Monday, March 7, 2011

How about some vegetable broth?

You are swimming in the ocean, minding your own business, when you’re caught by a person-fisher who cuts off your arms and throws you back into the water. Unable to propel yourself anymore, you sink, drowning, to the bottom.

Your arms? Oh, they’re used to feed zoo carnivores. It’s an old tradition.

“Scientists say that as many as 90 percent of sharks in the world’s open oceans have disappeared. ‘They’re among the ocean’s most vulnerable animals,’ Dr. [John E.] McCosker said. ‘The whole food web becomes bollixed when you take out the top level predator.’”

Shark’s fin soup, once a Chinese ceremonial dish, has become popular among China’s expanding middle class. The international demand for the soup is linked to the estimated 73 million sharks killed each year.

That’s 73 million sharks. For their fins. For soup.

Besides the recent law against “finning” in all US waters (mentioned in “Soup’s On!” the January 12 post here), a bill recently introduced in the California legislature – similar to one passed in Hawaii -- would ban the sale and possession of shark’s fins, including the serving of shark’s fin soup.

. . . You can eat, if you are in the mood,
Shark-fin soup, bean cake fish
. . .

(-- “Grant Avenue,” from Flower Drum Song)
As the March 6 Times story (“Soup Without Fins? Some Californians Simmer”) describes it, the bill has infuriated the Chinese community, especially traditionalists who “see the proposed law as a cultural assault.” Surprisingly, though, many in the eco-conscious younger generation and even a few chefs back the ban.


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