Animal Writes
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From 5 June 2005 Issue

Disney Cruelly Cuts Fins Off Sharks for Money
Commentary by Paul Watson
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society
Posted on

Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck Feast on Shark Fin Soup in Hong Kong

Good old Uncle Walt must be turning over in his grave. Michael Eisner has made it plain that everything Disney has stood for has been a fraud. The bottom line is money.

Money, money, and more money, and they don’t seem to care how they get the money.

Screw Bambi, the real spirit of Disney is symbolized more by Cruella DeVille than by Snow White or Tinkerbell.

If the price is right, Eisner will serve any creature on a plate.

The Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel is hosting Chinese banquet wedding receptions starting at HK$11,457 (US$1,472) a table. The most expensive package is HK$15,857 (US$2,080) per table.

Although Disney claims to be environmentally friendly, the Disneyland Hotel is serving – shark fin soup for elite guests.

A bowl of shark fin soup averages US$400 in Hong Kong.

Shark populations are crashing worldwide because of both the legal and the illegal trade in shark fins. The sharks are captured on linglines, the fins are sliced off, and then the sharks (many still alive) are tossed back into the ocean. This is a worldwide problem. Shark fins are making their way to Asia from Central and South America, from Africa and from India. There is no safe place for a shark in the world’s oceans because of this trade.

Yet Disney public relations manager Esther Wong, said in a prepared statement, "Hong Kong Disneyland takes environmental stewardship very seriously but we are equally sensitive to the local cultures.” It is customary for Chinese restaurants and 5-star hotels to serve shark fin soup in Hong Kong as the dish is considered as an integral part of Chinese banquets.''

In other words environmental stewardship means little to Disney and maintaining the five stars takes precedence. Apparently to earn five stars, a restaurant must contribute towards making sharks extinct. The eating of shark fin soup is considered a sign of affluence in Hong Kong, and not serving it at a wedding banquet is considered to be a “loss of face.”

Hong Kong has refused to sign any international conservation treaty that opposes the trade in shark fin. Shark fin soup is legal in Hong Kong but the official Disney policy, found on its Web site, states the company will "work to identify issues that may not yet be identified in the law, but could result in adverse environmental effects.''

A 2004 survey by The International Union for the Conservation of Nature found that out of 262 shark species around the world, 56 were endangered. The National Geographic Society reported in 2003 that 50-85 percent of the world's shark fin trade came through Hong Kong. China exports 4,000 tons of the fins a year, according to a Toronto Globe and Mail report.

Shark fins are big business in Hong Kong, both legally and illegally. A paper by Peter Gastrow, of the Organized Crime and Corruption Programme with the Institute for Security Studies in South Africa, said in a 2001 report that Hong Kong triads have been linked to the shark fin trade in South Africa.

The Hong Kong Tourist Board is also encouraging the shark fin trade. A letter from Selina Chow, the chairman of the board, on July 11, 2002 wrote in an email to Tristan Green, a Hong Kong diving club member, "Shark fin is a legal product in Hong Kong and it would be untenable for us to discriminate against shops or restaurants offering this product by refusing to list them in our publicity.''

All over the world the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is encountering and seizing longlines and driftnets that target sharks. We have documented the slaughter of sharks in the National Parks of the Galapagos, the Costa Rican National Park of Cocos Island, and the Colombian National Park of Malpelo Island.

These beautiful and ecologically-beneficial creatures are being systematically destroyed and for what – so people can demonstrate that they have wealth, so they can impress their friends and family. This is not a cultural tradition; it is an exercise in environmental arrogance and a demonstration of ecological ignorance.

The people who order shark fin soup are contributing to the demise of hundreds of species of sharks, and for Disneyland Hotels to be contributing to this diminishment is a disgrace.

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