Luxury, Deception and Ethics

Shark fin soup may exude an air of luxury and prestige, often gracing the tables of traditional events such as weddings and banquets. However, a darker reality shrouds the acquisition of shark fins, giving rise to ethical and environmental concerns. Sharks are frequently captured, subjected to the cruel removal of their fins while still alive, and callously tossed back into the sea to meet a slow and agonizing demise. This practice not only inflicts barbarism upon these creatures but also wreaks havoc on our oceans.

Uniting against this inhumane practice are individuals and organizations worldwide. The United Nations’ sustainable development goal number 12 particularly stated about responsible consumption and production, including the need of being compassionate. Several forward-thinking entities, including Shangri-La Hotel, Peninsula Hotel, and over 18,000 responsible hotels and restaurants across the globe, have taken the step to eliminate shark fin from their menus. Even the Chinese government has instituted a ban on shark fin products at government banquets and events, signifying a resolute commitment to responsible and sustainable practices.

Nevertheless, traditional restaurants and seafood establishments persist in serving shark fin, primarily because it is regarded as a status symbol rather than its culinary appeal, nutritional value, or inherent tastelessness (although it is often enhanced with flavors reminiscent of chicken). Shark fin soup falls into the category of a Veblen good, where its high price is a part of its allure. This phenomenon stands in contrast to the typical law of demand, which stipulates that higher prices result in reduced demand. In the case of shark fin soup, demand dwindles only if prices decrease significantly.

The shark fin trade raises not only ethical concerns but also disrupts the delicate balance of marine life. Overfishing apex predators like sharks triggers cascading effects in the food chain, leading to a reduction in biodiversity, damage to habitats, and economic ramifications for fisheries. Moreover, this has implications for carbon sequestration in marine ecosystems and contributes to climate change. Safeguarding shark populations is pivotal for the preservation of marine ecosystem health and the assurance of a sustainable future.

The presence of fake shark fin products further exacerbates the problem. Certain establishments market “shark fin siomai” and related products without authentic shark fin content, engaging in deceptive practices that erode consumer trust and essentially misleading consumers.

Branding plays a pivotal role in the promotion of shark fin products. Through labels like “shark fin siomai” or “shark fin restaurants,” establishments create an aura of opulence, even if the product is inauthentic or unethical. The reluctance of traditional establishments to relinquish shark fin products raises questions about their values and priorities. Ethical responsibility should take precedence over profit. The existence of shark fin products in the market imparts several ethical lessons. Companies should champion social responsibility and contemplate the ethical repercussions of their products.

Honesty in advertising is of paramount importance. Deceptive branding and product labeling corrode consumer trust. Ultimately, consumer education proves indispensable. By making informed and ethical choices, consumers can wield their purchasing power to drive transformation in the market.

Choosing not to patronize businesses serving shark fin dishes and retailers selling shark fin products can be a powerful way to make a positive impact. By abstaining from supporting these establishments, consumers can leverage their economic influence to drive change. The continued sale of shark fin products, whether genuine or imitation, reflects unethical branding and a lack of social responsibility. It is high time for ethical considerations and responsible consumer choices to take precedence over manipulative marketing tactics.


Josiah Go is chair and chief innovation strategist of Mansmith and Fielders Inc. His most recent book, titled “Marketing for Beginners: Start Strong, Succeed Fast,” co-authored by Chiqui Escareal-Go and RG Gabunada, achieved record-breaking sales during its launch, making it to the number one spot among marketing books, business books, as well as non-fiction books at National BookStore.

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Josiah Go features the movers and shakers of the business world and writes about marketing, strategy, innovation, execution and entrepreneurship


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