Shark Fin Soup, A Barbaric Practice
We regularly, and rightfully, hear about the plights of common farm animals abused in factory farming practices, be it pigs, ducks, or cows. Less frequently do we hear about the suffering of aquatic animals harmed in the foreign and domestic seafood trade, especially the devastating impacts on the environment and the creatures it slaughters. In this article, let’s discuss one specific practice – the mutilation of sharks for shark fin soup.
This barbaric practice dates back to the 960’s or 70’s when Emperor Taizu was in power, during the Chinese Song Dynasty. Now, due to the sheer amount of sharks being killed and the fact that the soup can have low prices, demand is high, and this “delicacy” is accessible to wide numbers of people. All of this in turn leads to sharks being over-fished, wreaking horrible effects on the environment. Humans kill approximately one million sharks each year for their fins. If this doesn’t stop soon, many different species of shark will go extinct. Many are already endangered. Additionally, killing vast amounts of sharks has a negative effect on the food chain. In some places where sharks are over-fished, their prey, rays, shot up in population. This led to the rays feasting on scallops, harming the scallop’s population numbers. The shark fin soup trade is disturbing the delicate balance of the marine ecosystem.
Another sickening aspect of this system is that many of the sharks, after having their fins painfully sliced off, will be thrown back in the water still alive. These sharks are unable to survive without their fins, and will often die in gruesome manners, such as from blood loss, starvation, being eaten alive by other animals, or suffocation. Since the fins sell for high prices on the market, the fishermen cut off the dorsal fins so that the less valuable bodies of the sharks can be thrown back in the water and not take up precious space aboard the boat.
If an additional reason is needed for banning this practice, the consumption of shark fins and shark meat in general is unhealthy for humans. This is primarily due to the large amounts of mercury found in sharks. The higher up on the food chain a water dwelling organism is, the higher levels of mercury in their bodies. This is because unlike other toxins, mercury is practically impossible to expel from the body. With this in mind, every time a fish eats another fish, the smaller fish’s mercury is added to the larger fish, and so on and so on up the food chain, making sharks, the apex predators of the sea, extremely unsafe to consume.
So far, shark fin soup is only banned in twelve states when what is needed is a nationwide ban with heavier enforcement of the laws already in place. And even though the US may not be a top consumer of shark fins globally, in order to put an end to the trade, bans need to take place. Even China has recently banned and placed heavier regulations on shark fins. Now it’s time for the US to do the same.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Savannah Conley is a 17 year old senior at Eastern High School, in York County, Pennsylvania. She is an avid animal lover, animal rights activist, member of Animal Advocates, and a regular volunteer at Second Chance for Life Rescue Ranch. Savannah has been vegan for almost four years. Her interest in moving to a compassionate lifestyle was driven by her strong belief in the ethical treatment of all creatures, sharks to name but one.
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