right now, our takeaway cups are from Detpak and they have informed us that, even though not recycled, their cups are 95% biodegradable.  We do try to encourage our customers to bring their own by discounting their coffee by RM2 whenever they bring a tumbler for takeaway.  We are also going to be stockists for the wonderful KeepCup  (barista standard bpa-free plastic cups that come in multiple funky colours and are just very cool), so that might hopefully reduce the need for us to have throwaway cups.

If you’re ever in the city centre (like, KLCC), look out for ICBC Bank in Wisma Equity and RAWcoffee (RAW stands for Real and Wholesome) Café is in the lobby of that building (150 Jalan Ampang).  It’s directly opposite the Petronas Twin Towers, and right next door to Bangunan Getah Asli (as in the Malaysian Rubber Board). Click HERE for our webiste.  And HERE for our FB or TWITTER

Anyway, this is just a check in and a feeler to see if people are still reading (probably not) and a post to get me off my ass to post more!  I still want to keep slightly on-topic and speak about vegetarianism, healthy eating, the environment and shark issues, but there will probably be diversions ahead.

Anybody out there in Malaysia who is vegetarian/vegan and want to give some tips of where to go, what to do and how to survive in this meat-centric country, feel free to comment.

Meanwhile, keep fighting the good fight!!

Posted by: jauipop | August 4, 2008

More to come… Soon

Just got back from a trip to London and recovering (dealing with jet lag and all that travel sort of stuff).  Also, had to go straight from the airport to the MTV Asia Awards up in Genting.  In a nutshell, it was a good show, but got way too drunk.

Unfortunately, we ate at this restaurant called the Olive up in the hotel and couldn’t try the risotto that was on offer – made by a chef that was flown in.  The risotto was created for the Beijing Olympics.  And it wasn’t vegetarian.  It didn’t have chunks of meat in it or anything, but it did use a meat stock, so i had to resist.  My partner, on the other hand, succumbed to the life of meat eating and had the risotto PLUS a wagyu beef steak.  *sigh* it’s hard being alone sometimes.  Hehe…

I wasn’t all 100% awesome vegetarian man though.  I did have some seafood.  But I promise myself that it will be the last time that happens.

Posted by: jauipop | July 13, 2008

Lovely, Tasty Vegetables *and rotton ones too

It’s been a couple of months meat free for me.  I do have to confess that I had a nasi lemak the other day that had ikan bilis (little mini fried anchovies) that I couldn’t really avoid.  It was a Malay tea house in Central Market before Pecha Kucha at the Central Market Annexe Gallary.  There was nothing else on the menu that was remotely meat free (traditional Malay dishes usually have beef, chicken, goat or fish) and the nasi lemak had the least meat/fish, so I decided to order that for my dinner.

So I’m not sure if i can say that I have been meat free, but I guess ikan bilis is a bit less harmful than anything else.

After speaking to a few people at the Pecha Kucha event, sponsored by the British Council, I’m thinking of creating a Malaysian Vegetarian Forum where Malaysian vegetarians can go and know that they’re not alone.  Most people who are vegetarian or trying to be vegetarians in Malaysia find it hard because they tend to be the only one in their group who are doing their bit either for their own health or for the health of the planet.

I guess I’ll be working on that once I decide which forum is best to use.

On another note along the same lines is the topic of composting.  I get the feeling that most Malaysians want to compost but don’t know how to or it is just too inconvenient.  Actually, most people around the world have the problem of composting being too inconvenient due to the steps that have to be taken, what can or cannot be in the composting bin or it might just be the smell.

There are a few composting systems around that could solve the problem of household wetwaste (and the ever increasing landfill problem).  One of them is called Bokashi.  I’m not exactly sure where it’s from but according to a blog I recently read, it is available in Malaysia from this woman in Sabah.  It’s about RM150 for a 5litre bin and the Bokashi grain (which I’m assuming is the bacteria).

Even then, the composting time still takes time and even though it’s designed to have no smell, it still could be deemed as inconvenient enough to deter people from buying and using it.  Still, I’d like to try it, so I’m going to source it out.  We’ve got a big garden in our house so we’ve tried out the dig-a-hole-and-compost method, but it’s really quite smelly and looks totally gross because of the worms/maggots decomposing the waste food.  So yeah, a sealed compost bin would be very welcome in my household!!

Another system which a friend of mine is working with is from a Technology company called Teccology Management Sdn Bhd. The guy who runs the place has bought this amazing composting technology from Japan.  At the moment, it’s designed for industrial use, ie. shopping malls, hotels, hospitals, airports, as the machines start at a capacity of 30kg and goes up to 250kg.  Plus at the moment, it’s crazy expensive.  So, it’s perfect for big business, but not households.

The great thing about this composting ‘machine’ is that it decomposes and produces organic fertilizer in 24 hours and just takes 1/2 and hour a day to operate (and that includes dumping the waste in).  Everything can be put in from vegetable cuttings, leftovers from meals, meat, bones, fish and even accidental bits of plastic won’t affect it because the end product is dry and plastics can then be sorted out.  It does all this by first using an effective composting bacteria (that can be recycled in subsequent cycles) and then speeding up the process by automatically stirring the waste along with controlling humidity and temperature.

They are a 2 year old company that is still struggling to convince companies and municipals to adopt this technology.  They have even approached Alam Flora about it and they have rejected the proposal.  This is ridiculous to hear because of the following reasons:

  1. The landfills in Malaysia are full of ‘wet waste’ due to the fact that our waste has lots of liquids. This means rancid runoff once the landfill is full and the runoff goes into our water systems and rivers.  This machine would solve that problem
  2. Alam Flora can make a profit from the system.  The calculations show that if they were to invest in the 250kg model, the sales from the organic compost to farms, gardens etc. would make the investment worth it in 1 year.
  3. If they designed their bins and trucks better, households would be able to have a bin at home split for food waste.  Their trucks then could have a separate compartment with this technology installed so that once the truck is back at the landfill, the waste would be turned into organic compost!  A simple solution that requires monetary investment that the bigwigs at Alam Flora can’t be bothered with.

I have requested to see whether they are able to make a household version that is about holds a capacity of about 1kg to 2kg.  I don’t know how much Malaysians would pay for it, but I sure would put down up to RM1,000 on a machine that could do that.  I mean, if I could get organic compost in 24 hours from my household waste, it’s totally worth it.  If people spend that much money on water filters in their house, this sort of investment to keep the Earth healthy should be within reach.

Question: How much would you spend on a machine that could do that?

Will write more on it soon!  Oh, and I’ll update everyone on the anti-sharksfin soup campaign.  Still working on the details!

Posted by: jauipop | July 2, 2008

Shark-Minded Blog Entries

Since I’ve started the blog, I’ve been searching through the blogosphere for blog entries that support the anti-sharksfin campaign or even just anti-shark fishing campaigns – indirectly or directly:

Scuba Chronicles, “diving with shark fin”

Make Wealth History, “Shark Attack(ed)”

Stuff, “Misconceptions about Sharks”

Random Nonsensical Ramblings, “Shark Finning”

“Cruelty on the menu” – Dana McCauley

“Saving Sharks” – Jean

Good Tidings, “More Sharks Endangered – Sharks Fin Soup Anyone?”

Will find more to add on later, but there’s a good start!

Posted by: jauipop | July 2, 2008

No Plastic Bags?

I’m sure a lot of people are probably quite sick about the tagline of no plastic bags and saving the environment or the ‘green’ movement or having to live ‘greener’.  Well, maybe not sick of it, but more feeling like they’re being nagged to death about it.  For the past year or two, the green movement has taken over magazine articles, magazine covers, newspapers, television shows and the movies.  With the Inconvenient Truth and the more recent 11th Hour, we are becoming more informed about the greenhouse effect (which was previously thought to be nonsense).

What is important is that we, as individuals, do something about it.  Being green makes you feel better and will in turn help the environment.  There is plenty of information on the internet about how to live green and organic.  More and more Malaysians really need to step up and start educating themselves about these issues.

The first, easiest and best ways to start living greener is to saying NO to plastic bags.  Whenever someone at a store offers you a plastic bag, say you don’t need it.  Actually, in Malaysia, you’ll need to tell them in advance that you don’t want them putting your goods in plastic bags.  Whenever you go grocery shopping, make an effort to bring your reusable bag with you and to use it once your at the checkout counter.  One reusable bag generally fits enough stuff to save 3 plastic bags (from my observations).

There are heaps of stories about how Malaysians who try to be greener get funny looks etc.  I’ve been bringing my reusable bags to grocery stores for the past year now (and I should have started earlier, especially after coming back from Australia where plastic bags are frowned upon) and I get looks from either the checkout girl or just the people around.  Maybe it’s just the start of the whole thing, and maybe it’s just people looking at someone who is doing things differently, but it should really be the other way around.  People who use plastic bags whenever they do their weekly grocery shopping should be getting the looks.

Once, I was in Hock Choon, my local supermarket on Jalan Ampang.  I pulled out an RuMe bag and told the checkout girl that i didn’t need plastic bags.  Hock Choon is actually pretty good about the awareness of people not wanting plastic bags.  There was a woman in front of me, Chinese and in about her mid-40s who heard and saw me do my thing with the RuMe bag, and she commented, “Oh, all you young people and your fads.”

Like, huh?

Seriously, it was the generation of my parents that created this consumerist society where things started becoming disposable and “more convenient”.  From disposable diapers, disposable sanitary pads, plastic bags and what-not.  This woman really had no right to comment about me using a reusable bag and calling it a fad.  Maybe it’s just because we’re more aware of our surroundings, lady.

But I didn’t say anything and hindsight is a bitch.

Another incident happened at Isetan where I walked past and saw the checkout girl put one of their RM20 eco-bags (that’s already wrapped in plastic when you first purchase it) and put it into a plastic bag along with all the customers other shopping in plastic bags.  Things that piss me off about that:

1) THE CUSTOMER DIDN’T SAY ANYTHING.  I think I actually saw her nod in acknowledgment.

2) It was right in front of a big Isetan campaign board about reducing the use of plastic bags.

3) I didn’t say anything because I was too chicken and yes, hindsight is a bitch.

Seriously, Isetan should really step up their game (I have called them to let them know).  They only have one supermarket in the country and hence, it’s not that hard to educate your checkout girls to first ask the customer whether they have their own bag.  It shouldn’t be the other way round that the customer has to take a little tag off a hook to say that they don’t want a plastic bag (that’s their new system – if you don’t want to use plastic bags, there are wooden tags next to the counter that you have to take).

I guess Isetan is talking the talk, but not really walking the walk by observing how other countries do it.

What should really happen is that supermarkets should start charging for plastic bags.  They do this in other countries, and Malaysians being so kiasu about things, habits will change and they’ll start to think twice about using a plastic bag to take away a bottle of soft drink.  Even Ikea Malaysia doesn’t do that, when it’s practiced by other Ikea stores in other countries.

Hopefully, things will change and Malaysians (and the rest of the world) will be able to reduce their use of plastic bags.

I’ll write more in the next blog about handy solutions but meanwhile, visit Tiny Tapir and Project Daily Million for some ideas!

Posted by: jauipop | June 27, 2008

Being a Vegetarian in Malaysia

As we all know, it is pretty tough to be a vegetarian in most Asian countries (and quite a few European ones too) because of a mix of culture and habits.  Sometimes, being a vegetarian gets you labelled as a freak or just strange because there is a lack of understanding about vegetarian diets and how one can actually survive quite well on it.

Just recently, my partner and I took our friends to a restaurant in Bangsar called Woods Macrobiotic.  The restaurant/shop is pure vegan and organic which is great.  The food is tasty and satisfying (although a bit expensive) and even though the atmosphere is a little bit stark and the staff can be a little bit fidgety about service, it is a great concept and should be supported.  For any of you who want to visit, it’s on Jalan Telawi 2 next to Devi’s Corner (across the road and closer to Bangsar Village II from La Bodega).  I recommend the pesto spaghetti, fried rice, the 5 noodle set and the millet curry set.  Even the desserts are egg/milk free!

My friends are meat eaters and aren’t all that big on vegetarian food.  I guess for some, it’s a ‘novel’ idea to have a dish or a whole meal that is just purely meat/fish free.  I know that I have been a bit off and on being a vegetarian, but i absolutely hate it (ok, hate may be too strong a word – dislike) it when the people around me make it a big deal about the vegetarian thing and complain when there’s a vegetarian at their dinner table.  Look, we vegetarians are quite adaptive creatures and we’ll tell you when the restaurant choice is not on (for example, if there no vegetarian option at all, or if the restaurant is solely focused on meat).

On the other hand, I tend to get a bit preachy about it (especially when prodded and asked about why on earth would I choose NOT to eat meat).  Whenever I give my reasons, it seems to get a bit drawn out.  I really need to create some sort of summary for myself and rehearse it so that I can automatically give a short answer whenever asked.  That’s what I need to work on.

Restaurants

Restaurants also need to start upping their game for vegetarians.  Recently, a vegetarian friend of mine went to Alexis for lunch.  Alexis is an expensive cafe/restaurant/bistro that has a couple of outlets around KL.  The food is mostly western with some selection of local favourites.  One would think that a restaurant of this calibre would have meat-free salads on the menu (and robust ones at that), but no, sadly, my friend had to specifically order a salad without the chicken or the turkey bacon bits.  What came back was a pitiful plate of cos lettuce and cheese.

When he spoke to the waiter about adding a few more items (ie. olives, tomatos… ANYTHING!), the waiter went off to the kitchen and came back only to tell him that it would cost RM8 extra to add those things, even though they took away the meat from the dish.  When doing a cost comparison, why would it cost more to add vegetables to a dish that was already worth less than the menu price?  You would figure if that was the case, there should have been a discount on the dish because the meat had been taken away.  But that’s the mentality here and there is no flexibility for vegetarians or anybody with a ‘different’ dietry need.

I’m sure there are some restaurants that do have flexibility and options, so perhaps you readers can comment back as to where vegetarians can go (with their meat eater friends) and still have a good meal.

Sometimes, the best answer would be for restaurants to cater to all their clientele and a simple “V” next to the vegetarian options would suffice.

Posted by: jauipop | June 26, 2008

A Letter from Mark Stevenson (WildAid)

The following is a comment written by Mark Stevenson from WildAid, an organisation that strives to protect endangered species around the world. I have been speaking to them for help in the efforts that I am planning in Malaysia in relation to reducing the consumption of sharksfin soup / sharksfin.

Dear All,

I was directed to this website through the forwarded correspondences between Peter Knights (the executive director of WildAid) and Mr Marcus Chan.

First let me introduce myself. I am currently working for WildAid in the U.K. in their shark campaign. I am in the closing stages of producing two new reports; I also run a corporate campaign attempting to get major American and E.U. translational corporations that operate in China to remove shark fin soup. Finally I am also beginning the long process of lobbying to get further Shark species listed in both CITES and CMS (Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals).

My own background is a zoologist working in the field of fisheries science and also I have previously worked at the London Aquarium.

First let me begin by saying that I am really glad that people are beginning to take note of the real threat of the issue relating to sharks and rays.

I do not want to reiterate the entire of WildAid’s and other shark groups information on this one blog page, if you are interested in a detailed summary of all of the relevant information relating to shark threats and conservation please go to: http://www.wildaid.org/index.asp?CID=72&PID=262&SUBID=275

Having quickly read the website I would like to summarise a few critical comments:

1) One group wrote that only 3 species were listed on CITES. This is not correct, the CITES listing for Elasmobranchii has a total of 10 species, 7 of which are guitar fish or guitar sharks. The remaining three are the great white, basking and whale shark.

2) This was used as evidence that sharks are not declining. This is incorrect. The IUCN produces the only globally accepted list of endangered species. The total number of sharks listed is 119 out of a total of 556 shark species currently known.
Nearly 1 in 5 sharks are therefore endangered of extinction.

3) A growing body of evidence is showing the cataclysmic decline of sharks and rays. Peer reviewed scientific papers by numerous groups from different labs around the world have independently shown declines of major shark species ranging from 70-99%. Myers et al (2007) showed that the massive decline (80-99% depending on species) in large predatory sharks such as hammerhead, tiger sharks, bull sharks, dusky and smooth hammerhead sharks is due to the impact of fishing.

The IUCN produced its first complete assessment of the status of Mediterranean shark and ray species. 42% of these species are immediately threatened with extinction. This has been supported by further work in the last two weeks.

The results from Sustainability Assessment for Fishing Effects (SAFE) in Australia indicate that out of the 51 species, 19 species (when uncertainty is taken into account) would be potentially at risk of over fishing and nine species potentially at risk of being unsustainable. In particular, five species have point estimates of total population crashes (silver tip shark, dwarf ornate wobbegong shark, the angel shark, blotched fantail ray and the porcupine ray).

4) In all of this discussion there as been as yet no mention of the high levels of mercury found in shark fin and indeed all shark products.

Sharks are top predators and just like tuna, marlin and sailfish they retain organic pollutants and heavy metals. A growing body of evidence is showing that the methylmercury absorbed by sharks in their long lifetimes is a toxic risk for humans.

Sharks contain such high levels of Mercury that the world health organisation sets its consumption limits at zero portions per month. One dose of 200g of shark meat or cartilage exceeds the WHO monthly mercury limit. The WHO notes that this is especially important to pregnant women as the fetus is incredibly vulnerable to damage from mercury. A study by Choy et al (2002) showed a direct link between male infertility and shark and tuna consumption in Hong Kong. For further information on shark mercury levels please see the WildAid reports on the website. I am in the process of reviewing and publishing a new report at this moment that deals exclusively with this issue.

I have also taken up vegetarianism in several bouts during my lifetime and currently maintain a no seafood diet (and only organic free range meat). I commend anyone who is supporting animal conservation and a move towards society that has respect and compassion for the natural world.

If anyone would like to contact me for further details or cant download any of the reports you can reach me at: stevenson@wildaid.org

Sincerely,
Mark Stevenson
Shark Campaign Officer
WildAid
5 St Peters Street,
London
N1 8JD
http://www.wildaid.org
stevenson@wildaid.org

Posted by: jauipop | June 20, 2008

More on Being Vegetarian

I have now, thankfully, been meat free for nearly a month now and it feels great.  I’ve started not to care about what other people say whenever I’m out eating and order the vegetarian option.  Unfortunately, it’s still a problem in Malaysia that those options are very limited on most menus (and limited to things like pasta, which isn’t good for my waistline!).

I got a question (my first comment!!) from a reader, Damien, and he was considering becoming a vegetarian, but didn’t know how to do it when surrounded by other meat eaters.  It is totally understandable that individuals in most Asian countries would find it hard to become fully vegetarian because of the people around them.  You get weird looks, off beat comments (nothing nasty) and you’re surrounded by meat!  One has to be quite strong in willpower and their own conviction to become a full vegetarian.  There are a lot of people here that don’t eat meat on certain days in the month due to religion, but on every other day, they’ll eat a few meat dishes during every meal.  A lot of Buddhists and Hindus don’t eat beef, Muslims don’t eat pork, but they eat everything else (unless they’re vegetarian, but it’s hard to find too many vegetarians).

What I advise is to build up your own reasons of becoming a vegetarian. If it’s for animal welfare reasons, check out Earthlings if you can afford to buy the DVD, or check out this website to start fully informing yourself about the issues of why you should stop eating meat.  There are even health reasons given in the DVD – the way that the animals are treated can’t be good for their health and in turn, our health.  Many people might say that free range meat is OK – but how available is free range in Malaysia?  There is very limited availability of these sorts of meat in this country.

Perhaps start off slowly, have at least one meal a day that is meat free then slowly only have one meat dish per day then one meat dish a couple of times a week and then once a week, then eventually no meat at all.  This pyramid scheme will help you curb your cravings (just like smoking), and it will slowly detox your body.  For some, an instant halt of meat in a meat laden diet will affect your body and might trigger things like sweats and discomfort.  This is because all the toxins that usually comes with meat will finally be getting out of your body.

I’ll write more about being a vegetarian and vegetarian recipes in other posts.  But for now, check out these websites for more resources:

Happy Reading!

Posted by: jauipop | June 19, 2008

Great little website

Click here for a great website run by Malaysian Nature Society (GREAT job guys! I’ll be sure to do my best to promote this campaign).

Focusing on Chinese wedding banquets, the website shows examples of Malaysian weddings that have said NO to sharksfin soup/sharksfin ingredients in their menus. Also, they have also produced a little card saying ‘Thank You’ to the guests for their understanding with a little bit of explanation of the campaign.

The card itself is very attractive, but perhaps one day there’ll be a variety of cards that wedding planners/couples can choose to have on their tables (ie. variety of fonts/designs/colours).

Yay! Well done yet again.

Posted by: jauipop | June 18, 2008

The Negative Attitudes (that get us nowhere)

While searching through the internet for Sharksfin articles, I came across a series of posts and blogs commenting about an article that was written back in August 5, 2007 (yeah, I know I’m a bit late in response, but I’m new on the bandwagon!). It’s an article written by Cheah Hooi Giam basically saying that the campaign against sharksfin soup is pointless and throws around statistics and facts that are bias towards a culture and it is more a personal bias that has created the campaign.

I haven’t been able to find the article, but the following is the response that was published in the Star Newspaper, Malaysia, as a letter to the editor (it can also be found at here)

Campaign Against Shark’s Fin Soup Based on Sad Facts

I WAS amazed when I read Cheah Hooi Giam’s “Economical with the Truth” (Sunday Star, Aug 5).

His statement that the campaign asking the public not to consume shark’s fin soup is based on cultural and personal bias is extremely strange.

Strange for the fact that there is no culture in this country that stops people from taking the soup; and what personal gain can anyone achieve by influencing others not to consume shark’s fin soup?

Such campaigns were started based on the alarming facts below:

Fact 1: It is estimated that 100 million sharks are killed annually;

Fact 2: A recent estimate of sharks killed in the fin trade alone stands at 73% of the total number of sharks killed;

Fact 3: The fin is considered the most valuable part of a shark, selling for more that US$700 per kg (compared with US$10 per kg for its meat!)

Fact 4: Spiny dogfish and porbeagle sharks are caught in Europe, and their meat is used in the fish and chip industry, their fins are sent to Asia for use in shark’s fin soup.

Live finning is not a myth! It is true and is happening simply because fisherman want to maximise their catch for the day by disposing of shark bodies in the sea and keeping room on their boat for fins.

Malaysia is a signatory to CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) but not a member of IWMC (International Wildlife Management Conservation Fund).

Why do we want to preserve sharks?

a) Sharks stand as a top predator in the food chain. Their depletion will undoubtedly disturb the ecosystem which also includes humans.

b) Sharks are one of the creatures that have a very slow reproduction system. Hammerhead sharks, only reproduce once a year with a gestation period of 10-12 months.

d) Fins contain mercury. Thai health officials reported in 2001 that local shark’s fin soup contained mercury about 42 times above the safe level.

I am very sure that our local NGOs would be very happy to start other conservation campaigns as recommended by Cheah in due time but for now, it’s the sharks that need our utmost attention because it has already been proven that their survival will in turn affect our lives, given the time.

KHATIJAH ABDULLAH (Conservationist),

Ampang, Selangor.

—-

This response sparked a mini-debate within the newspapers’ own online blog (click here) where the original poster responded with the following:

The anti-shark’s fin soup campaign is pointless

Posted by: theseeker

I refer to the letter Campaign against shark’s fin soup based on sad facts.

This isn’t even worth my time, seriously, but just so you know, I will make a short post.

I seriously agree with Cheah Hooi Giam that the anti-shark’s fin soup campaign is pointless. My reasons are:

1) As was mentioned, the shark’s fin used for soup here in Malaysia ISN’T shark’s fin at all. Or have you never eaten it? If you have, your sense of taste is bad. This fact was confirmed by someone who can tell what ingredients were used just by tasting the food. Why? Probably because ray and the like are cheaper than shark’s fin and most people can’t tell the difference anyway.

2) Campaigning here is pointless. We are not large consumers of shark’s fin. Go to China and campaign there, not here. That is, of course, until you get deported. Haha.

3) Your so-called “‘facts” and your actions do not match. Make up your mind.

Therefore, please take the campaign to China where it will have an effect.

—-

There was support for this response. Here are a few extractions:

“For me, shark, cows, chicken = food. I have no problem eating them. As for shark’s fin…if you can afford to eat the real thing, why not? It’s food. All I can say, at least they are not killed for fun or abused, they are killed for food… if anyone has issues eating any of these animals as food or how they are killed for food, then they should be vegetarians. And if they are vegetarians out of compassion for animal rights, then they should likewise have more compassion for their fella human beings. So what if a person is an animal lover and still capable of hacking a person into 11 parts?”

“That’s because when an animal kills a human, it’s an unfortunate event, but when a human kills an animal it’s cruelty. LOL. XD”

“The gist of the original shark’s fin article is that it is hypocritical of those in the West to tell one what to eat or not to eat based on their own cultural bias and not the facts. Sharks killed primarily because of shark’s fin soup consumption is only a small percentage of the total sharks killed… Furthermore, according to CITES, only 3 species of sharks are endangered. The other 300 odd species can be freely traded which means it’s OK to consume shark’s fin soup, just like eating your ikan kembung or bawal hitam.”

Only one person actually stepped up to support the campaign and to say that. “I read this and am amazed. It seems we are pointless running around without addressing the real issue. Whether the fact is right or wrong or watever, the main issue is protecting the sharks for ecological balance and future generation. Whether we kill one shark or another country kills thousands of sharks is immaterial.”

The negative comments are common and show attitudes that many Malaysians have. As I mentioned in an earlier post, we like to point fingers at other countries and say that it is really their problem, and essentially, what we’re doing is OK because someone else is doing something worse.

I like the second response – saying that Vegetarians who are sympathetic to animal welfare hack people up too because they have no problem with abusing human beings, just as long as they are good to animals. Huh? Like, seriously, I believe that vegetarians who are animal activists too are essentially more sympathetic to any sort of cruelty to anything that is living and has feelings. The only reason they defend animals so strongly is because WE as humans have been exploiting them for too long and that animals cannot defend themselves.

Yes, vegetarianism is a good step to supporting animal welfare, but that is really a life choice that people should make for themselves. As I said in my previous post, it is a choice and being a meat eater does not mean you don’t care about animals; it is hard to adjust diets when most of us have been raised to think that it’s ok to eat whatever we want and it is the norm to eat meat.

After doing a little more research, I found out that this Cheah Hooi Giam character is actually an optometrist from Penang. In response to KHATIJAH ABDULLAH who also wrote a piece for Malaysian Nature Society in response to his article (click here), he posted up on his company’s website more facts and figures to an alternative view to sharksfin (click here).

I read it with an open mind, and although he makes good points and regurgitates facts about how sharks aren’t endangered (there are only 3 species that are endangered) and that conservationalists are only showing footage of live finning as a ploy to shock and attract more supporters, he doesn’t see the most essential part of of the campaign against sharksfin. He says that the population decline of sharks is happening, but this is not a “phenomenon” that is occurring to that species. He says that it is widespread to many species. He concludes with the point that we should be working towards creating a more ‘sustainable’ way of harvesting sharks.

I agree with some of his points. Sustainable harvesting might be a solution but for the times that we live in where greed takes over sense, official international laws and treaties are not going to help. Rules against long line fishing and large net fishing aren’t going to stop the people who are actually doing it. This is essentially because there is no one there to police it. Sharkwater has a perfect example of laws not working when it comes to illegal finning – the fisherman do it anyway, and they get support from departments of their local government (because their local government are being paid off).

Until the oceans can be policed, and until international treaties and policies can be effectively enforced, the only way to save the ocean is for us, as individuals, to stop depending on other people to take action and take action ourselves. It is no use defending ourselves as a country or as a culture, because we are also guilty of contributing to an international problem – no matter how small.

And seriously, we can actually live without eating sharksfin, so what’s the fuss?

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