Monday, November 26, 2012

The Extinction of a Species - For Soup

For the vast majority of us who have never eaten shark fin soup, or even thought of it, this may seem like a bit of a yawn. In reality, though, it is anything but.

Shark fin soup is a delicacy in China and other Asian countries meant to bring good fortune to those who eat it and to demonstrate the wealth and importance of the host who serves it. But in order to fill the bowls of this supposed delicacy, 70 million sharks are killed, indiscriminately, every year.
When the sharks are caught they are hauled into the boat and the fins are cut from its body. The finless shark is then thrown into the ocean, where it either drowns or is eaten by other predators. This is animal abuse of the highest order and from this perspective alone is enough to justify the ban on shark fins everywhere on the planet, but this argument also misses the real point:

When we get into a war of words about what it crueler, killing sharks versus killing pigs, chickens and cows, found in slaughterhouses all over the World, we miss the point. New proposed laws (for any species, not just sharks) are trying to address the fact that we are in the middle of the greatest mass extinction in millions of years and we humans are the cause of the vast majority of those.

If we, as a species, don't do something to protect the sharks then many of the world's shark populations are headed for extinction.

When extinction is a consequence, any tradition, no matter how entrenched in a culture, must change. This seems to demonstrate a strange conflict among us as fellow human beings. Some understand our moral responsibility not to hunt a species to extinction, where others seem totally indifferent to the consequences of killing 70 million sharks per year even when the imminent extinction of a species exists.

My plea to the people who would drive a species to extinction is to ask them to consider what they are doing to sharks and by extension to rhinos, tigers, bears and a myriad of other species that are on the brink of extinction because cultural tradition demands their rampant poaching. In other words, the poaching of endangered species will end only when the demand for those endangered species' body parts ends.

I have a fervent hope that those who currently consume endangered species' body parts will recognize that their tradition will end in one of two ways, either voluntarily while there are still sharks in the ocean, or involuntarily, when there are no more sharks, and therefore no more shark fins to fill bowls of soup.