dead blue sharks
I assumed that most people would know about this by now, but I forgot that most people don't care.
Disney is planning to serve shark fin soup at Disneyland Hong Kong when it opens on September 12, 2005. Virtually every environmental group on the planet has urged them not to do so, because it's stupid -- and hypocritical.
Take a look at the pro-environment statement Disney posts on their own website:
From inception, The Walt Disney Company has been dedicated to protecting our environment through conservation. Walt Disney himself spoke of the inherent importance of such a mindset years ago:
"Conservation … is a science whose principles are written in the oldest code in the world, the laws of nature. The natural resources of our vast continent are not inexhaustible. But if we will use our riches wisely, if we will protect our wildlife and preserve our lakes and streams, these things will last us for generations to come." - Walt Disney
Here's an except from Disney's environmental policy:
Promote wildlife and habitat conservation through partnerships with the scientific and academic communities, and organizations committed to preserving the earth's biodiversity. Integrate natural resource conservation in all Disney's planning, development and operations activities. Effectively plan and manage conservation lands for the preservation of native plant and animal species.
I hope they don't go through with serving shark fin soup at Disneyland HK. Not only will they have the unfortunate stain of having an anti-semitic founder, they'll be considered environmentally-abusive assholes, too.
shark fins & carcasses
Many of my friends are divers and underwater photographers who are as fanatically upset about shark finning as I am. But to really understand the situation, one has to understand that eating shark fin soup is a tradition for a huge population of people. I hear a lot of dangerous talk when I speak to some of the concerned -- especially from those who aren't linked to Asian culture in any way. For example, one recent acquaintance threatened to boycott all Japanese divers at his dive shop because the Japanese still eat whales and dolphins. Why not boycott all Chinese divers for eating shark fin soup? And you might as well boycott all Americans for being global assholes. A boycott of greater ethnic groups is not the answer.
Personally, I sometimes feel shame because of my own ethnicity (re: shark finning, I mean). Every time the topic of shark finning comes up around people I don't know, I feel like apologizing. I know that it's irrational, but I can't help it. I went to hear Norbert Wu speak at Seaspace over the weekend, and he echoed similar sentiments.
hammerhead and thresher
Anyway, in the past few years, I've convinced more than a few of my Chinese/Taiwanese friends to pass on serving shark fin soup at their wedding banquets, and to boycott it in general. So far, it hasn't been difficult to convince people my age not to eat shark fin soup, it's convincing parents that is the challenge. Maybe the way to go is to tell your traditional Chinese parents that your kids are going to be stupid/bad at the piano/an artist/etc. if you ingest shark meat, because shark fin has been shown to contain a crapload of mercury.
What you can do:
Learn more (some links to start with, below), write letters, go to protests, stop eating shark fin soup, and pass on the news.
More information about Disney and shark fin soup:
- June 9, 2005 HK Disney answers soup critics
- June 25, 2005 Disney ditches shark fin soup!
- Shark fishing and finning in Manta, Ecuador - the locals in Manta are using the entire shark, and for that, we cannot fault them. However, the rate of shark fishing there, both by local fisherman and as by-catch from tuna longlines is still unsustainable.
Here's a letter written by Neil Hammerschlag, a shark researcher I met a few months ago:
Action Alert: Disneyland Selling Shark Fin Soup
Disneyland Hong Kong is trying to attract newlyweds to host their wedding banquets at the upcoming park by offering, amongst other dishes, shark fins (Source: http://www.thestandard.com.hk/stdn/std/Metro/GE18Ak03.html). At the same time, Disney prides itself on being Environmentally concious as they are involved in wildlife conservation through their "Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund" (Source: http://corporate.disney.go.com/environmentality/environmental_policy.html). The Fund channels resources towards "'biological hotspots' - areas rich in plant and animal life at risk of imminent destruction." Shark populations worldwide are declining and largely as a result to fuel the shark fin trade.
As Disney Hong Kong is currently gearing up for its launch in December 2005, there is bound to be substantial publicity and media interest surrounding the themed park during the months leading up to its opening. The last thing they need is negative publicity that will leave a stain on its marketing campaign, especially if it is the consumption of a product that is clearly in contradiction to their "Environmental" position. This is something we can leverage on to influence the decision makers at Disney to drop shark fins from their menus altogether. What we need is show that the word is getting out there and for them to think it is a big enough concern to act positively to it.
I urge you all to please write to the people below at Disney to request that they remove shark fin soup from their menus. [Feel free to use the letter below] as a template and/or copy it and send it off with your contact information in [the place of mine].
Chief Executive Officer, Disney World, Mr. Michael Eisner:
Group Managing Director HK Disneyland, Mr. Don Robinson:
Hong Kong Disneyland Vice-President of Marketing and Sales, Mr. Roy Hardy:
Hong Kong Disneyland Corporate Communications, Ms Irene Chan:
Public Affairs Team:
Disney Corporate Communications, U.S.:
[Thanks to Victor Wu [of WildAid] [and Dave Patchen] for providing the above information]
The following is a template for a letter you can use. It was originally written by Neil Hammershlag and edited by Eric Cheng and Dave Patchen:
--- LETTER TO DISNEY ---
Dear Disney Execs,
I was disturbed to learn that the new Disneyland Hong Kong is planning on serving shark fin soup in order to attract newlyweds to host their wedding banquets at the park (Source:http://www.thestandard.com.hk/stdn/std/Metro/GE18Ak03.html). This isn't just ecologically unsound -- it's cruel and foolish.
It's common knowledge that shark populations worldwide are drastically declining due to the shark fin trade. As a result of the demand for their fins, many shark species globally are threatened with extinction and as of 2004, more than 250 shark species are listed on the IUCN Red List of threatened species (www.redlist.org). Hong Kong is the world's largest offender/trader in shark fins.
Shark finning (the practice in which the fins are cut from the animals) is wasteful and *cruel*. Sharks are caught on long-lines, brought to the boat, their fins hacked off and the mutilated animals thrown back in to the water to die. As sharks are slow growing, late maturing animals that do not reproduce often, they are currently being slaughtered faster then they can sustain their populations. In the last 15 years alone, shark populations in the North West Atlantic have declined between 60-90 percent depending on the species. Sharks play an ecologically important role in their marine ecosystem, so their declines will likely have far reaching ecological affects. Sharks have been on the planet for some 400 million years and in only the last couple decades are now severely threatened -- and for what? Soup! It is foolish and shameful that Disney is contributing to this travesty.
I am aware that Disney claims to be environmentally conscious and the Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund channels resources towards "'biological hotspots' - areas rich in plant and animal life at risk of imminent destruction." Is it possible that Disney is totally unaware that shark populations worldwide are "at risk of imminent destruction" largely due to shark fin soup -- a dish on Disney's menu?
Before Disneyland Hong Kong opens in December, 2005, I strongly urge you to please reconsider this decision and remove shark fin soup from the menu in order to be true to your stated corporate values and common sense.
Thank you for re-thinking this important decision.
*Note that the following paragraph was omitted:
Shark fin soup is colorless and odorless, the fins only help thicken the broth. Shark fin soup is not a necessity, but a luxury, a sign of wealth. Is it really worth the loss of the planet's marine apex predators?
The paragraph is a vast simplification of the reasons people eat shark fin soup, and I don't think it should be included in any letter. The taste, etc. is not the point. It would probabably more effective to threaten a boycott of Disney theme parks and products in general.