Anti-shark’s fin campaign catching on with MPs?

A bowl of shark's fin soup

Even as an animal welfare group prepares to submit a formal proposal to the authorities for the banning of the shark’s fin trade here, a movement to get the dish off the dining table is catching on among some Members of Parliament and grassroots leaders.

At least three wards – Chong Pang, Canberra and Cashew – have stopped serving shark’s fin soup during grassroots functions.

Nee Soon GRC Member of Parliament (MP) K. Shanmugam, who looks after the Chong Pang ward, told TODAY: “I took the view that we should avoid shark’s fin on the menu for functions which Chong Pang organises. I spoke with my grassroots leaders and they were supportive of the move.”

Mr Shanmugam, who is also the Law and Foreign Minister, said the decision was made in June last year after an animal welfare forum held by Chong Pang Community Club in collaboration with the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES).

He added that, personally, he had decided for some time not to consume the dish.

At a youth forum in 2010, Nee Soon GRC MP Lim Wee Kiak, along with other MPs present, was asked if he would refrain from serving the Chinese delicacy during constituency dinners.

Dr Lim, who takes care of the Canberra ward, replied that he did not think he would and, while he did not want any sharks to become extinct, he pointed out that not all shark populations were endangered.

Alluding to his earlier comments, he told this newspaper that his position remains unchanged. The recent decision is not a “ban” per se, he said.

“The step forward was not an official position … part of it was also not to be too ‘extravagant’. Nutrition-value wise, other things are more nutritious. Fish maw is better,” said Dr Lim, who added that the issue is sensitive and “not everybody” will agree with the decision.

Cashew ward is under the charge of Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan. Grassroots leader Linda Ng said a “conscious effort” has been made to replace shark’s fin with fish maw at the ward’s functions since late last year. Their reasons included budget considerations and residents’ preferences, as well as “the knowledge of how shark’s fin is created” as a dish, said Mdm Ng, who chairs a residents’ committee.

This article was first published in TODAY