Posted by: jauipop | June 18, 2008

Sharkwater Part 2

Ok, I may not be an expert on the topic, but I certainly can draw up some conclusions as to what solutions there are to save sharks. I think that you’ll find that many of the ‘solutions’ are repeated whenever we talk about sharks, but here are some practical ones that we, as laypeople, can carry out on a more grassroots level (specially for Malaysians):

  1. Whenever at a Chinese banquet where sharksfin soup is being served, say no and make sure you are well informed of the issues and your reasons why you’re saying no. People will ask and you should be able to say it all in a nutshell. I personally tend to ramble a bit about things, but I’ve learnt people generally get tired of it – specially if they’re strangers. I think just the sight of seeing some refuse it will spark some curiousity in some people (not all, but some).
  2. If organising a Chinese banquet, do not give in to the ‘elders’ and order sharksfin soup. Give them a reason why it’s wrong and why the practice should not be supported – give them supporting reasons, and they will usually understand. Give them a few options for the soup course (there are many other BETTER soups available in Chinese restaurants that are a lot less expensive).
  3. Join groups that support the ban of sharksfin – make a pledge at www.sharkwater.com.
  4. Buy and watch Sharkwater. For those of you who can afford it, buy a few copies that can be lent out to people to watch. Personally, I have 3 copies (2 DVD and 1 BluRay) that I ordered from Amazon. It’s the least you can do to help. If you can only afford one copy, then make sure it doesn’t collect dust on your shelf after you watch it – lend it to people!
  5. For a lot of people, this point might be hard to carry out – but it’s a good idea to cut out seafood altogether (and then eventually meat). I know that the vegetarian lifestyle might be a bit drastic for some, but seriously (and jokes aside), it is one of the key elements to helping our eco system. Malaysians are starting to be brought up to speed on ‘green issues’ but if, as individuals, we do our part, then a difference can really be made. By being vegetarian, you will constantly be thinking about these issues whenever you shop, eat out and cook. If you can’t take such a sudden change, then at least cut down the amount of seafood/meat you consume. Give yourself a few days a week in which you are meat-free.
  6. Pressure hotels / restaurants to stop serving sharksfin. As the classic wildlife conservation tagline says “When the Buying Stops, the Killing Does Too”. Support hotels and restaurants that don’t serve sharksfin. Write about them in your blogs and recommend them to your friends whenever they’re booking a dinner and especially weddings.

This might not be the exhaustive list of things that we can do to save sharks, but it sure is a start. I respond to those naysayers who keep going on about how it can’t be done and all that jazz. Seriously, if you change, others will take suit – especially when you keep yourself informed about the issues.

We want to eventually make it more of a stigma than a privilege to have sharksfin soup at a dinner.

We want to eventually have people think that the host is thoughtless and uneducated whenever they put sharksfin soup (or sharksfin) as an item on their set menu.

And eventually should really be now.

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Posted by: jauipop | June 17, 2008

Great News!

Resorts World in Singapore has announced that sharksfin soup will not be on their menus!

Let’s see if they apply this to their whole group in Asia (ie. Malaysia & Macau).

The following is extracted from www.wildaid.org (an organisation who’s mission is to end the illegal wildlife trade within our lifetimes)

Major Singapore Resort Says No to Shark Fin Soup
5/29/2008

Singapore, 29 May 2008 – Resorts World at Sentosa (RWS) today launched a fund to sponsor research, education and conservation efforts related to marine life, to further the marine conservation cause. The RWS Marine Life Fund will dispatch up to SGD$100,000 each year in 2008 and 2009 and up to SGD$1 million each year from 2010 when the Resort opens.

To encourage and cultivate an interest for the oceans, besides researchers and NGOs, the Fund is also open to schoolchildren. 25 percent of this Fund will be set aside for kids working on school projects related to marine conservation. There is no cap on the applied funding, and projects could span anything from fieldwork to classroom models. All applications will be assessed by a RWS committee which oversees the Fund, and for applications for funding above $20,000, an independent reviewer will be included in the assessment.

Reinforcing this commitment to marine conservation and research, the Resort also announced that shark fin will not be offered on the menus of banquets and restaurants throughout the Resort. Instead, alternatives to this traditional Asian delicacy, often served at celebratory and wedding dinners, will be made available. RWS is taking this step in the belief that the consumption of shark fin is currently unsustainable due to the declining shark population and growing demand for shark fin.

RWS’s Communications Head Krist Boo, who oversees the project, said, “We hope to see some good applications for the Marine Life Fund. What’s exciting for us is that this fund is not reserved only for established conservation groups, but it has a pocket solely devoted to kids. We hope it will encourage children to learn about the ocean, and to love it. The online application process is easy for all.”

“As for shark fin, we are taking it off the menu because being a landmark project in Asia, we believe we can make a difference. There are communities that have consumed shark meat and fins for generations and we respect that. What we are advocating is an end to mass consumption patterns that appear unsustainable for the shark population. We are fortunate to have WildAid and ACRES, two very respected conservation groups, as partners on this cause.”

Mr Peter Knights, Executive Director of WildAid, headquartered in San Francisco, said, “Just as with action to stem global warming, it is vital that corporations and the public take the lead, as government action is invariably too little too late. By eating alternatives consumers can help to save sharks and protect our oceans and we applaud Resorts World at Sentosa’s lead on this.”

Mr Louis Ng, Executive Director of Singapore-based ACRES (Animal Concerns Research and Education Society), said, “ACRES applauds RWS for leaving shark fin soup off their menu and we urge the public to support this progressive move. We certainly hope that other companies and restaurants follow RWS’s example which will undoubtedly make a difference for the world’s remaining sharks.”

The new initiatives launched today are an extension of the Resort’s conservation efforts. In 2006, RWS undertook the initiative to relocate corals and other marine life around the northern coastline affected by reclamation works that were carried out as part of the Resort’s construction. To preserve a part of Singapore’s natural marine heritage, the affected corals were moved to the Southern Islands, and are now thriving in their new homes.

Application procedures for the RWS Marine Life Fund are available at www.rwsentosa.com

Posted by: jauipop | June 17, 2008

All About Sharkwater Part 1

As mentioned in my very first post, Sharkwater pretty much renewed my food choices. First, I started off with seafood, but then I realised that since I’m cutting out seafood, I might as well go the full hog and cut out meat too.

Sharkwater is a great documentary that quashes old, stagnant and archaic beliefs that sharks are dangerous creatures. In actual fact, sharks are timid and shy creatures when it comes to humans. They are the number 1 predator of the ocean, but have no interest in humans at all. As said in Sharkwater, sharks only kill 5 humans a year, whereas tigers and elephants kill 100 (other statistics about guns don’t even need to be mentioned, because the point that is being made is fairly obvious). Sharks only bite humans when they’re curious as to what we actually are and the bite is rarely fatal.

I myself have seen a white tip shark when diving in the Maldives last month. It was quite a distance away on the sand (we were in the coral), but I was stunned at how calm I actually was. After watching silly thriller movies like Jaws where sharks are bloodthirsty demons, I would have thought I would have been petrified. In actual fact, I was filled with a sense of calm and it was certainly an experience just watching the majestic creature swim past.

Directed and ‘starring’ Rob Stewart, Sharkwater documents how Rob exposed the sharkfinning industry and how it is eventually going to effect oceanic ecosystems and in turn will effect the planet’s ecosystem. He also exposes the fact that illegal finning happens everyday in protected waters. Long line fishing is absolutely horrid and a highly wasteful practice, but it is commonly used when it comes to catching sharks. Up to 40 million sharks are killed this way per year.

Rob points towards Asia as the place where demand is highest. Some people might find this ‘racist’ or ‘offensive’ and point fingers back at America where shark cartilage are also sold in ‘alternative therapy’ outlets. Being a Malaysian, and having grown up in a culture where sharksfin soup was part of my lifestyle whenever we had large family banquets, I don’t dare to point fingers back. There is really no point blaming other people and looking elsewhere to lay fault. We in the Chinese culture need to face the facts and hopefully our race will eventually stop thinking that sharksfin is a much needed delicacy in important Chinese dinners.

Watching this documentary is essential to our understanding and will start a journey (or dare I say, movement) towards sharksfin free Chinese weddings and dinners.

When stripped down, sharksfin soup is basically a tasteless cartilage cooked with either a chicken or pork broth. All the taste comes from the broth and none from the cartilage. The cartilage only offers some texture and the myth of a long life and a strengthened immune system. There is actually no scientific evidence that proves these claims.

I will write more on what solutions I can come up with and what solutions organisations recommend in the following posts. Meanwhile, find yourself a copy of Sharkwater and watch it!

Posted by: jauipop | June 17, 2008

Confessions of an On and Off Vegetarian

Hi, I’m Jau, and I’m a Meat Eater. I have been meat free for 3 weeks. Well, I started the no-meat thing back when I was in high school in Melbourne, Australia. I was 14 at the time and maintained a vegetarian diet (not vegan) for about 8 years. I returned to my homeland Malaysia when I was 20 and only started eating meat when I was 21 and had gone to China for 3 months to study. Living in Asia didn’t really help my willpower to stay vegetarian because there is just very little understanding amongst peers / colleagues about the ‘lifestyle’ (even if you can call it that). What made it harder was the fact that I’m a guy. In Malaysia, culturally, a fair few people still think that guys who are vegetarians are weird (to say the least). My only saving grace is that my whole family is vegetarian (or at least, there is no meat in the house), so it is quite easy to stick to it if I don’t leave the house for meals.

I’m now 24 and it was only last year that I went back to a meat free diet. I even managed to convince my partner to join me and we did sustain it for about 5-6 months. Festive season came and went and I became a meat eater again.

And as of 2 weeks ago, I have fallen off the meat wagon and soaking up the soy again.

So as you may be able to deduct, I had 3 stages in my life in which I had a switch flip and changed eating habits.

Stage 1 – Teenage years
Spiritually, I decided to cut out meats (along with my family) because we had started following a certain way of life and karmically, the vegetarian diet is easier on your big book of karma calculations (if you believe in that sort of thing). I won’t go into it, but after 7-8 years of this, it pretty much just became a pattern and it was very easy, as I wasn’t alone in Melbourne and vegetarian options were very available.
I remember once during my high school cross country season, I was concerned about nutrition and I spoke to a sports nutritionist about my diet. She looked at the list of foods I was eating and she told me that I was getting a very good diet compared to many meat eaters who often leave out the vegetables and legumes in their life. She told me just to continue with my diet which included raw vegetables (or lightly cooked), legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas) and tofu.

Stage 2 – 2007
After a few years of giving into the chicken/steak/fish desires, my sister (who runs an eco-product online store, www.tinytapir.com) stumbled across a documentary called Earthlings (www.isawearthlings.com). Now, this documentary is an intense (and VERY graphic) depiction of how animals have been exploited in the meat / clothing / entertainment / pet / science industries. It is based on the very real fact that every living creature on Earth is an Earthling and by humans (as one species) exploiting another species, we are performing a gross act of specism (like sexism, racism etc).
This opened up my eyes and I realised that my meat eating habits weren’t helping both spiritually (on a personal level) and the environment (on a more global level).
I highly recommend Earthlings to everyone. The only way you will be able to see it is through purchasing the DVD through the website. It is directed by Sean Monson, narrated by Joaquin Phoenix and scored by Moby and it is just a very well made, yet controversial, documentary. It was not picked up by any studio because it was too graphic in the depictions of animal slaughter/animal testing etc. and so it is very important that we, as individuals, support efforts like this.

Stage 3 – 2 weeks ago… 2008
So I vow that this will be the last time I ‘relapse’ into being vegetarian. This time, it was a combination of my memories of Earthlings, the 11th Hour and Sharkwater.
I’m sure you know about the 11th Hour, but may not have seen it – if you haven’t, do yourself (and the planet) a favour and watch it.
Sharkwater may be a little less known – especially in Asia where it is most important. You can order it off http://www.amazon.com or check out their website http://www.sharkwater.com.
I recently took up diving last year, and the ocean is a beautiful place – it’s another world. I will write more on Sharkwater in my next entry (I need a whooole entry for this one). In a nutshell, if Chinese people around South East Asia and the greater Asian area see it and fully understand the impact that, as a race, we are making on the ocean, we would stop seeing sharksfin soup on wedding banquet/banquet dinners in Chinese restaurants and hotels.

Till next time, go through the sites pointed out through the blog and do a little reading for yourself – because knowledge truly is power (hmmm… cliche I know, but true).

www.sharkwater.com
www.isawearthlings.com
www.tinytapir.com

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