Monday 15 May 2017
Our relationship to the animal kingdom is a strange one. We like to feel that we care for the creatures that share our world. People often talk about how their pets are akin to friends or family. That is, of course, as long as we consider them to be cute and cuddly, and that's less clear cut than it might at first appear. Spiders and lizards may not be to everyone's taste, but they definitely have their fan-base.
Pity the poor shark, then. A supremely well-adapted predator that has become synonymous in the human mind with pitiless, unthinking aggression. Blame Peter Benchley and Steven Spielberg, who forever imprinted the fear of the fin in our minds.
With that fear, of course, comes aggression. We kill millions of sharks every year with a gleeful and un-necessary cruelty. The so-called delicacy of sharks-fin soup comes with a built-in cost–the dorsal fin is sliced off while the shark is still alive, before the poor creature is dumped back into the sea to suffer a long and painful death. It's the equivalent of killing an elephant for its tusks. If that's beyond the pale now, then surely we can do the same for the shark!
Our pals at marine charity Bite-Back have long campaigned against the mistreatment of sharks. Recently, founder Graham Buckingham was invited to speak at TedX, and his passionate defence of probably the most unfairly maligned creature on the planet is well worth fifteen minutes of your time. If you like sharks–and especially if you don't–this is essential viewing.