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Using Chowhound for social consciousness?

Just watched an interesting Anderson Cooper and Lisa Ling special on CNN. There was an investigation on Shark fishing in international water and the technique of Long Lining. Hundreds of thousands of sharks are being slaughtered (in many cases de-finned and then left for dead on the bottom of the ocean floor.) for the sake of Sharks Fin Soup. Hundreds of thousands of fins end up in Asia, esp. Taiwan to feed our thirst for this ancient delicacy. It is not illegal and the mere practice of shark's fin soup should not be condemned, but what started out as a rare and expensive delicacy has become an everyday inexpensive common menu item. I think we should all as foodies, be able to control our appetites on certain things and maintain sustainability.
I know that I myself will not be having shark's fin soup anytime soon, until I can be certain that conditions have improved for the shark population.

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  1. I agree with you. We as conscientious and responsible adults ought to be aware of the depletion of the ocean's bounty simply to satisfy a taste for the exotic. It's appaling that those long lines you speak of also catch unwanted fish called "bycatch" that are tossed, dead, back into the sea. The sharks are discarded in the same way and left to drown after the fins are sawed off......

    1. Not sure where you live, but hopefully you'll find this useful. I agree that respect for nature and our environment is paramount to the survival of all species including ourselves.
      http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr...

      3 Replies
      1. re: Googs

        My husband carries their very useful and printable reference card to sustainableseafood when shopping for seafood. It's a download at that site and small enough to carry in a wallet. There's a section for each coast.

        1. re: Gio

          this chart and info is very helpful. I am ashamed to say it is only in the last year I have really learned about over-fishing. I had no idea until somewhat recently that cod, one of my favorite fish, was likely not to be around for my grandchildren to eat. I think it is helpful to inform people of these things, what they decide to do with that info is their choice but I am always happy to be introduced to new issues related to the food supply.

        2. re: Googs

          Thank you so much for this link. I try to shop responsibly, but it is hard to remember exactly what to watch out for when it comes to seafood. I printed out the cards pertaining to both Florida and New York because I have a home in both states. They will always be in my purse.

        3. Threats to shark populations threatens whole oceanic life systems. I hope this thread is allowed to continue. My comments concerning the social consciousness issue of food waste in the US and Europe is usually followed by a quick BLAPP!

          38 Replies
          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

            What makes me sad is the number of times I read people who, proudly, really couldn't care less about the world outside themselves, almost defiantly.

            I have problems with shark fin soup because of how it's raised but also as a cultural issue for me. It's an insult to the host not to eat it, when it's been served. It's really a slap in the face if you turn it down, especially since shark fin's soup is so expensive. I'll take a tiny bit and then give it secretly to my husband. Or, I have disappeared from the table when it's served. But, that's also an issue because the host has taken my tiny serving as a sign that I'm overly polite because it's such a special dish and then will give me a lot more. I tend to be overly polite but that's not the reason. I haven't seen it as an inexpensive common item--only as an expensive $150 a banquet bowl item.

            1. re: chowser

              at one of my very first Chowdowns, I was happily eating all the dim sum the hounds ordered, and as I munched on one particularly tasty morsel someone else commented how good the shark fin's dumpling was...I must have gotten a horrified look on my face, and said something to the effect of 'oh no...shark fin...really?', whereupon one of the hounds reassured me that the name came from the shape of the dumpling, not the contents...

              well, to this day I am still not sure if the hound was sincere, or just trying to be polite and to make me feel comfortable at one of my first chowdowns (internet searches reveal mixed opinions as to whether 'shark fin's dumplings' contain actual shark fin), but I now make a point when I have a say in planning a menu that I really prefer no shark fin...and yes, I wil confess that I've also been known to disappear from the table (or just to quietly refuse the soup).

              I do think it is an important issue to raise, though I don't think a special banquet is the proper forum in which to raise it (I think this board on CH *is* appropriate however.)

              I love sharks, and am thrilled beyond words when I see one under water (they are beautiful creatures). That aside, as someone who has been diving for almost twenty years, I can say that I personally can see the difference in fish populations in places I dive frequently (Monterey, Channel Islands, to some extent Hawaii) between when I first started diving in the early nineties, and now. I figure if one diver can notice a decline in fish populations, we really do have a problem. and frankly, my increased awareness of the declining populations in our oceans and concern regarding overfishing has changed how I eat: I am much less inclined to eat certain seafoods (and I do use the Seafood Watch Guide mentioned above as a resource) than I was even five years ago, even though I think most fish, shellfish etc are delicious.

              1. re: susancinsf

                It's so hard to tell when I eat out, especially when it's dimsum (evident by the vegetarian dimsum thread). It's sad to see that there's such a noticeable difference in the population from your perspective. I always think of it as a change that's noticeable only to those who are keeping track.

              2. re: chowser

                At what point does one take a stand though? My wife, who is of Chinese descent, has a problem with sharkfin now. Through watching programs and my nudges, she changed from being nonchalant about this particular issue, to openly refusing to having this served for what ever reason or occasion. We recently celebrated my mother's 80th birthday at a Chinese restaurant, and as part of the banquet menu, sharkfin soup was offered to which we declined. We weren't shy about our reasons.

                I too was lucky enough to to dive often and see these magnificent creatures and see firsthand the role they play in the oceans' ecosystems. I recall back in the 80s as I saw China start to loosen up on its old communist ways that the biggest single threat to the earth's seemingly vast resources would be the elevation of the standard of living for over one billion Chinese. I would murmur through my regulator that one day, these various sharks may be no more. That fleets of finning ships from Asia would scour oceans of all the sharks in an attempt to appease the ever-increasing demand for sharkfin - the equivalent of America's wanton waste of the bison for its tongue, but with the added dimension of social pressure created and perpetuated by over a billion folks trying to keep up with the Joneses. It's all about scale.

                When returning to Asia, we always forewarn her parents (particularly her father) that we will not, under any circumstances, partake in any sharkfin anything. Tradition dies hard in the Chinese culture, but one has to start somewhere.

                1. re: bulavinaka

                  If it were someone who I thought would care and it might make a difference, I'd bring it up quietly but not at the banquet. I'd never serve shark fin soup if I threw a banquet. But, I'd never make someone lose face by pointing out that they'd made, what I consider, a bad choice, especially on a special occasion. They might be gracious to your face but inside is a different matter.

                  I've had someone point out how fattening some of the desserts I served at Thanksgiving was and how she coudn't eat any of that processed food (white sugar, flour) and only at whole grains, no sugar, etc. She went through how many calories each dessert had and how many grams fo fat as people dug in. She thought she was doing everyone a favor. She didn't succeed in stopping people from eating it but she did make it uncomfortable and take away people's enjoyment. Eat, don't eat, but don't preach.

                  1. re: chowser

                    If I poke someone in the eye to see my point, they cannot see it, right? I understand the issues of face and its importance, particularly in Asian culture. I am one myself, and again, I am married to one. I wouldn't stand up on a chair at a banquet (for instance) and scream at the host for serving shark fin, like some body-snatcher outing a non-conformist. As you've inferred, that would not be the time and place to do it. However, I personally feel strong enough about issues like these that I would make some sort of quiet statement by either indicating on the invite RSVP that I'd be passing on the shark fin and ask for a substitute (vegetarian folks make special requests all the time for banquets) or in a "thank you" card, I'd reiterate that I meant no insult to the celebrants for declining on the shark fin but my reasons were deeply personal. If the host is insulted by either, then so be it. I am a dog, the host must be a dragon, and the two astrological signs will never see eye-to-eye. My issue is that at some time or another, enough is enough. My take is that I'm not there to insult anyone. I have my reasons, and if others choose to see and respect my values, then all is well. If this plants just a tiny seed in the conscious of anyone, then so much the better. Like a vegetarian, I have certain dietary issues for reasons of my own. If partaking in shark fin is obligatory in the celebration at hand, then I can be counted out. Whether one considers another's personal view as preaching to others, I guess it's all about one's approach. If one's skin is so thin that any approach is considered preaching, than all is lost upon that individual or group of individuals. Again, one has to start somewhere.

                    I have personally witnessed the ability of man to rake the sea of its wealth. Maybe this is why I have a personal issue and feel strongly about this issue. At first it was the seemingly innocuous and "homey" sea cucumber - not exactly a viable candidate for "Save Our Seas" poster child. Sea horses, sea hares, and lots of other little critters that have no panda-like PR face started disappearing. Bigger organisms like various groupers humphead wrasses and maori wrasses started disappearing to satiate the boutique seafooders in Hong Kong. Of course, the pelagic fishes has already been under heavy pressure for decades. Taiwanese trawlers hiring crews from the Philippines and throughout the South Pacific to constantly pull tuna from the ocean in order to feed the demand in Japan and the rest of the world in various forms. And the once plentiful shark populations started to decline as well.

                    The shark finning industry, obviously driven by demand that is in direct correlation to the economic boom in Asia, is out of sight and out of mind to most individuals. The fleets and wholesalers who once drew their resources mostly in and around Asia, are now worldwide. If you look on a map and find Cocos Island, you will understand what I mean. The island itself is literally in the middle of no where, and about as logistically far as one can get from Asia. A territorial possession of Costa Rica, it once was only visited by the most hardcore of SCUBA divers who were willing to take a three day boat trip from the mainland. One of the few relatively untouched tropical dive areas in the world, schools of sharks were so thick that one couldn't swing an arm around without hitting one. Word got out about this, and now HUNDREDS of fishing boats - most from Asia - are now granted docking and fishing rights in the territorial waters of Costa Rica - all in search of shark fin, mostly around the island of Cocos.

                    Each and all of these organisms obviously play a vital role in creating balance in the seas. It's like removing the parts from a fine watch. At first, it might still keep time - just not as accurately. But after a while as more parts are removed, the watch starts to malfunction and eventually stops working. Without pinyin, all is eventually lost. And for the sake of saving face, I don't think it's worth it.

                    1. re: bulavinaka

                      You think they'd care? My inlaws don't care about possible melamine in their food or their kids toys. They give me a hard time about paying for humanely certified food. They don't recycle. They think I'm the freak. They coudn't care less. I'm not arguing about the problem with shark fin. I'm just saying I know my audience and it won't change a thing. So, given that it will cause friction (and there is something about losing face that's very important in the culture), I don't get into it at someone's special event and that's what banquets always are. But, I'd also NEVER make a request for a specially prepared substitute in a banquet. I can choose to pass on anything but I think it's rude to ask to be specially catered to in an event of what could be a couple of hundred of people--even when I was a vegetarian, I'd eat before, eat what I could, eat later but I'd never ask them to prepare special food for me. I never talked about the inhumane killing of an animals as people ate. It's what people have complained a lot about on these boards--vegetarians giving them a hard time about eating meat. Someone vegan could easily come on these boards and proselytize on every thread that's about meat and how sinful it is. How well accepted would that be? There are many environmental, sustainable, health issues with eating meat. It depends on where you stand.

                      So, I believe in 1) not eating shark fin soup or ever serving it; 2) knowing your audience and what good it will do to get into issues, 3) being gracious when I'm an invited guest and not expecting to be catered to and 4) knowing that many people have their own causes and it would be a pain if at every event, every person chose to have his/her grievances aired. Who knows if the table we're eating on is teak? That's an issue. Where does the wine come from? Has it been trucked in across the country, using gas resources, causing pollution? Are the tableclothes environmentally produced and organic or were they made with petroleum products? Were the eggs humanely raised? Is it factory farmed beef? Is there antibiotics in the pork? RBGH in the dairy? Are they using phosphates to clean the dishes? Are you wearing leather shoes, which killed factory farm cows, or pleather, made of petroleum products which destroy the environment? If people want to preach about everything they felt strongly about, socializing would be a headache.

                      1. re: chowser

                        I think there's a difference in wondering if a table was made of teak - forest steward grade or otherwise, etc., and knowing shark fin is sitting in that bowl in front of you. Speculation is one thing. Direct evidence is another...

                        1. re: bulavinaka

                          BTW, there's be a very lucrative business of making fake sharksfin from gelatin; these rings get busted once every so often. It's probably not so easy to manufacture the top of the line stuff, but for fins that break apart upon cooking, it can be hard to tell.

                          1. re: bulavinaka

                            My point isn't about teak or any of those specific issues but that those are issues that are important to others. If you tell the banquet host that you won't eat shark fin soup, similarly someone who won't use teak could also bring up that issue, as can someone who won't eat factory farm eggs, etc. They are all legitimate issues. What if someone vegan were invited to a banquet and requested that no animal products be served and why?

                            1. re: chowser

                              >>What if someone vegan were invited to a banquet and requested that no animal products be served and why?<<

                              My vegan sister, as well as many Chinese vegetarians, do this regularly. The part that isn't addressed from either direction is the "why." This is understood. We acommodated vegetarian requests at our own wedding banquet in Malaysia - no fret, no fuss, no questions asked. The meat is in plain sight - to expect a vegetarian to partake would be evil. Likewise, to expect a person who has any other dietary restriction to partake in what they consider taboo would be evil. It is a completely different issue to suspect whether or not anything may or may not have come from some illicit source. Shark fin is shark fin. For one who does not eat this, it would be equally humiliating to expect them to eat it. For someone who is so concerned about whether or not their eggs were ethically sourced, they would probably fall in the vegan category like my sister. This is her main impetus, as is many other vegans.

                              Chowser, I don't want to give you the impression that I am your adversary. I feel that some issues are in plain sight, while you may not. But I hope we can both agree that no matter how we choose to address these issues, they do need to be dealt with.

                              1. re: bulavinaka

                                I'm finding this a very interesting discussion so I hope it doesn't come off that I'm at all offended. I think we both understand the problems with shark fin soup. It's avoidable as a personal issue, and when I was a vegetarian, I wouldn't eat meat but, as I said, I would not have asked anything special prepared. As bringing your own issues to the host, I'd probably not be invited many places if I told the host, beforehand, during, or after that 1) anything dairy must be either local, from small farms, or certified humane; 2) that any animal products must also follow the same restrictions, in addition, not fed corn or anything unnatural to its normal diet, 3) it must be sustainable and 4) produce must come as local as possible, from small farms, organic if it's apples, pears, plums, peaches, spinach, etc, 5) minimize the effects on the environment so only wine from Virginia, or France is a better choice than CA because shipping costs to the environment is less, 6) please buy off the Monterey Bay Watch list if you're planning on serving seafood; etc., etc. I choose to live that way in my house but can't expect others to follow it when I have been invited as a guest. When you come down to it, shark fin soup is a minimal issue in my life--it's once every few years that I'm invited to such a big banquet, at this point in my life. But, families go through gallons of milk and eggs and that causes more impact to the environment compared to the bowl of shark fin soup once in a lifetime. In all sincerity, if you can bring awareness to your social circle, more power to you. In my 20's/30's, I tried, which is where I get my "excessive" label from my in-laws and their friends. They won't even drink the milk at my house because they feel I've overpaid for it (that's their right, just as it's my right not to have shark fin soup at their function--we all have our own issues).

                                1. re: chowser

                                  My sister is from Santa Barbara - numbers 1-6 are either followed or completely removed as a concern when she attends most functions. I know what you're thinking - what a dreary bunch. Not so much, but the food can be interesting... But I have to admire them for walkin' the walk...

                                  1. re: bulavinaka

                                    I miss being in California, a big part because of the attitude there. I'd happily attend any of your sister and friends' functions.

                                  2. re: chowser

                                    And you were a vegetarian but never asked for a vegetarian meal at those functions? Maybe it's just me, but I was under the impression that this was the normal course of things. A fair amount of Buddhists are vegetarians and we had a good handful of requests at our wedding banquet. While we want to please our guests, I hope we didn't offend those who felt this was special treatment or something. Moreover, I hope we didn't offend almost everyone by not serving shark fin...

                                    1. re: bulavinaka

                                      My mother, not a vegetarian, but a practicing Buddhist, has many days of the year when she doesn't eat any animal products for religious reasons. When she's attended functions during those days, she simply avoided the meat products (and ate more of the vegetarian dishes). Likewise, at my own wedding (and rehearsal dinner), we had a variety of dishes to accomodate the vegetarians and omnivores, and no one went hungry.

                                      1. re: bulavinaka

                                        the issue was not analogous to a veg asking for a veg meal for themselves, it was analogous to a veg asking that the entire affair be veg because of their own dietary choices

                                        1. re: thew

                                          Thew-sorry about my misread. If I were that socially conscious but socially inept, I would simply not attend (and likely wouldn't be invited much in the future).

                                          It's perfectly acceptable to serve whatever you want at your own event, but demanding that others do it to accomodate your way of life is outlandish. If you don't like/agree with it, boycott the event (and let everyone know why if that is your mode of being). Demanding that a localvore serve only imported products is in the same vein, as would demanding a vegan serve suckling pig in their own home.

                                        2. re: bulavinaka

                                          We never serve shark fin soup when we host (as rare as it is). I don't care if I offend anyone or if they think we're cheap. Besides, if they're offended, they'll talk about it behind our backs and I don't know about it.;-) In a banquet which can be as large as hundreds of people, I can't imagine asking for special dishes. I never even made special requests at my parents house. It was my decision and I didn't think it was right to put anyone out for it.

                              2. re: bulavinaka

                                Cocos Island is a national park 340 miles from the Costa Rica coast, and is host to the largest annual congregation of hammerhead sharks in the world. Access to the island is very restricted, (last I heard, 7 live-aboard dive boats have permits) and commercial fishing near the island is not lawful. Much closer to the mainland, the Pacific teems with sharks. I generally see one or more on most dives, even though visibility is 55 feet on a good day.

                                1. re: Veggo

                                  I believe it was underwater cinematographer Howard Hall that brought this to light. If I recall correctly, it was to his dismay that while docked in a port on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, he noticed an area that was "off-limits." He saw that all the ships in this area were fishing vessels. After constantly snooping around there and being shooed away, the dockmaster finally put up a metal screen that blocked any view between the restricted and unrestricted areas. Hall later found out that the ships were from Asia and were after sharks far off the coast, including areas around Cocos. The issue of lawful is only as good as its enforcement. As you are a diver, you know that what happens on the open sea is like Vegas - what happens there stays there. And if you are seeing one or two sharks per dive off of Costa Rica, then that is truly sad. You should be seeing at least tenfold that number...

                                  1. re: bulavinaka

                                    Indeed, unlawful taking of marine species has been a big issue in the Galapagos: large portions of the Galapagos are a reserve and off limits, but it is a HUGE area geographically, and even if the Ecuadorian Navy had the inclination to do a good job of patrolling, (political pressures to allow taking in the protected areas are great, not to even mention the power of corruption) there is only so much a Navy of that (small) size can do. (and they have gotten little or no support from the Navys of larger countries).

                                    When I was at the docks in Puerto Ayorta in Galapagos we saw fishing ships filling literally dozens of freight train size containers with sea cucumbers to be shipped, probably to Asia. It is quite likely that a good portion of those sea cucumbers were taken illegally.

                                    1. re: susancinsf

                                      The lowly but amazing sea cucumber removes detritus from the ocean floor, thereby reducing the buildup of nitrogenous wastes that ultimately are detrimental to healthy reefs. If it had big floppy ears or a fuzzy face and a cute butt, the harvesting would have stopped long ago.

                                      While in the Solomons, the locals would get paid by Taiwanese wholesalers to harvest sea cucumbers and get paid pennies per "piece." Because I am Asian, many locals assumed that I was Taiwanese and that I was there on business to secure sources relating to seafood. At first, the pickings were easy. One could easily swim down and grab a few at a time by holding one's breath. As the shallow water specimens started to disappear, the locals started using SCUBA gear in deeper waters to harvest but didn't know anything about atmospheres or the bends. They'd dive for long stretches at a time without SCUBA training, end up getting nitrogen narcosis or the bends and either suffer from things like Bell's palsy or even die of embolisms. Of course, this then rolls into the respective families that depend on these guys who are typically breadwinners or at least major contributors to the household or village livelihood. They not only lose their major source of support, the injured how becomes a liability.

                                      I can't completely blame the Asian consumer market for what is happening. They, like us, are disconnected for the most part from what is happening between the point of harvest to the point of retail. One can walk down the streets of just about any major city's shopping areas and see tons of processed seafood that has been harvested, dried, jarred, bagged or whatever. These products often have little or no resemblance to what it looked like alive in its natural environment. The culture in much of Asia doesn't toil over such issues yet as these kinds of things rarely come up in the media. So much programming there is either insanely mindless or focused on business/economics. Reality TV is starting to take a foothold there, and variety/entertainment is big as well. While some travel shows can be seen, documentaries like the ones that we are used to in t the West, are almost nonexistent. Furthermore, the average Asian is still behind the average American in standard of living. This "spread" gives us the seeming luxury to languish and pain over the assaults upon our planet if we so choose to. Most Asians work at least six days a week and are happy just to secure the basics for he or she and their families.

                                      1. re: susancinsf

                                        My research is in the illegal wildlife trade, and it's amazing how much of the illegal trade in ocean life is intended for consumption, even beyond the seahorses for traditional Chinese medicine.
                                        Sea cucumbers, caviar and Patagonian toothfish (that's Chilean seabass) are at the top of the list. The people fishing Patagonian toothfish also commonly dynamite the sperm and killer whales in the area, and endangered seabirds like albatrosses and petrels are commonly hooked and drowned going after the bait. It's a dirty business.
                                        On this note, it's worth checking out CITES lists as well as seafoodwatch.org

                                        1. re: susancinsf

                                          I don't know how long ago you were in the Galapagos, but the lobster and sea cucumber have been largely fished out. And it appears that the Ecuadorian government is doing better at controlling the waters around the Galapagos. The WWF and the GoE are using fish collectors/attractors (anchored floats that atrract first small fish and then largerfish) to introduce an anlternative income source for registered Galapagueno fisherfolk - and women are smoking tuna as a means to obtain added value. They use guava wood to do the smoking: because guava is an invasive species, the case is a win-win.

                                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                            My trip to the Galapagos was about eight or nine years ago. Given the incredible shear volumne of sea cucumbers I personally saw being shipped out, it is sad but not surprising to hear that they are almost now fished out in such a relatively short time.

                                            I am grateful that I had the opportunity to visit the Galapagos when I did.

                                            Yes, as you say the Government is doing a better job, but it is a fragile effort (and a fairly fairly fragile government) with a long way to go and a lot to overcome (There is a good description of some of the political issues at the website of the Galapagos Convservancy, an organization I have supported since my visit):

                                            http://www.galapagos.org/2008/index.php

                                            I thought this description of the new Ecuadorian constitutition, recognizing legally enforceable rights of nature, was interesting and encouraging:

                                            http://www.galapagos.org/2008/index.p...

                                            At the same time, illegal fishing continues, is difficult to control, and ultimately I think we each must take personal responsibility by refusing to consume the species that are not taken in non-sustainable ways. (and by supporting education and related efforts on a broader scale).

                                            1. re: susancinsf

                                              I just had a long converstaion with the WWF person in charge of the ecotourism and fish attractor project in the Galapagos. She (an Ecuadorian) was fairly upbeat; and things have obviously taken a turn for the better in recent years.

                                              1. re: susancinsf

                                                The lowly sea cumber moves across open sand flats slower than a snail, in full sight of anything, with no protection and no place to hide.It has survived for eons in the oceans simply because no marine life cares to eat them.But somehow humans do? Must be the added spices.

                                        2. re: Veggo

                                          Sharks may be abundant in the waters off the coast of CA, but in the past 3 or 4 years I've been diving in Thailand, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea and can practically count on one hand the number of sharks I've seen. Where commercial fishing isn't regulated, the populations have been decimated.

                                          1. re: JoanN

                                            I wouldn't say sharks are abundant off the CA coast, though I will admit that I don't know much about CA shark populations (perhaps since I dive there I prefer not to know how many of the 'Landlords' there are out there :-). I've certainly never seen a shark while diving in CA, other than horn sharks in Catalina (which I used to see on every dive 20 years ago, but now haven't seen at all in my last twenty or so Catalina dives). I do know that hammerheads have all but disappeared from the Sea of Cortez, where they used to be a major attraction for divers...

                                            1. re: susancinsf

                                              I'm a naturalist for Channel Islands National Park, and I've been seeing blue sharks lately, and people are saying that they are making a comeback.

                                              In addition to shark fins etc., Japan also takes a large number of whales every year.

                                          2. re: Veggo

                                            Here's the most recent info I could find on Cocos Island and shark finning, dated 15 December, 2008:

                                            http://www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/asiapcf...

                                            Scroll to the bottom third of the article.

                                        3. re: chowser

                                          Ugh. This is a huge pet peeve of mine. Every Thanksgiving, my aunt feels the need to remark on the amount of butter used in the meal. I tell her that once a year, it is okay for us to indulge and eat good food prepared with no restraints and consideration given exclusively to taste and not health. Everyone, including her, ends up digging in despite her spiel, and the funny thing is that she's the one who insists every year that I cook.

                                          I believe that consideration to health should be given in day-to-day eating, but on special occasions, all that should be thrown out the window and food should truly be enjoyed.

                                          1. re: chowser

                                            My heroine, Miss Manners, suggests that you can take your guest aside and say quietly to them, "I'm so sorry you're not happy here. I wouldn't dream of keeping you."
                                            Or you could just tell them to STFU or GTFO- or both. Your guest sounds like a horror show and a big embarrassment.

                                            1. re: EWSflash

                                              A relative of my husband's. But, as a fitness professional (which I casually mentioned), I start my "everything in moderation" speech and how I don't think it's healthy to deprive yourself completely of foods you enjoy because that's what eventually leads to binges and that people who eat in moderation manage to keep a steady weight, lower than people who completely deprive themselves and then binge, all said with a smile.

                                      2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                        Sam,

                                        I'm distressed that you've been "BLAPPed" on this subject. As a hound raising Chowpups, I'm enormously concerned about what will be available to them in the future. Blue fin tuna? Oysters? Abalone? Dungeness crab? All things I dearly love to eat that are extremely threatened. Makes sense to me that Hounds should be in the vanguard of the green movement.

                                        1. re: pikawicca

                                          I have a pretty strong feeling that Sam will be un-BLAPP-able on this thread. It seems to be subject-specific enough for his (as well as our) purposes. YOU ROCK SAM!

                                          As our world's population pressures continue to diminish the various ecosystems' ability to recover, I've become more and more concerned about what it took to get various food times to my plate. I'm no one special; in fact, I feel concerned for some self-serving reasons. Not only am I concerned for my kids, their kids and so on, I have this overlying fear that the next time I get a chance to return to the South Pacific, there will be nothing left for me to see. But I guess any reason works, as long as the end result is choices that fair better for all of us.

                                          1. re: pikawicca

                                            I know abalone is a very serious issue...

                                        2. All Chowhounds should consider social consciousness when prowling for delicacies. Take only what you need, share with others, nurture it for the next generation. And the seventh. This forum is a perfect place to discuss social consciousness, especially if we all want to eat well and nutritiously into the future.

                                          Happy New Year, and happy resolutions.

                                          Cay

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: cayjohan

                                            Very much agree with you. And it goes so much further than sharks. As people who consider ourselves knowledgeable about food, we should be conscientious about all the implications of what we eat. When, for instance, you actually consider the amount of resources in terms of food, energy, and water that go into producing a single pound of beef, it's pretty breathtaking. It's important to be aware of everything that goes into that final product sitting on the supermarket shelf, no matter what it is. And it's good to talk about it. I think Chowhound is a very good venue for that discussion.

                                          2. I"m curious about something.

                                            How is harvesting shark's fin any worse than slaughtering a cow for a hamburger? Or packing chickens in cages like sardines for the sake of a dozen eggs?

                                            Just asking. Not judging.

                                            Cheers.

                                            27 Replies
                                            1. re: ipsedixit

                                              i was about to write something to the effect of "millions of cows are slaughtered just for the sake of hamburgers.... " but hell i can take both sides of an issue simultaneously. the difference is that the cows are farmed for this, while wild shark populations might be being decimated. I don't know if that is the case or not

                                              1. re: thew

                                                That's an issue, too. I rarely agree w/ George Will but did when he asked, why is it not okay to mistreat one puppy but okay to mistreat millions of cows? Industrial farming has taken on a sad life of its own.

                                                A difference between the shark fin and hamburgers is, as you pointed out, the disappearance of the shark vs. repopulating cows. Another part is that the entire cow is used while the shark is killed only for the fin. It's the same as ivory from elephants. Herds are disappearing, only for the tusks.

                                                1. re: chowser

                                                  im not sure that using the whole vs part of the animal is really the issue - certainly isn't to the animal

                                                  1. re: thew

                                                    It is part of the overall issue, though not to one to the animal itself. It's about the overall waste that Sam talked about above. Unless you're vegan (and I highly admire people who can stick to their convictions as that is concerned), we all use other animals. It's about making the best choices we can and minimizing waste. We can kill 100 sharks to have a few bowls of shark fin soup, or 100 cows and use all the parts and have it go a lot farther. To me, this discussion is more about the ethical standpoint of waste and depleting resources, not about the ethics of killing other animals. It is a legitimate issue but not the one addressed here.

                                              2. re: ipsedixit

                                                If every cow and every chicken disappeared from the face of the planet, the earth would suffer no ill effects, quite the contrary. If however, one of the oceans' greatest predators disappears, the consequences will be devastating.

                                                1. re: pikawicca

                                                  what is that based on pikawicca? I for one think that the dissappearance of any species on earth (including many of the teeny ones that go relatively un-noticed), could have far more reaching consequences than we might imagine. What's the point in having predators if they have nothing to prey on? Everything in life depends on some other part.

                                                  1. re: im_nomad

                                                    domesticated animals are pretty much removed from the food chain

                                                    1. re: thew

                                                      Right, left to their own devices domesticated cows would be wiped off the face of the earth in short order.

                                                      1. re: KTinNYC

                                                        again....i ask....what is this based on, pure conjecture or fact? how cows somehow lost the ability to chew or eat grass outside a pen?

                                                        i ask about the comparisons as well, people seem to feel less guilty about eating a steak than they do shark. I don't feel particularly good about corporate farming or its reliance on the ever expanding pastureland. It's one of the reasons i stopped eating meat, but now i've just lost my taste for it. However, if i had to choose, i'd feel better about eating an animal that had a chance of survival and could get away, than one that was raised with the sole purpose of ending up on my plate.

                                                        1. re: im_nomad

                                                          It's based on fact. Modern domesticated cows are stupid and have no means of self defense. Without human intervention they would almost all starve or be victims of predators. Please note, I am talking only about beef cattle.

                                                          Sharks on the other hand would do fine by themselves in fact they would do better without humans.

                                                        2. re: KTinNYC

                                                          thats wasnt really my point. cows for the most part are no longer an essential cog in the non-human food chain. there are not predator populations that rely on large herds of wild cattle to survive. in this picka is correct.

                                                      2. re: im_nomad

                                                        Species at lower trophic levels in a given food web are more likely to be redundant in that web -- not necessarily, to be sure, but there are more of them, since it takes less in the way of resources to sustain any individual. There are probably species that could disappear without causing visible ecological ripples. This isn't a moral stance, exactly -- I for one believe in an inherent value to species -- but it's backed by data. However, sharks are not one of these species.
                                                        We've seen the consequences of shark population depletion -- in Tasmania, shark overfishing lead to an octopus boom, which lead to a crash in commercially-fished spiny lobster. Off Florida, sting rays and jellyfish are booming. Classic trophic cascades.
                                                        They're top predators; they're important.

                                                        1. re: Whippet

                                                          In NC disappearance of sharks has led to abundance of rays that are eating all the scallops.

                                                          1. re: Aromatherapy

                                                            Ray is good eating- at least the ones I've had. I don't know if there are different types that are edible and not. But if they're eating all the scallops maybe somebody needs to start eating the rays until the sharks have a chance to repopulate.
                                                            I know i'm being shallow and stupid here, but I'm serious about eating ray- at least up to the point where they become depleted. As long as they aren't manta rays. Even shallower, I know, but they're filter feeders rather than scallop eaters so I think I'm safe here.

                                                      3. re: pikawicca

                                                        Wouldn't we be eating other types of animals if every cow and chicken disappeared?

                                                        1. re: limster

                                                          Perhaps, but that still wouldn't be a disaster.

                                                          1. re: pikawicca

                                                            It's extremely hard to predict the effects of changes in complex systems like food chains. What if we turned to eating more sharks or other varieties of fish as a result?

                                                        2. re: pikawicca

                                                          Yes, sharks are a keystone species in terms of marine life.

                                                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                            As a diver, I would never kill or eat a shark. A specie that has endured for 65 million years has a right to continue to do so. I am a guest in their home, I have never had a problem in their midst. I have had many splendid encounters, including stroking the belly of sizeable nurse sharks until they roll over and almost fall asleep in your arms.

                                                        3. re: ipsedixit

                                                          I think cattle are slaughtered for more than just "a hamburger." The whole beast is used, is it not? We no longer eat red meat,.BTW. Eggs from chickens you describe are not on my table. Mine come from free range chickens humanely grown. It takes a little effort but a little education on the subject of finding food for your table that comes from ethically grown and harvested sources keeps the food chain in proper balance.

                                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                                            In a word, sustainability. Not to say that mainstream chicken and beef farming operations are sustainable - they're not - but those operations do sustain a large population of domesticated animals.

                                                            There are probably more chickens in the world right now than there have ever been, but overfishing has reduced shark population to historic lows. That's because chickens breed prolifically, reproduce quickly and in relatively large numbers, and are slaughtered at at an early age, while a pair of sharks can take many years or even decades to replace themselves.

                                                            1. re: ipsedixit

                                                              The corollary here from an environmental standpoint would have more to do with managing the waste from cattle or chicken farms than the slaughtering of the animals. The concern with the sharks (in this instance) isn't so much based in concern for the individual animals but, rather, the ecosystem of the oceans in which the sharks live and the survival of the entire sets of species of sharks.

                                                              It isn't so much a question of animal welfare as it is environmental welfare.

                                                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                If you killed a cow, took your pound of flesh, and left the rest of the cow lying in the field to rot, then came back and did it again next time you had a yen for beef that would be equivalent. If a hen could only lay a dozen eggs in its lifetime... and so on. It's not the eating of the shark that's the problem (in Australia people used to eat shark all the time - flake makes great fish and chips, but there's so much mercury in the food chain now they warn you not to eat it!), it's the grossly selfish wastage of natural resources - there isn't any money in the rest of the shark, so they cut off the fin and dump the carcass.

                                                                1. re: Kajikit

                                                                  Recall that the mystique of shark fins (and black rhino horns) has more to do with the feckless pursuit of cures for sexual inadequacy than for flavor. Shark fins are essentially tasteless cartilege.
                                                                  I wish those with more dollars than sense would take a Viagra and leave the seas alone.

                                                                2. re: ipsedixit

                                                                  I started writing this response by saying that domestic cattle and chicken farming has nothing to do with why it's so bad to eat Sharkfin. But I'm wrong. There is a huge parallel - the negative impact of both will be felt on our ecology because of our cultural preferences (or ignorances) - Asian for sharkfin, and American for meat.

                                                                  There's little issue over slaughtering domesticated animals for food. The issue is the way we've come to do it in the last 50 years, with unsustainable factory farming. Right or wrong, we must consider the impact of 10 Billion humans on Earth (the eventual estimated peak - said to occur within the next 80-90 years). How are we going to feed everybody? Factory farms as they exist today aren't sustainable - but they're happening for a reason. Maximizing the productivity of both meat and vegetables has to be our goal, if we are indeed going to get close to that 10 Billion mark without blowing ourselves up.

                                                                  But if factory farming is not sustainable, pursuing it will create even greater ecological problems. Those that are making the most sensible arguments for change aren't saying get rid of chicken and beef and other forms of concentrated energy and protein, but rather, return to the sustainable ways to make domesticated food animals work as part of the overall eco-cycle of growing our food, as we used to in the past. Done properly, by taking advantage of fallow ground, or crops that benefit the earth to feed animals, as well as animal wastes as fertilizer to feed plants, the on-going result is more total and sustainable energy available as food for human consumption, than can be done by vegetation alone. The real question for today is, can we go backwards?

                                                                  Why it's so bad to eat Sharkfin is precisely because it has nothing at all to do with growing or catching our food, whether sustainable or not - it's not even a wrong-headed attempt to feed a lot of people. It's not about nutrition at all. It's just a food custom, taken to an extreme, that is doing great damage not just to a species but to an entire oceanic eco-system.

                                                                  My Japanese uncle was a whaler. Back in the 60's I ate whale meat in Japan and didn't think much of it. But I saw it still available in a grocery store on my last trip and thought that it was horrible. My uncle had long since moved on to commercial shipping - there were no more commercial whaling fleets in Japan. They were only supposed to be doing research, but the meat taken doing research was sold on the open market - I believe it still is. I think of it in the same way as the shark fin, even if the meat and blubber are more efficiently used - there is no reason at all to catch whales, no special oil that can't be artificially replaced. It is just another cultural food custom. The irony is that in Japan people have become quite educated about this, and the demand for whale meat is extremely low - so low, that the Japanese government, in its various forms is trying to push more people to keep up their cultural traditions, by doing things like using whale meat in school lunch programs.

                                                                  The solution to the shark fin issue is education. How do we educate Chinese and Asian people to all understand the impact of eating Sharkfin?

                                                                  But there is an actual and ultimate relationship here - I mean between the beef and the sharkfin. The issue with the massive beef and pork farms is that they are providing cheap meats to Americans (and other countries that are beginning to do the same things). If we go back to the smaller farm based model, where raising meat is part of the eco-cycle and is sustainable, then meat becomes much less available. It goes back to being eaten far less often and more so by the rich, who can afford it more. Will Americans buy into that for ecology's sake? Will our demand for cheap rib-eye every week be as unreasonable as the Asian demand for sharkfin on every occasion? How are we going to educate ourselves to eat less, more expensive beef?

                                                                  1. re: applehome

                                                                    Indeed, and unfortunately the association between demand for meat and population growth is not linear: Per capita consumption of meat is rapidly increasing in China and India.

                                                                    1. re: applehome

                                                                      The only way that American consumers will change their diets is if the price of food reflects its actual cost. Not just the cost of the feed and the labor required to put an egg or a ribeye steak on the table, but also the total long-term ecological cost of the agricultural practices that have come to predominate. By the same token, we'll start using less petroleum if price of a gallon of gas reflects not just the cost of recovering and refining crude oil, but also the cost of mitigating the environmental impact of making and burning that gas.

                                                                      For centuries, natural resources were something to be exploited. And when the human race consisted of only a smattering of technologically-inhibited primitives, the problems we caused were fairly limited in scope - the deforestation of Iceland and Christmas Island, the elimination of the dodo, etc. But the Industrial Revolution fundamentally changed the balance of things; now we are capable of wreaking havoc far beyond our ancestors' wildest imaginings.

                                                                      We've traditionally paid the immediate costs of our activities and left the long-term costs on our tab. Slash-and-burn agriculture works well as long as there's an inexhaustible amount of forest. But as we approach a Malthusian system - as the human race begins to strain the Earth's ability to sustain it - we just can't to that any more. For the last eight years this country has been run by people who are firm believers in letting the market manage behavior. But a free market has no way of demanding compensation from free riders.

                                                                      It's been forty years since Garrett Hardin published "The Tragedy of the Commons," an incredibly cogent article on the societal cost of free riders. When all members of a community are free to graze their cattle on public land, each of them will tend to put as many cattle as possible on that land, because the benefit - increased milk - is his alone, while the detriment - the degradation of the commons - is shared by the community. The problem is that when everybody does this, the commons is destroyed, and everyone is injured.

                                                                      Seems like we as a society might have absorbed some of this lesson over the last four decades. But no - we whine about $4/gallon gas or $2/dozen eggs, not realizing that at those prices we're sticking our kids with the bulk of the bill. And if you believe the new administration is going to impose regulations or taxes that will address these issues in any significant way, I've got a nice bridge you might be interested in.