Saturday 12 January 2013

Animals: Doing My Part For The Sharks

A Great White, listed Vulnerable (IUCN 3.1)[, being Finned
Image from National Geographic
Is face that important for the Chinese? Not for me.

I will never want to win some face killing the fish I love.

The shark fins at market in Hong Kong
Image from New York Times
If you love an animal, like dogs, you don't eat dogs and you won't let your invited guests eat dogs in front of you at your wedding banquet. So, I never let that happen at my wedding banquet. I had to undergo a fierce fight with my own mum to get this done, and yes, the road to my shark-fin free wedding was much tougher than I expected.

Chinese NBA Basketball player Yau Ming says no to shark fin soup
Image from WildAid

My mum's point was, no other than, not wanting to lose face in front of the guests, thus not wanting to hear her guests moaning about paying hundreds of dollar of gift money and not getting quality food in return. My point is, she could choose to earn face in front of her guests, while I remembered that night as my most regrettable wedding banquet. I actually had backup plans -- I could either give a "why this is my most regrettable wedding banquet" speech, or give a lecture on "why you and I are all killers tonight" while flashing bloody photos and videos on the screen.

What's more, I have already included a few posters in my childhood video promoting no to shark fins, including the one below.

A poster of Yau Ming for WildAid
Image from WildAid

I was "willing to go thermonuclear war" with my mum! Why not?

"It's my party and I cry if I want to! ...You would cry too if it's happened to you" -- Lesley Gore

One of my uncles tried to spend a night over Whatsapp in persuading me to accept a shark-fin menu, quoting God and the Bible at some point. I don't believe in God, I'm a free-thinker, but I believe that his God is kind, loving and self-sacrificed himself for some unworthy human beings who eventually killed him, so I used his God as an example to say I am willing to sacrifice my so-called face from the guests and peace with my mum for a 100 sharks which would probably bite me if I swam cageless in the open waters. He told me that filial piety is top on the list of Chinese moral values, I answered that not going against one's conscience is a kind of filial piety too. He asked me to do it for the future of my relationship with my parents, I told him I am doing this for the future of his children.

There is NEVER any compromise with issues like this one!!

I am an educator, I teach my students to love the oceans and the marine life. If I can't even have control on the food menu my own wedding day, how am I going to face my students? What's the use for me to promote shark conservation if I myself participate in their killing? If I gave the guests so-called face to kill 100 sharks on my wedding banquet, who is to give ME any face?

Why is it that even her own child knows what's right yet she doesn't? Even my little brother knew the importance of shark protection when he was alive!

It is time that children should educate their parents for a change. And for the future of our children, I should do even more.

The starting point is this: if you want them to learn and remember something, you need something cute.
Heidi Schwoerer's Sharkie
Image from 2 Cute Ink

Inspired by Heidi Schwoerer, I decided to create a cute cartoon shark character of my own. Her original cartoon shark has that cuteness, but I needed a cartoon shark which actually looks like a shark whether than a killer whale, so I needed to add more details while maintaining that cuteness and plush; I wanted it to mean greatly to me and to all kids, as the Great White Shark has always been portrayed as the fiercest and the most mindless of all sharks, so it would be a good chance to turn this mindset around; lastly, in order to represent the source of my determination to protect sharks, I added my little brother Karon's cartoon face into it.

And this is the end product -- meet bb Sharky!!
bb Sharky
Image from Locky's English Playground
I thought bb Sharky fit perfectly into this card which is designed by Fuse Creative Singapore;

Image from WWF Singapore
Image from WWF
however, the information isn't updated and the wordings isn't strong enough. Also, since my target audience are the guests from mainland, English wouldn't do any good, so I gave it a huge revamp. With the help of my wife, we made a Chinese version. Both bb Sharky and the Chinese menu-mark are available for downloading in the Banquet Corner provided below.

Another Locky's English Playground production
Image from Celia Wan
The wedding banquet was a success, and thanks to my aunt Josephine's idea of using fish maw as replacement of shark fins, not only 100 sharks were saved, but there were only millions of praises and not a single complaint about the lack of shark fin soup.

Don't people know that sharks are beautiful creatures with high intelligence level and each possesses different personalities?

Why can't human and sharks live peacefully together?

Money -- stinking money.

Disgusted: Conservationist Sharon Kwok, director of NGO's Aquameridian & Mission Blue, stands on a roof covered in fins holding a photo of a mutilated shark 
Photo by Alex Hofford, Caption from Dailymail

Just as my friends, families and I were enjoying my success in organising a great wedding, I came across a news that erupted while I was busying with my wedding preparation.

Delicacy: The fins are made into an expensive broth, which is served by wealthy households at dinner parties across Asia 
Photo by Alex Hofford, Caption from Dailymail
A Dailymail report posted a series of horrific photos of around 18,000 shark fins being sun-dried on a rooftop of an industrial building. According to the report, each fin can fetch up to £380 (US$600) a pound, with a single bowl of the prized soup fetching up to £108. It is a bad Chinese tradition that leads to massacre of species.

Photo by Alex Hofford

The photographer of these photos, Alex Hofford, also wrote on the Asia City Hong Kong website his recount of the day he took these images, talking about how useless and loose the law for shark protection is in Hong Kong, if the law is even existed.

What surprised me is how slow the city's Pro-China government is in duplicating what the mainland Chinese government is already doing -- prohibiting official banquets from serving shark fin soup. Even till now, even the Environmental Protection Department, has declined to say 'No' to shark fin soup in government banquets. 

If this isn't due to a strong force from the shark fin industry, I don't know what can have more power than the Beijing government.

For now, what we can do is to keep educating our friends, families and our future generations about shark conservation. If we want to survive, we must vastly improve the current oceanic conditions. Do download bb Sharky and let him swim in through the internet to bring the message of shark conservation to the whole world!

Banquet Corner:
If you want to use this Chinese version in the banquet, please feel free to download the followings:

bb Sharky
Right click on the image and select "Save as..."

"Thank You For Taking Shark Fin Off The Menu" Menu-mark (English / Chinese)

English version
Image from Locky's English Playground

Chinese version
Image from Locky's English Playground

willing to go thermonuclear war -- from Steve Jobs' biography, describing his determination to fight against Android
filial piety -- (n) [U] is considered among the greatest of virtues and must be shown towards both the living and the dead (including even remote ancestors). The term "filial" (meaning "of a child") characterizes the respect that a child, originally a son, should show to his parents.
conscience -- (n)[C or U] the part of you that judges how moral your own actions are and makes you feel guilty about bad things that you have done or things you feel responsible for
plush -- (adj) informal luxurious; expensive, comfortable and of high quality
revamp -- (n)[C usually singular change or arrange something again, in order to improve it
horrific -- (adj) very bad and shocking
fetch -- (vb) [T] to go to another place to get something or someone and bring them back
massacre -- (n) [C] an act of killing a lot of people or an animal

Lesley Gore - It's My Party (1965) @ YouTube

Steve Jobs Was Ready For “Thermonuclear War” With Google @ Gizmodo

Filial piety @ Wikipedia

Say No to Shark Fin @ WWF Singapore

Thank You For Taking Shark Fins Off The Menu Card

WildAid PSA - Yao Ming: Shark Fin Soup @ YouTube

China Says No More Shark Fin Soup at State Banquets @ NY Times

We Love Sharks - Holly Beck Dives with a Whale Shark and Great White Sharks @ YouTube

Protecting the fragile manta rays of the Maldives @ BBC News

Can there be shark protection alongside shark tourism? @ BBC News

Say No to Shark Fin @ WWF Singapore

Shouldn't those fins be attached to a shark? Horrific images show more than TEN THOUSAND fins being dried for food in Hong Kong @ DailyMail

Shark Fin Soup – How it impacts your health and the health of the environment @ SharkStewards

A Message About the Rooftop Shark Fin Scandal @ HK-Asia City