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Double happiness without shark fin

lau-andree-52.jpg
By Andree Lau, CBCnews.ca

One of our closet doors is covered with Post-it notes, a daily reminder there's less than a month left until our wedding and many more tasks left to complete before that walk down the aisle.

shark-fin-cp-6161663.jpg
Shark fins for sale are displayed inside a shop in the Chinatown section of Los Angeles. (Nick Ut/Associated Press)

However, one of the items that got crossed off first was the matter of food.

I've never been one of those brides who had her dress picked out before her husband, but I have always known I wanted a traditional Chinese banquet.

The red and gold decorations, huge platters of food, and noisy clatter of relatives and chopsticks have always felt to me like a wonderful way to celebrate a marriage.

There are of course traditions: fish served whole with head and tail to symbolize a life of abundance for the newlyweds; lobster because red is the colour of happiness and joy; certain sweet desserts to bless the couple with many children.

But there is one longstanding delicacy that's now running into modern objections.

Shark fin soup is a status dish, served to guests on special occasions. Real shark fin can cost up to $100 a bowl.

As you can imagine, the increasing worldwide demand for shark fin is leading to a rapid decline of shark populations. Conservationists say fishermen hack off the fins and throw sharks' still-living bodies back into the water.

One shark conservation group, WildAid, got Chinese NBA star Yao Ming to sign on as a supporter, and to pledge to give up shark's fin soup.

In reality, shark fin itself has little flavour and is distinguished mainly by its texture.

With this in mind, my parents and my fiancé and I agreed to forgo this tradition by instead serving a fish soup with goji berries — which are supposed to bring the newly married couple many offspring.

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Comments

shane Gross

Good Job, I hope this becomes the norm in China.

Posted August 18, 2009 12:04 PM

darien flett

that is music to my ears, what a great way to compromise. The act of "finning" is terrible. hundreds of millions of sharks are killed yearly. We must stop this, or the creature that is millions of years old, will be extinct.

Posted August 18, 2009 12:59 PM

liza

Hi Andree,

thanks so much for your compasionate choice and for sharing your story! I hope others will choose to do the same! It's such a shame how many millions of sharks are killed for shark fin soup every year. Gogi berries are a much better choice!

Best,
-Liza

Posted August 18, 2009 02:42 PM

Shark Truth

Great article and congratulations on your wedding and your food choice!

Posted August 18, 2009 03:53 PM

sum young guy

chinatown

yummmmmm.......
I paid $10.00 per can for shark fin soup the other day. It was worth it though - can't wait to open the second one.

Posted August 19, 2009 11:44 AM

Paul

USA

Goji berries, way to go! I hope many more follow your example.
http://www.stopsharkfinning.net

Posted August 21, 2009 07:50 AM

Michelle Menger

France

Thank you Andree and fiancée for refusing to contribute to the terrible slaughter of sharks. May your couple be blessed with happiness for a thousand years and your children beautiful, happy and many.

Best wishes,

Michelle

Posted August 21, 2009 11:06 AM

Rebecca Regnery

I work for Humane Society International. Check out our shark fin campaign materials,in English and Chinese, including literature for wedding guests for compassionate couples like you who choose not to serve shark fin soup:

http://www.hsus.org/hsi/oceans/sharks/

Congratulations on your marriage!

Posted August 21, 2009 05:18 PM

ethix view

If you really want to make a difference, do not include any animals or animal parts at your wedding banquet. There is no morally significant difference between sharks, other fish species, chickens, lobsters, or dogs and cats, for that matter. Stop seeing nonhuman animals as food and you will make a difference. Other than that, eliminating one species from your menu, since it "has little flavour" anyway, is pretty close to meaningless and no reason to congratulate yourself on your compassion.

Posted August 22, 2009 10:25 AM

Jonathon Meyers

Sorry, but have to agree with ethix view - which is wierd since I'm not a vegan. One spieces isn't "more worth saving" than any other. Also, quite a bit of sensationalism out there too. darien flett writes that hundreds of millions of sharks are slaughtered every year. Interesting since there aren't 100's of millions of sharks to begin with! Perhaps he's confused with their time on the planet (being 100's of millions of years old). Michelle Menger wants to bless you with 1000 years of happiness and many children because you won't put fin soup on the menu - not knowing a thing about you. Maybe you hate children and have a criminal record, but as long as you won't have the shark fin, you're an angel. Get your priorities in life straight Michelle!

Posted August 24, 2009 08:51 AM

Get Real

Canada

The "difference" is that most of the meat found in a grocery store is raised for food. Last time I checked, sharks aren't. They're wild animals and that's probably why people have objections. The same probably goes for dolphins, whales... you get the idea. Instead of being so cynical Ethix, how about accepting the fact that some change for the better is an improvement over no change at all?

Posted August 24, 2009 08:58 AM

Jonathon Meyers

Get Real: By your logic then eating sardines, shrimp,crab are not ok either since they are "wild" & not raised for food. Did you know that there is research going on right now that hints that plants contain a conscious of sorts? What will the vegans do when they can't eat lettuce because of fear they are hurting a sentient organism? Does lettuce not have the right to grow up and make more lettuci and die a natural Canadian death by frost? Is it even right to grow lettuce in Canada where it is non-native? If your want to get real, Get Real, then get real. When all the food is gone, the last fish has been eaten and the last river poisoned (paraphrasing an Aboriginal saying) we'll get it-we'll finally understand it. The Earth will carry on without our DNA just it did fine before us.

Posted August 24, 2009 11:35 AM

Nan

This is a very caring and noble Andree your Husband and Family; I know that there are a number of dishes with different types of veggies and sauces that can be exchanged out in place of meats and fish. But I will commend you for a wonderful effort. How ever I think the statement made by (sum young guy) shows he is a MORON! What do you think of that, SUM YOUNG NIMROD!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted August 26, 2009 08:03 PM

ethix view

Get Real: Following your logic, animals raised for food deserve less moral consideration than wild animals. It would therefore be acceptable to eat shark fins from sharks raised in tanks. Why? Do you really believe that the piglet bred, raised, and slaughtered for the sole purpose of pleasing our palates has a lesser interest in living than the wild shark whose fins are cut off for the sole purpose of pleasing our palates?

Posted August 28, 2009 08:46 PM

Nyomi

ottawa

i watched a movie on the shark fins and i agree to an extend cutting one animal for another doesn't make sense however a fish for example is eaten all where the shark is cruel the fins are cut off and they are thrown back in the ocean alive but not able to move sinking to the bottom this is horrible and needs to be stopped

Posted September 1, 2009 03:48 PM

Amy

Canada

Jonathon Meyers: I totally agree with you. But of the species that you mentioned, sardines, are the only one mentioned that are not presently cultivated.

I understand that not all crab and shrimp we buy in store are the result of cultivation, however, point being that not everything comes from the ocean. If we can use aquaculture PROPERLY there would not be as much of a need to take from the wild.

No animal deserves more moral consideration than the other. I respect all animals, and do not want them to suffer so that I can eat. I am not a vegan but I do think that ethics and animal welfare need to be of the highest standards for all farmed animals.
The act of fining is EXTREMELY cruel and I don't think it can be compared to eating lettuce. Sharks are dismembered and thrown back to die a slow painful death. When talking to people about this I hear a lot of "it's just a shark" but if society keeps supporting this FLAVORLESS dish we are going to wipe out an apex predator and we WILL notice.

Good job on your menu choice Andree, as Shane Gross said, I hope the rest of China follows your lead.

Posted September 8, 2009 03:03 PM

The Facts

Vancouver

Are you serious? Chickens, cows, sardines etc.
are not in any danger of extinction, nor is their current sustained consumption going to cause any sort of serious ecological disturbance. Shark populations have declined so rapidly to the point of threatening their entire species and their hunting is completely unregulated. As well, they provide very little nutritional value and cannot support a proper meal and exists solely as a status symbol for the rich; the availability of cheap, widely produced meat such as chicken probably saves millions of lives each year due to its provision of a complete protein.

To dismiss the decision to boycott this ridiculous "food" as pointless because someone continues to have chicken is one of the most ludicrous statements I've ever heard in my life. I support vegetarianism, but to say someone giving this destructive dish up is not a step forward for herself, the environment and society as a whole is blind, baseless thinking.

Posted September 12, 2009 03:10 PM

Lauren Carter

I just saw Sharkwater, the documentary, and I think your decision is a wise and compassionate one. I hope that many others follow in your foot-steps!

Posted November 4, 2009 05:37 PM

Anonymous

I just graduated with a degree in Marine Biology just two weeks ago, and this is a blessing. We can only hope that this trend catches on quickly, especially due to the 95% decline in shark populations in the last 10 years...staggering.

Posted December 25, 2009 11:25 AM

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From trends and culture to politics and nutrition, Food Bytes serves up tasty tidbits about food and the issues surrounding it that flavour our everyday lives.

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Amber Hildebrandt Amber Hildebrandt writes for CBCNews.ca in Toronto. Growing up on a farm in Manitoba, she acquired an insatiable appetite, but it was during a stint in Japan that she developed her discerning tastebuds and "foodie" ways.

Andrea Chiu Andrea Chiu is an associate producer at CBC Radio Digital. Though she loves to eat, cook and discuss food, don't ask her to bake. It never turns out well. She tweets as @TOfoodie on Twitter and organizes food and wine events in Toronto called FoodieMeet.

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Elizabeth Bridge Elizabeth Bridge is a writer with the CBC Digital Archives in Toronto. She first ventured into the kitchen as a child to indulge a sweet tooth by baking cookies and making fudge. A student budget compelled her to be a vegetarian (for a while) and instilled in her an ongoing curiosity about food and cooking.

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