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February 13, 2012

Sending Sharks a Valentine

Humane Society International and EAST conclude fin-free wedding contest

Humane Society International

  • In addition to celebrating their weddings, newlyweds in Taiwan also expressed their love of animals. EAST

  • Participating couples submitted their wedding pictures and took a fin-free pledge. EAST

  • These fin-free menus were the result of a six-month campaign. EAST

Weddings are happy occasions—but not so much for sharks. Every year, tens of millions of these animals are killed for their fins, highly prized for use in shark fin soup. The demand for this Asian delicacy, customarily served at celebrations such as wedding banquets, helps fuel the cruel practice of shark finning and has contributed to a drastic decline in shark populations worldwide.

Last June, Humane Society International partnered with the Environment & Animal Society Taiwan (EAST) to launch a “Fin-Free Weddings for Everlasting Bliss” contest. The six-month-long campaign encouraged young couples to remove shark fin from their wedding banquet menus and raise awareness among their family and friends through a No Shark Fin pledge.

Results and comments

A total of 44 wedding couples took the fin-free pledge and sent in their wedding photos, while 14 couples submitted their fin-free menus. The total number of wedding guests was 4,280. That’s 4,280 bowls of shark fin soup that were averted!

Take the No Shark Fin pledge now!

Below are interviews that EAST conducted with four of the couples who held fin-free weddings. Readers can see that some encountered resistance from their parents because many members of the older generation still hold onto the notion that serving shark fin soup is a way to honor one’s guests. Luckily, they held their ground and were able to convince their families. The experience of these young people will inspire others by illustrating that a fin-free wedding can still be a special and memorable day!

Newlyweds: LIU Xiaoxiang and GUO Jiaqi

Q. Why did you choose to scrap shark fins from your reception menu?

A. The way that the fin is harvested off the shark is extremely barbaric. We hate to see—and strongly oppose—the killing of thousands of endangered sharks. This can lead to the collapse of the ocean’s ecosystems, just to fulfill the vanity of humans for an ostensible “luxury dish.”

Q. How did your parents and family members respond to your decision?

A. The parents of the groom expressed no particular preference for the wedding reception, leaving the planning entirely to the couple. But on the day the bride was to return home for a visit, her parents said fin-free receptions weren’t acceptable. Thankfully, a friend of her parents—whom they respected tremendously—expressed remarkably strong support for our decision, and convinced the bride’s parents to scrap the soup.

Q. Did you do anything special to raise awareness among your guests as to why you opted for a fin-free banquet?

A. We used posters from EAST to help raise awareness and offered the “Fin-Free Wedding Reception” shopping bags among our lucky draw prizes.

Q. Did your family members tell you what they thought about your fin-free wedding reception? Did they respect and support your decision?

A. The majority of our family members and friends were supportive of our cause.

Q. Do you have any advice for others who are thinking about having their own fin-free wedding?

A. Shark fins are obtained through an extremely abusive, cruel practice that hurts both the sharks and the environment. Shark finning is absolutely devastating to the future of the planet’s resources. Fins are by no means a so-called “luxury dish.” Studies have shown that fins aren’t at all nutritious, and contain toxic, heavy metals. We encourage newlyweds to go for it, and demand that restaurants and caterers be respectful of your wish for a fin-free reception.

Newlyweds: LIN Boyu and REN Xiaoyi

Q. Why did you choose to scrap shark fins from your reception menu?

A. Since we started having dogs around the house, we began to familiarize ourselves with a wide variety of issues regarding environmental and animal welfare. We decided to scrap fins from our reception menus before we even decided to tie the knot!

Q. How did your parents and family members respond to your decision?

A. The elders in the family, not surprisingly, still held onto the belief that fins are a must-have at weddings, but they agreed to and showed support for our decision after my husband and I reasoned with them.

Q. Did your family members tell you what they thought about your fin-free wedding reception?

A. All of our friends and relatives were very supportive of our decision. Several elders in the family told us after the reception that they didn’t feel anything was amiss at our fin-free reception. They enjoyed the food just as much. This shows that fin-free weddings are do-able!

Q. Do you have any advice for others who are thinking about having their own fin-free wedding?

A. Talk to your caterer and ask to have shark fin removed from the menu. You can actually get an even better deal and tastier replacement dishes! We also inspired other guests and started a trend to better protect endangered species.

Newlyweds: CHEN Sihan and WANG Chienyi

Q. Why did you choose to scrap shark fins from your reception menu?

A. We learned about shark finning from a documentary—how sharks are tossed back into the oceans after they are brutally finned. It’s very barbaric. Not only that, but shark fins do not possess any miracle healing effects.

Q. How did your parents and family members respond to your decision?

A. They couldn’t have been more supportive!

Q. Do you have any advice for others who are thinking about having their own fin-free weddings?

A. You can highlight messages on your thank-you cards and reception menus about protecting endangered wildlife.

Newlyweds: WU Chienyo and LIN Yinhsi

Q. Why did you choose to scrap shark fins from your reception menu?

A. We had a vegetarian reception. So of course, shark fins did not make it onto our menu!

Q. How did your parents and family members respond to your decision?

A. They didn’t say anything. They thought it was the right thing to do.

Q. Do you have any advice for others who are thinking about having their own fin-free wedding?

A. We really think fin-free weddings are the way of the future. Your guests won’t feel disrespected at all!

You can help save sharks—take the pledge today.

English translation by Sharon Hu, founder of Fin-Free Taipei

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