AB376 passes! On to the Governor!

I was informed by the California Director of the Humane Society of the United States Jennifer Fearing yesterday that AB376 passed through the senate 25-9 and now proceeds to the Governor for final sign off to be made a law making California partner with Washington, Oregon and Hawaii on the ban on the sale or possession of shark fins.

To me this is great. In our oceans the sharks are the top of the food chain. We kind of take the food chain for granted. On land, humans are considered to be the top of the food chain. 90% of  the shark population has been decimated by shark finning. If  90% of the human population was decimated by some sort of fate how do you think we would be living? Not too well is my suspicion. The food chain is much more fragile than a chain and when you remove the majority of the top of the food chain it becomes destabilized and starts to fall apart.

This can be seen in parts of the world where animals not from the area have been introduced. Crops fail, livestock dies and people go hungry. Shark is not a popular fish to eat and hasn’t been for almost two decades. Sharks because of their nature living in salt water do not excrete urine and their flesh when caught has a very strong ammonia content making them difficult to prepare. Their flesh is also high in mercury making them and their fins unsafe to eat.

As expected there were a few people against the ban. To quote our local Senator Leland Yee’s comments on the subject:

the bill would not save a single shark because there is no ban on taking the rest of the body other than the fin.

If it won’t save a single shark, then why not vote on it? His logic is fueled by the idea that people still eat shark meat. They pretty much don’t. Chefs are even working now to come up with a substitute for shark fin in the mostly tasteless shark fin soup because it should be more ecologically sound to reproduce a tasteless dish than to destroy our oceans to preserve a tradition that only one type of people enjoy. Shred up some tofu and add some dried shaved tuna flakes to the broth. I am truly sorry that this bill does seem aimed at Chinese people who eat shark fin soup to celebrate at weddings or the birth of a child. It does seem like a cultural attack, but it is an attack on a practice that is destroying our oceans for a small piece of meat that is high in uric acid and mercury. Doing away with this dish will probably bestow longevity on the Chinese people who previously consumed the dish.

I was at my doctor’s office a few years ago and thought I was reading an episode of Time magazine when I realized it was China Today and noted an article on the Chinese fighting against the cultural tradition of eating dogs. You would think it was an attack by PETA to see the pictures,  but these were Chinese citizens who would rather pet dogs than pot them.

Cultural traditions change over time. White people once owned slaves, but they do not anymore. Chinese once bound the feet of their women to make them attractive, but they do not anymore. Shark fin soup has had it’s time and should not be relegated to the history books. California is the 2nd largest consumer of shark fin soup outside of China and is fastly rising to the number one position. Even China is backing away from shark fin soup.

In my travels around San Francisco it is common for Chinese restaurants to post their menus in the window and so far I have only a small number that serves shark fin soup. I’ll admit that I haven’t been to Chinatown that probably has more, but that’s only a supposition on my part. It does seem a bit strange though that there was such a big fight to uphold a Chinese cultural tradition that is rather hard to find.

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