A Late Comment on Shark Fin Bans

by nobody Saturday, Feb. 25, 2012 at 7:43 AM

A response to an article in Salon, from last year, about the shark fin ban.

Not having paid attention to the issue of the California shark fin soup ban, I was catching up, and thought that Salon would have a good article about the whole shark-fin-ban-racist story, and they did. Lam's article is subtle and ends intelligently: it's true - why is shark fin being singled out, when a moderate regulation on beef, chicken, and some other fishes, would probably have greater impact?

It's obvious that it's easier to attack an uncommon practice than a common one. Within the American context, the ban isn't racist, but banning this one uncommon dish, while ignoring the larger issues of more popular meats, shows a lack of political courage, and weakness in leadership, and is a bit racist.

But, what is really racist are these numerous comments, some by alleged "liberals" or tolerant people, and many by anti-liberals and racism-baiters. And the fact that there's little objection seems to indicate that even among the genteel Salon readership, hatred of Asians is acceptable.

Also, there's a considerable amount of ignorant cultural chauvanism on display here, even among those who have tried shark fin. The reason why shark fin is savored isn't its flavor, but its texture. It has no flavor, but it has the texture of delicate cartilage.

Let's consider for a moment how many pounds of delicious chicken cartilage are disposed of in America daily. It's a terrible waste of a very good part of the chicken, Very few Americans even know it can be eaten. I'm sure some think it's disgusting to eat it, but they're wrong. It's an interesting and tasty part of the chicken.

There are other parts we don't eat, but could eat, like the comb, the wing tips, the feet, the spine, and the neck bones. We just waste these parts (or sell them to the Chinese, who appreciate them).

We consume (in the US, not worldwide) 60 pounds of chicken (meat) per person, per year. If we assume 3 pounds of meat per bird, and 300 million people, we're looking at a whopping 6 billion chickens per year. Let's compare:

6,000,000,000 US chicken consumption per year

73,000,000 global shark kills per year

For every shark killed on Earth, around 80 chickens are killed in the US.

Both are serious problems, but Americans have the power to reduce chicken consumption by eating less chicken. We can use more of the chicken, by eating more bones, cartilage, and odd bits like feet and combs. We can eat the skin, and eat smaller portions, for the same caloric intake.

So, yes, let's ban the shark fin soup... but if you can't stop eating the chicken salad, fried chicken, and bbq chicken... you really have no moral platform on which to stand and advocate for the ban.

Original: A Late Comment on Shark Fin Bans