As media influence has grown and worldwide communication increased, the issue of animal cruelty within China has become a hot topic of debate. As times are changing, more awareness raised surrounding the issue and pressure from other countries forced upon China, have they improved their animal cruelty records? Whilst media reports suggest that there have been some improvements, China still appear to have a long way to go before the issue has made any significant development in the right direction. One example of this is shark fin baiting, a historically and culturally significant tradition within China, dating back to the Ming Dynasty when first served to the emperor at that time. For the Chinese it is seen as a cure for all illnesses, an aphrodisiac and a weapon in the battle against aging and as China’s wealth continues to grow, larger numbers of people are turning to the delicacy making it more popular and in demand especially during the 1990s.
However, the way the sharks are killed and the vast quantity that are killed has been severely criticised. In order for shark fin soup to be produced a significant number of the sharks that are poached have their fins sliced off and are subsequently thrown back into the sea, where they inevitably die a painful death. It is believed 75 – 100 million sharks are killed a year (not just in China) because of this practice. More recently concern has grown that the sharks used are unable to keep up with the demand and are therefore depleting to seriously harmful levels to biodiversity, calling for more protection. Nevertheless, after mounting pressure from NGO’s such as WildAid and conventions such as CITIES, as of December 2013 China banned shark fin and bird’s-nest soups from official receptions; with airports, specialist restaurants and hotel chains also taking the decision to stop supplying shark fin soup on their menus due to the controversy it has caused. Hopefully this marks a change in attitude towards animal cruelty within China and as more issues come to light, focus will move to improving all round animal rights; although this may be a long time into the future, especially considering the time it has taken for attitudes towards shark baiting to alter.