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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Responses

  1. Ya… If to anti-shark-fin consuming, should do it in countries like Japan and China. (If i’m not mistaken). Cause what we had in Malaysia was not 100% shark fin, we like having 5% of 100% shark fin in the shark fin soup. What we had is artificial shark fin. I don’t think I’ve tasted a real one through all my years having shark fin soup in people’s wedding dinner. But is it serious that there is 100 million shark killed annually? I mean the fact is insane….

  2. As I said in my post – no matter what percentage of sharksfin is in the soup that is commonly served in restaurants (I’m very certain it’s more than 5%, actually, I know that it’s more than 5%), we still need to send a message out to other Asian countries (like Japan and China) that we do not support this sort of practice.
    Check out the Sharkwater website for a few more insane (but true) facts.

    Just the fact that sharksfin is being served at wedding dinners is bad practice. Even if there is only 5%, it’s still sharksfin! And it still comes from a shark that has been harvested.

  3. geez, people will do anything to make themselves feel better about all the terrible deeds they do to the planet, its inhabitants, including themselves.

    you go jaui. i mean i think there are definitely other causes you could go for too that might be more effective and relevant locally but i still think bringing awareness about sharksfin is important.


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