Kudos to councillors Glenn De Baeremaeker, John Parker and Kristyn Wong-Tam for being the first to propose the ban of shark fin soup in Toronto.
After a 38-4 Toronto council landslide decision, shark fin soup gets the hook from Toronto restaurants next September. And rightfully so.
The move to ban the Chinese delicacy is a not only bold one, but a necessary one. The practice of “shark finning”, where the sharks’ fins are removed, leaving the bodies to fend in the ocean, is inhumane and damaging to the ecosystem. With many sharks being killed for their fins every year, ceasing the demand in a highly populated area like Toronto will help.
Arguing that it is a Chinese cultural tradition isn’t a strong enough reason to keep the soup on the menu. Every culture carries with it customs that become outmoded, irrelevant or downright inappropriate over time. To think otherwise is to deny change. Chinese culture has abandoned foot binding. Whaling is no longer appropriate. Head hunting has been abandoned, cannibalism as well.
Or look at it from this perspective: why can’t the ban be seen as a cultural move for Canada?
Just as Canada imposed a ban on the northern cod fishery in 1992, and signed on to the International Whaling Commission’s 1986 ban on commercial whaling, the latest ban shows a respect for the environment and its wildlife. If we’re seen as the peacekeeping country that cares, who’s socially and environmentally responsible, then that just might be some of that “non-existent” Canadian cultural identity.
Simply, shark fin soup is an unacceptable anachronism in the 21st century. Toronto will have to learn to suck it up, or get their shark fin fix elsewhere.
Restaurant owners may lose a bit of business, but they’ll survive. And so too, will a few more sharks.