Shark Fins and Celebrities

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Shark fin soup is a traditional meal served at Chinese weddings. Celebrity activism is aimed at changing this tradition to protect Chinese shark populations and ecosystems.

With a burgeoning, wealthier middle class demanding luxuries once reserved for the privileged, cooks in China have come under fire for a hallmark dish of many Chinese weddings since the Ming dynasty: shark fin soup.

No one knows exactly how many sharks have been killed for their fins in recent years, but as a top predator, the ripple effects of decimating their populations and lowering their numbers drastically reverberate throughout the ocean’s food chains and the fine balance of the ecosystem. In addition to the pressure placed on the shark populations by the growing middle class, the soup also been criticized for the practice of removing the fin while the shark is still alive, and tossing away the rest of the shark.

Every year, thousands of sharks are killed, usually by removing their main dorsal fins while still alive, and leaving the fish to bleed to death in the ocean. Shark populations off the coast of China are now on the point of collapsing, with local ecosystems already in chaos.

In recognition of this, many celebrities have started to use a combination of their star-power and social media outlets to speak out against this practice and to encourage people to stop consuming shark fin soup.

WildAid is a conservation organization that brings together celebrities like Yao Ming, Jackie Chan, and Ang Lee to speak out against shark fin soup and spark a social media campaign. The organization recently launched a successful anti-fin-soup campaign that gathered over 330,000 photos of people (including Chinese television celebrities) covering their mouths with their hands to demonstrate their resolve to no longer consume shark fin soup. In a country where social media is tightly regulated, it seems the campaign is being greeted with official approval. The Chinese government recently announced it would stop serving shark fin soup at state banquets. Hopefully, China’s brides will follow their example.