Chinese basketball star Yao Ming, along with British entrepreneur Richard Branson, is involved in a campaign to stop the Chinese eating shark fin soup. The problem is, eating shark fin soup is so engrained in Chinese culture, and in the culture of the Chinese all over the world, it’s going to be one heckuva difficult thing to stop.
The campaign featuring Yao Ming has been put together by Wild Aid, and includes TV spots and a website where people can go to pledge not to eat shark fin soup. Yao Ming himself stopped eating it five years ago.
Wild Aid reckons more than 73 million shark have their fins cut off every year and then are thrown back into the ocean and left to die. Anyone who eats shark fin soup is contributing to one of the most inhumane practices on the planet, yet hundreds of millions of Chinese all over the world still eat it.
In Thailand, where I spend a lot of time, shark fin soup is eaten at most upscale dinners as many wealthy Thais are Chinese-Thai, and they believe eating shark fin soup is as much of a delicacy as westerners believe about caviar. Most of the time though, shark fin soup isn’t eaten for the taste, but because it’s a status symbol and shows others the person eating it has the money to pay for it.
Even Thai branches of international companies in Thailand serve shark fin soup at their dinners and special events, a food which I’ve turned down at every Thai event I’ve been to. The Thais at the table with me can’t believe I’m not eating it and, as most Thais really couldn’t give a damn about animal rights, calmly go on eating it anyway.
Unfortunately, shark fin soup in Asia will only be banned when the Chinese, and other Asians, are made to feel looked down upon for eating it. Asians hate to ‘lose face’ and a whole planet making them ‘lose face’ by showing disgust at their barbaric eating habits will cause them to stop.