President Donald Trump has found himself in yet another controversy; for once, the focus is not on what came out of his mouth, but rather what he put in it.
Over the weekend, Trump shared a dinner with Vietnamese leaders in Hanoi. According to reports, Trump was served a course of shark fin soup, which he apparently consumed.
Though shark fin soup is considered a delicacy in some cultures, it is a dish that is frequently protested by animal rights activists. Fishermen will often catch sharks, cut off their fins and then throw the often mortally wounded sharks back into the ocean since it’s just the fins that fetch top dollar at market for use in these soups.
Thankfully, public awareness of this problem has helped to drive down the demand for shark fin soup. Still, with over 100 million sharks killed annually, there is still a lot of work to go.
“We are dismayed at the news that President Trump was served and ate shark fin soup,” said Azzedine Downes, president of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). “Actions like this undermine global conservation efforts and signal to world leaders that the U.S. is abandoning its leadership role.”
Who thought it was a good idea to serve Trump a delicacy anyway? Just a week ago, we learned from Trump’s bodyguard that he’s had to go to McDonald’s to fetch dinner for the president when the White House kitchen couldn’t get a hamburger to his liking.
Given that Trump was served the dish by foreign dignitaries and it might be considered rude to decline it, the incident could and maybe even should be written off as a bad look for Vietnam rather than Trump.
However excusing it would also require ignoring Trump’s own disdain for sharks. Although shark finning was banned in the United States in 2000, through loopholes, some restaurants got away with selling shark fin soup anyway, including at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City. [This casino has since closed following the parent company’s bankruptcy and a worker strike.]
In 2013, a conservationist confronted Trump on his favorite medium – Twitter – about serving shark fin soup. His response was literally an incredulous, “You like sharks?”
When that caused more of an uproar, Trump typed a follow-up message: “Sorry folks, I’m just not a fan of sharks – and don’t worry, they will be around long after we are gone.”
Firstly, it’s disappointing to see Trump buying into the “sharks are villains” portrayal the creatures receive from the media. Last year, there were 84 unprovoked shark attacks against humans around the world. In comparison, humans kill somewhere between 100-273 million sharks each year.
Secondly, what basis does he have for dismissing the concerns of scientists who believe sharks could be headed toward extinction? Sharks reproduce slowly, they’re pulled out of the ocean at unsustainable rates and already one-third of all shark species are either endangered or threatened.
Of course, that seems to be his attitude about all sorts of environmental issues since he’s become president. His approach is to ask Americans to ignore the wealth of scientific research pointing out the various threats we face, and to instead trust him that everything will be okay.
As the IFAW pointed out earlier, we probably can’t trust Trump to take a moral lead on the disgusting practice of shark finning, but that doesn’t mean the rest of us should give up on it. Join hundreds of thousands of other people in the Care2 community in urging FedEx to stop shipping shark fins by signing this petition.
This article was first published by Care2.com on 15 Nov 2017.
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