Sunday, January 11, 2009

Start a Facebook Boycott for Shark's Fin this Chinese New Year! HOO-HA!

In case you didn't know, Foldees was started by 3 bored Chinese dudes from Malaysia. Being Chinese, we get to celebrate the New Year twice (yay!). First, we drink to the high heavens on 31st Dec (as demonstrated here), and usually about a month later, Chinese New Year falls, which means gambling, visiting relatives who keep telling you you get bigger every year, and of course, the annual reunion dinner.

The reunion dinner is a tradition for Chinese families all around the world, where relatives meet once a year to welcome the new year. Usually, this means a ten-course dinner with a red table cloth, and of course, the obligatory Shark's Fin Soup.


I've been eating this stuff since I was a kid, and never thought twice about it, except that the soup tasted pretty good with some vinegar as you grew older. The shark's fin in it? Well, we always kinda ate it cos it was there, felt like we were getting back at JAWS, and someone told us it was expensive and "good stuff, so don't waste it".

About five years ago, my sister, who has always been a bit of a rebel, refused to eat the shark's fin soup because it was "cruel". Sure, I already knew that sharks aren't half as dangerous or evil as what people claim but to be honest, she has new causes every week, so I just ignored this boycott as one of her phases. This year however, a friend recommended I watch "Sharkwater", a film about sharks, and how it's not just cruel to sharks, but dangerous for the entire underwater eco-system and thus, us.

It's a beautifully-shot movie. It's got some of the most amazing underwater footage I've ever seen in it, and I'd recommend it to anybody who has the same fascination that I do with what's undar da sea. However, beyond that, it also shows what's going on with the shark trade around the world.

Basically, sharks are already an endangered species. This is because the Chinese people (like us) demand it, and at such high-prices, that it has become a literal gold-mine for fishermen, more so than any other fish. also, because only the fin is sought after, it takes ALOT of sharks (100 million a year and climbing at 5% annually) to make up for the demand.

100 million sharks.

And yes, sharks do get back at us... there are about 70 shark attacks each yea, usually resulting in 1 to 3 human fatalities per year.

Heck, I was reading an article today that showed that Malaysia alone has an average of 6000 deaths from road accidents every year. That's more than 16 deaths a day from those evil cars. Spark-plug soup anyone?

Because of this voracious demand, sharks are already dwindling in supply all over the world. As such, fishermen who still need to make their quotas are going to only two places in the world to fish where they're still in abundance. The film focuses on the Galapagos (yes, the island with the giant turtles and funny statues of David Coulthard), where fishermen are illegally killing sharks, and the governments are politically inclined to close an eye.

It really is cruel seeing the sharks getting their fins cut off and thrown back into the water, but that's only part of it. Studies have shown that when shark populations go down, other species do as well, because they're part of the eco-system (for instance, there's less tuna because sharks prey on other animals that would otherwise prey on tuna), and the ocean's eco-system is so fragile that it might just come crumbling down.

All for something that tastes like gummy noodles. Honestly, if you took the shark's fin out of the soup and replaced it with a similar looking noodle, most of us wouldn't notice. Thing is, as long as shark's fin soup goes for up to US$300 a bowl, there'll always be one guy who's willing to fin for em and make a mint, and 10 other guys who'll say "It's already happening, so why don't I just get my share?". That's why the only way to stop it is to stop wanting it.That's why I have politely declined shark's fin since CNY last year.

This year, I've decided to go one small step further and message all my cousins on facebook (children of the same generation usually sit together at these reunion dinners) to ask them if they'd like to opt out of shark's fin this year. I don't want to impose my personal beliefs on the older generation just yet, but I'm pretty sure that the young influential ones will probably join me, and the rest will follow suit due to peer pressure. With this, we can agree early on enough to let the organisers (my uncles) know to cancel the bowl of shark's fin this year.

If everyone here just did the same, a quick message to your relatives on Facebook (don't need to create a group or an event cos that's too distant, but just a quick Facebook mass message to vote NO on shark's fin for reunion dinner is something people can easily achieve), and we can do away with one piece of tradition that's not doing anyone any good.

Except for a few illegal fishermen. We'll send them a few I'm Sorry cards on your behalf.

Feel free to pledge to mass message in the comments below :) Happy CNY everyone! (sharks included)


Mike Tee said...

Good one bro. Never was a tradition with our family on sharks fin soup during CNY... it's the wedding ones that I usually decline, although a lot of ppl are saying that they're fake fins etc. I doubt the "boycott" makes any sort of difference considerings its just one bowl out of ten on the table!

chak said...

Heya mike!

Well, this year, it's ten out of ten. 7 of my cousins and (*gasp*) two of my elder relatives have agreed to the boycott. At the least, there'll be one finless table, maybe even both.

Sarah said...

Interesting i'will try it some days.
"Beauty" restaurants have opened across the country, featuring foods that high in collagen content, such as shark fin, chicken skin and pigs feet. The collagen rich, tasteless proteins are served in hot pots with vegetables and other meat. Grocery stores are stocking up on collagen enhanced noodles and supplements to cater to the demand.

yvonne said...

I also thought it wouldn't do any good that I boycott shark's fin soup during family gatherings. To my surprise, after about 2-3 times, my aunt decided not to order the soup since my spouse and I decline it (and it was mostly a family gathering for us and cousins). Since then it has not been an item she ordered when going out with us.

Sally1001 said...

Congrats Glad there are some humans out there Doing something honest.. This cruel practice like many others that humans do is discusting. Just a take a quick look at a movie called sharkwater... Good luck with the campain

chak said...

I'm very much against wasting food, but yes... I politely decline it everytime - if only to spark a debate at the table which will raise awareness.