| Global Times | 2012-9-18 20:35:05
By Tao Wenyan
Data published by WildAid, an international NGO, shows that nearly 73 million sharks are caught annually, with their fins being sliced off before they're thrown back into the ocean to die, which in turn causes a dramatic decline in the number of sharks.
To avoid such bloody slaughter, many environmentalists advocate a ban on shark fin consumption. However, some in the fishing industry sing a different tune. They argue that most of these sharks are bycatch and are not endangered animals. If the trade of shark fin is curbed, fishermen may either discard the fins or smuggle them into the black market. The former will result in waste while the latter will lead to crime.
At first sight, these arguments sound reasonable. Indeed, the truths lying behind them are the abnormal habits of some consumers and the windfall profits of the related industries. Although it is widely acknowledged that shark fin is tasteless and nutritionless, it has still been a long-treasured culinary status symbol in China.
Such distorted consumption stimulates the expansion of the supply chain. As a result, millions of sharks are ruthlessly hunted. And given only fins are needed, fishers keep the fins and trash the sharks into the sea. These sharks will die slowly because of finning.
To me, the most impressive image is not killing itself but the slow death. The sharks are inhumanely thrown back into the ocean. Without fins, sharks can neither swim nor hunt. They suffer greatly before they die. Such inhumane actions must be stopped and punished.
All animals should be treated humanely. Even if their fate is to end up on the dinner table, efforts can be made to ensure they suffer as little as possible. This is not only for their sake, but also for ours.
A systematic and comprehensive animal protection regime is waiting to be established. But the fishery advocates are right that merely restraining demand will not end killing and eventually save these animals.
Those consumers who ignore the ecological crisis will keep on enjoying shark fin soup and showing off their wealth and social status while the butchers will continue hunting sharks to earn blood money. Thus, more stringent control shall be applied to the supply chain.
The author is an in-house counsel based in Shanghai. firstname.lastname@example.org
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