Thursday, December 8, 2011

How long should we be tolerant of "cultural" activities that are inherently destructive to our Ecosystem?

I originally posted this to my Facebook wall, but it was too long so got cut off. I've recreated it and expanded it from my original post. 
Should Shark Fin Soup Be Outlawed? 
The other night while having Chinese at Silver Pond with a friend, we debated about ordering the shark fin soup. "If you were in the ocean, the shark wouldn't think twice about eating you," my friend rationalized. He was hell bent on ordering a bowl. His response didn't move me. Is shark fin soup really still legal?
This is a very interesting question. I'm inclined to say "yes" it should be banned just so we can protect the sharks. They are an integral part of the oceanic ecosystems and if we lose them we have no idea what will happen. 

This also reminds me of something similar that happened to me a few years ago in Oslo, Norway. I was on a business trip and the folks at the office had all gone out to dinner. While we were all sitting around enjoying our mulled wine (it was January, I think. At any rate it was winter, and cold) and reading the menus one of my co-workers leaned over and asked me if I had any ethical issues with eating whale. 

I was a bit surprised by this question, since never having had the opportunity to order whale in a restaurant I had never thought about the personal ethical implications. So I did think about it, briefly, and told my co-worker that, yes, I did have moral qualms about it and would not be ordering that item off the menu. When he offered me a taste of his I politely declined. 

Whaling, like shark fin soup, is an inherently destructive practice which is having effects on the ocean ecosystem that we can only guess at. They are also, in my opinion, "cultural" activities that we as a species can no longer allow if we expect to survive. We are killing whales, sharks and even dolphins at such a rate that if something isn't done immediately we will lose them from our oceans within 50 years. Think about that. Add to that the fact that these are the tops of their respective food chains and if they are allowed to die out we have no idea what effect that will have on the oceanic ecosystem. I know I'm repeating myself here, but this bears repeating over and over and over. We have no idea what will happen to the oceans. If the oceans die, because of our actions, we die. 

It was recently reported that Japan took money that had been donated to aid organizations to help victims of the earthquakes and tsunamis earlier this year and used some of it to finance their whaling fleets. This is so absolutely reprehensible on the part of the Japanese government that I'm almost speechless. Japan's whaling is nothing more than wanton, destructive killing for killing's sake. There is absolutely no good reason why we need to keep killing whales. Everything they once provided for us, back when Herman Melville wrote Moby Dick, can now be manufactured synthetically. The continuance of a whaling "tradition" by some nations is, in my opinion, nothing more than an exercise in wanton cruelty. 

When San Francisco recently acted to ban the sale of shark fin soup in restaurants one of our local Chinese-American politicians actually called it an attack on Chinese traditions. Well... so what? Do we really need to be tolerant of a "tradition" that kills over 73 million sharks a year? These animals aren't cows. "Finning" a shark is a cruel and inhumane thing. The sharks are caught, and while still alive their fins are sliced off then the bodies are thrown back in the ocean to drown. All so some nouveau riche Chinese businessman can have a bowl of soup to show everyone how refined and upper-class he is? Well, screw that. Buy a Rolex like everyone else, chucklehead. 

We have to wake up and find a way to exist with the natural world that does not destroy it or we won't last as a species. At some point, the time will come, that we have so damaged the ecosystem of our planet that we, Homo Sapiens, will no longer be able to live here. What will we do? We'll die, is what we will do, and Mother Earth will go on; she will heal herself from our toxic presence and in about 10,000 years there will be no trace of us left on the face of the plant. If any other species ever does happen to visit our pale blue dot, there will be nothing left to tell them we existed. 

At that point nature will be free to start over again. This will be our fate if we continue to allow the wanton slaughter of these animals year after year after year. Is this really what we want to leave our children? 

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