The Rewilding Institute
Rejecting the Cultural Justification for Slaughter
Commentary from Captain Paul Watson
Well, it did not take long. It’s getting to the point that being a
conservationist automatically makes a person a racist. Now it appears it
is racist to defend sharks. What is even more amazing is that some people
consider it a form of “Western cultural imperialism” to criticize
Disneyland in Hong Kong.
I’ve been called a racist for defending whales, seals, fish and trees,
for speaking out about human over-population and for defending elephants.
So I guess it is not surprising to now be called a racist for defending
Let me see, for defending whales we are anti-Japanese, anti-Norwegian,
anti-Icelandic and anti-Native American. For defending seals we are
anti-Canadian, anti-Norwegian and anti-Namibian. For defending trees we
are anti-Hispanic and anti Native American oh yes and anti-working class.
It appears that loggers who make four times the average income of an
environmental activist are workers and the lower paid activists are viewed
as wealthy. You see when you work without pay because you know; you feel
that the entire future of the planet is at stake, this is viewed as a
luxury. In other words environmental activists have the luxury of sleeping
in trees and not owning a home, a car or recreational vehicles.
Anyways back to being a racist for saving sharks.
I was sent a response from a man named Hsing Lee who believes that the
entire campaign to stop people from eating shark fin soup is motivated by
I guess that’s why we are opposing Disneyland. Lee apparently believes
that it is part of the traditional Chinese culture for Chinese couples to
have Disney character fantasy weddings where traditional shark fin soup is
Never mind that Disneyland has now become a Mousewich for sharks and
that a hundred million of them are being cruelly slaughtered to provide
trinkets, and expensive, tasteless status symbol bowls of soup. A hundred
million sentient creatures a year massacred for non-nutritive purposes,
slaughtered for vanity and justified by culture.
It’s a holocaust for sharks including those killed for the Mouseshirted
eco-fascists at Disneyland Hong Kong but Lee is blind to the plight of the
sharks and most likely he is as apathetic about the health of the oceans
This is his protest:
You have some Western prejudice in play here on your part.
The medicinal properties of sharks fin soup are well known, and it’s
been used as food and medicine for thousands of years. It’s as traditional
a dish as steak and potatoes. Would you prefer that we Chinese give up our
culture and identity and conform to Western diet, medicine, and language?
It’s not Chinese medicine that brought the world Heroin or Vicodin or
Oxycontin or Vioxxx, all of which are infinitely worse for people than a
shark’s fin. And I can testify first hand to the medicinal qualities of
shark’s fin soup. It really does make you stronger, more virile, and gives
you a more adaptable immune system. You fight off sickness faster when you
drink it. And unlike Westerners and their whale killing for ambergris, we
Chinese actually put the rest of the shark on people’s dinner tables. We
even use the highly elastic bone and tendon. There is no wastage unless
the shark is one of a handful of breeds that can be toxic.
The tone of this entire article (referring to the article in the Herald
Tribune and the New York Times) is ignorant, racist, and just more China
and Chinese bashing by a bunch of fucking Nazi crackers who think only
Western ways are good or proper and everyone else is immoral.
Hsing Lee makes quite a few factual errors in his protest. It was China
that actually introduced opium to the West and heroin is an extract of
opium. There are no Western whalers hunting whales for Ambergris which
comes only from the Sperm whale and the only nation hunting Sperm whales
is Japan. There is no scientific validity to the claims that shark fin is
a health benefit. It is not true that the Chinese use all parts of the
shark. 90% of shark fins come from sharks where the body has been
discarded. Shark fin is not as traditional dish in China as steak and
potatoes is for Westerners for the simple reason that the cost of between
$100 and $400 per bowl makes it a restricted dish available only to the
I sent the following reply to Hsing Lee.
To Hsing Lee,
I don’t fall for the racist guilt crap.
The fact is that sharks are being seriously diminished and a major
reason for it is the Asian demand for shark fin soup. My opposition to
shark-finning has nothing to do with any prejudice towards Chinese
culture. On the contrary my one child is half Chinese and I have quite a
few Chinese in-laws, all of whom are opposed to shark fin soup by the way.
Anthony Marr, is a Vancouver Chinese activist, originally from China
and a dedicated activist against shark finning.
There is not a shred of scientific evidence to demonstrate any
medicinal benefits of shark fins or shark cartilage. I have interviewed
reputable Chinese medical practioneers who have told me that there is no
validity to these claims.
And even if there were valid claims, the destruction of the world’s
sharks is not worth the benefits.
No one is asking the Chinese to give up their culture. We are asking
people to be ecologically responsible and sensitive to the fact that shark
species have been diminished in all species from 60% up to 95%. Basking
shark’s Tiger sharks, White sharks and Whale sharks have been especially
Last year, I found 100 plus Silky sharks entangled and dead in a net
that was caught on the rocks a hundred feet down off the World Heritage
Site of Malpelo Island, Colombia. What right do the Hong Kong Shark Fin
merchants have to rob Colombia of its natural treasures?
Every year I haul hundreds of miles of illegally set long lines from
the oceans and intercept poachers with cargos of shark fins.
What right does Hong Kong have to plunder the world’s oceans for the
benefit of so called Chinese culture. The answer is they have no right at
Have we descended so low that we are now using culture to defend the
extermination of species? Has it come to this that defenders of endangered
species and protectors of oceanic eco-systems are to be called racist for
practicing, promoting and enforcing conservation?
Your accusation that Westerners are killing whales for Ambergris is way
out of date. Whales have not been killed for Ambergris for over a century
and the only commercial whale killers in the world today are the Japanese,
the Norwegians and the Icelanders and we oppose them all regardless of
their race or culture.
You have the audacity to say there is no wastage when it is a fact that
only 4% of a shark’s body is utilized by the shark fin industry and the
rest is thrown away.
Just last week, a San Diego court found a Hong Kong company guilty of
possessing nearly 70,000 pounds of shark fins without utilizing the
remaining 96% of the bodies. This represents between 18,000 and 22,000
It is a fact that over 100 million sharks are being slaughtered each
year and a great majority of this slaughter is to provide shark fins for
tasteless, non-nutritive, expensive superstitious soup meant to impress
family and friends as a status symbol.
It is your remarks which are ignorant and racist. The fact is that
there are many Chinese who are speaking out against shark finning. We have
Chinese celebrities like Michele Yeoh and Jackie Chan who have spoken out
against it. We have Chinese volunteers working on stopping the consumption
of shark fins. You are using race to cover up your support for a product
which is causing incredible ecological damage to oceanic eco-systems. You
are hiding behind race because you do not have the facts to back up your
ridiculous belief that shark fin soup is a benefit to health.
In doing so you also expose your own racism by labeling any person who
is opposed to the massive slaughter of sharks as a Nazi. Talk about
unoriginal name calling.
I have always found it despicable for people to use their race, their
sex or their culture to cover up crimes and the slaughter of sharks is a
crime against nature and it is a crime under international and national
I find the Chinese to be no better or no worse than every other mis-guided
anthropocentric nature abusing hominids anywhere. We are all on the same
As far as I am concerned there is only one race and that is the human
race and ecologically speaking the entire race is predominantly ignorant,
destructive and suicidal.
The campaign against shark finning has nothing to do with race and
culture and everything to do with the conservation of important species
that fulfill valuable niches within oceanic ecological systems.
Captain Paul Watson
I also received an e-mail from a man named Eugene Ahn in response to
one of my quotes in the New York Times.
“They say it’s cultural. Does that mean Disneyland in Japan is now
going to be having whale burgers?” asked Paul Watson, the founder and
president of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, in Friday Harbor,
This is the lamest and laziest attempt at supporting the cause against
shark hunting I’ve ever heard. Have the Japanese been eating whale burgers
for hundreds of years? Have they even been eating burgers for hundreds of
years? Your cultural ignorance is bewildering.
Next time, please make sense.
My answer to Eugene was:
My reference to whale burgers marries the idea of a Western company
like Disney incorporating local cultural for profit. I find it amazing
that saving sharks is viewed by some as “cultural imperialism” yet Disney
character fantasy marriages, and the entire Disney Americanization of
local culture is embraced.
The Japanese in fact say they have been eating whale meat for hundreds
of years. My cultural ignorance may be bewildering but your ecological
ignorance is despicable and as far as I am concerned ecology trumps
culture any day.
There may be many who disagree with me but the rights of a species to
survive on this planet take absolute precedence over the “rights” of a
cultural practice or tradition by groups of humans.
The Chinese may very well have eaten shark fin for centuries but there
are now more Chinese people than there are sharks in the sea and we are
killing them at a rate of a hundred million a year.
The Chinese tradition of binding the feet of women has been abandoned
because the rights of women takes precedence over the tradition of
And the rights of the sharks to survive and to not be subjected to the
cruelty of finning must take precedence over the tradition of eating shark
The criticism that opposition to the consumption of sharks is western
imperialism and ethnocentric is ridiculous. We oppose the Canadian seal
hunt and I am a Canadian. We oppose whaling, sealing, illegal fishing by
any people regardless of race, culture or religious beliefs. The Sea
Shepherd Conservation Society is 100% colour blind when it comes to these
issues and criticism to the contrary is based on selective discrimination
of our campaigns. We probably have a campaign to offend anyone at some
But the offense works both ways. >From the point of view of a shark,
the violation is extremists and violent and the perpetrators, those who
slaughter and consume the shark have displayed an arrogant insensitivity
to their welfare and survival both as individual sentient creatures and as
Can wholesale slaughter and extinction be justified by the cultural
desire to eat a bowl of soup?
Is my respect for and concern for the survival of sharks worthy of less
respect than a person who desires to harm them?
I have swam with sharks, with hammerheads, silkys, Galapagos, whitetip,
blacktip, nurse, blue, thresher, whale, basking, dogfish, giant mantas,
tigers, makos and great whites. I found them to be creatures of grace and
beauty and the thrill of seeing them in the wild, of swimming with them is
a far more stimulating and exciting experience than slurping down their
boiled fins in a broth at some wedding banquet.
What many people do not see is that our violent invasion of the oceans
is a form of imperialism. It is hominid imperialism and the culture of the
sharks is being torn apart as these incredible animals are massacred for
The shark is an essential species in maintaining the health of oceanic
eco-systems and especially of ocean reef communities.
Should we accept the diminishment of the health of the oceans for a
bowl of soup and justify it because it is a “cultural” dish?
I think not.
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