Shark Fin Soup – 鱼翅汤

shark-fin-soup-doodleExperts know that shark fin soup 鱼翅汤 (yú chì tāng) is a traditional and regal dish, as the delicacy received mention in the imperial history books called the 《宋会要》 (sòng huì yào).  In the recent past, this dish was impossible for the average person to try.  Thanks to China’s opening up to globalization and a more capitalist market, every Chinese person with a few extra dollars can have this imperial dish.  “Everyone can live like an emperor if they want” is the way of the modern Chinese lifestyle.  At large family gatherings, such as weddings, the father–and others–would like to foot the bill for an extravagant portion of tiger penis, swallow nest soup, and/or shark fin soup.  It is a culture of generosity and, sometimes, extravagance, coupled with face-value; “I have something that you do not have.”shark fin soup

Although the international community has become more aware since 2011 of the negative effects that the Asian delicacy shark fin soup has had on the ecosystem, there is still a huge effort required to resolve this problem.

In 2013, the Chinese government banned shark fin soup fr
om entering government dining tables.  Canada and California (both with large Asian populations) also banned the soup.
There seems to be a long way to go before the average person agrees to taking this food off of the market; many traditional Chinese medicine/ingredients stores still sell a variety of shark fins.  Many do not believe what they are eating is the “real” shark fin, which is furthering the problem.  Some of the confusion concerning the issue is in part because of the name of the dish in Chinese, “fish fin soup”, not “shark fin soup.”  However, approximately 100 million sharks are killed for make this dish every year.  Therefore, much of A-man-inside-a-shark-fin-store-in-Hong-Kong-on-November-26what is made on the market is likely to be the real deal, with as many at 90% of mid and high-tier restaurants in Hong Kong still offering shark fin soup.

Shark meat is of no particular interest on the market and, as the picture illustrates at the top, most of these sharks are thrown back into the water after having their fins cut off.  The shark is unlikely to survive for very much longer, and the fishermen can clear their conscience this way, claiming that they did not actual kill any of these sharks.

220px-SharkFinTin9Unfortunately, there is little that can be done from the sidelines.  Chinese people will need to make this effort themselves to regulate the market to prevent further damage to the shark species.  Some restaurants have already stopped selling real shark fin soup and have replaced it with alternatives, such as grainy fillers, less endangered fish species’ fins, or even hardened fish stomach (鱼肚 yú dǔ).  On a personal level, we can all reject even trying this soup, as the fin itself is tasteless; the flavor is actually from the soup base.  

 

Why not just order something else then?

 

5 Comments

  1. Never tried it and will never do so. It is the same as the hunt of rhinos just for their horns, it is terrible. Altogether I try to eat much less meat already for many years, no need to stuff yourself full with stuff animals have to suffer for. Sure I enjoy the occasional steak a couple of time a year but no much more than that.
    The mind of the Chinese population as to change first in order to make any difference, same can be applied to taking care of pets there…In man other countries it is considered animal abuse which seems so normal and fine for people in Asia (my mother in law included l!)

  2. China has created many environmental problems which threatens us all but the Communist party does not care and many Chinese are unaware of their dangerous behaviour. Sad really!

  3. Changing the discourse of a society does take time. There is a definite social push to stop eating shark fin soup on the mainland with middle class Chinese. Only a few years ago it was a staple at weddings, however the recent past has seen this tradition disappear as the new generation have become more environmentally aware. Jackie Chan and Yao Ming’s anti-shark fin soup advertising campaign of recent years also helped. Great blog, and great advice!

  4. Horrible cruel practice; people need to stop eating shark fins (immediately)…Jackie Chan is doing his best to stop the practice (as well as other practices with endangered species…good on him) and he is admired by the Chinese both in Mainland and HK so I do hope it is helping.

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