As kids, we grow up fearing sharks, but who is more in danger? After watching movies like Jaws and The Meg, humans are trained to think that sharks are at the top of the food chain, but one delicacy in China has completely changed the species. Since the 14th Century, emperors and other status symbols in China have enjoyed shark fin soup as it has served as an elegant dish to have. Understanding how this dish is made and the repercussions it has on the oceanic ecosystems will reveal the unethical selfishness of humanity.

Shark fin soup is made by stewing a variety of shark fins along with a chicken or pork broth and other spices. The first line of conflict comes with the acquisition of these fins. People fishing will capture these sharks regardless of species and take the fin off of the shark. These sharks may be completely healthy and youthful, but after their fin is cut off, they are tossed back into the ocean to live out the rest of their lives. The issue here is that for sharks to breathe they need to be able to swim and have water pass through their gills. Sharks cannot swim without their fins. So when a fisherman sends a shark back home, they are sending them to their grave at the bottom of the ocean.

Unlike salmon and other commonly used seafood, sharks are not farmed to eat. All of these sharks killed have a responsibility in their ecosystem to maintain the balance of certain populations in the food chain. An example of such ramifications can be seen in the oceanic whitetip shark. What has historically had an abundant population, oceanic whitetip sharks have been wiped out and will not be able to recover from the targeting of their species. Running sharks out of the food chain has consequences that can only ripple and hurt other food chains as well.

A dish ingredient that is terrorizing life in the ocean must be crucial to the dish, but people that have tried alternatives to shark fin soup realize that the fin is not necessary. Most of the flavor from the dish is actually derived from the stock that is used and the spices; the fin is merely added as a status symbol. Being a part of the human race, it is nothing new to prioritize personal status over the wellbeing of others. These sharks are not being killed and then having their fins cut, and these sharks are not even being used for the rest of the meat on their bones. This epitomizes the mindset that humanity has. While completing unethical actions and creating unsustainable habits, no intrinsic value has been brought forward.

As a society that has started to worry and think about the sustainability of our actions, we must also think about the traditions that we hold. There is sentimental value in it, but the consequences do not outweigh the benefits with a damaged future. This is a lesson that needs to be applied to all aspects of life; otherwise, we are going to be ruining any chance at a future.

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Jonathan Schmidt

2 thoughts on “Delicacy or Detriment

  1. I don’t think that it is necessarily fair to only ban consuming animals that are outside of the American norm when other animals are killed so frequently for food. However, because sharks play such an important role to the ocean ecosystem, I believe that if people want to continue hunting them, they should farm them like other fish so that the ecosystem is not impacted. It is also incredibly cruel to harvest the desired parts of the shark only to toss them back into the water to die a slow and painful death. If people want to eat animals then they should at the very least treat them with the respect that they deserve.

  2. It would be unfair to continue to eat other animals regularly and defend only animals that are outside of American cultural norms to eat. However, a good point is made that sharks are not farmed for food and they play an important role in the ocean ecosystem. I think that if people want to continue to hunt sharks they should farm them like other fish so that the ecosystem is not damaged. It is also incredibly cruel to keep them alive and take only the parts that are desired and then toss them back to die a slow and painful death. This is true of all animals that we decide to eat; they should be treated with respect.

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