Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Go Back To The Banquet Hall: California Moves To Ban Shark Fin Soup

California might be a fiscal train wreck, but that doesn't mean liberal legislators can't continue their hobby of "banning" this or that activity because of its danger to the environment, the environment being the California legislature's equivalent to the Commerce Clause in providing the rationale for virtually everything they do. Now, a couple Bay Area Assemblymen want to ban the sale of ... shark fin soup. As shark fin soup is a Chinese delicacy, this is further proof that tolerance and multi-culturalism do not, in fact, extend to all cultures:

Less than a week after Chinese New Year, California legislators introduced a bill to ban the possession, sale and distribution of shark fins used in a traditional soup.

If successful, the proposed ban announced Monday would follow a similar measure enacted in Hawaii last year. Oregon and Washington are also considering a similar move.

Shark fins are used to create a luxury Chinese soup that can sell for more than $80 a bowl.

Supporters of the ban say shark finning is a cruel practice in which fishermen slice the shark's fin off while the animal is still alive and then throw the shark back in the sea to die.

Assemblyman Paul Fong, D-Cupertino, who introduced the legislation with colleague Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, said he was born in Macau and grew up eating the soup but stopped doing so when he learned about the practice of finning. More than 70 million sharks were killed last year, many for their fins, Fong said.

"It's like removing the tusks from elephants and paws from tigers," he said. "The sharks are at the top of the food chain and they maintain the balance in the ecosystem. If sharks fall like a house of cards, the rest of the ocean will fall."

Now, I haven't gone out and done any surveys myself, but I know one thing. That "70 million sharks a year" number is bogus, the sort of thing you see on Sierra Club pamphlets, flyers at protests, and major legislation passed by the California Assembly. Even if it is true, what would banning the sale of shark fin soup in California accomplish? I can guarantee that 99% of all shark fin sales occur outside the Golden State, so Assemblyman Fong's goal of saving the ocean from a "fall" will not be met unless he's willing to travel the Pacific Rim nagging Chinese people who don't in fact need whiners from Cupertino telling them what to do. But that doesn't matter when the priceless opportunity to put on a brave face and "save the ocean" presents itself.

(Full disclosure: I, of course, have eaten shark fin soup. Once. It did not taste like chicken. Indeed, it did not taste like much at all. Also, I did not feel more "potent" afterwards. However, I did feel a little thrill as I thought "This is me, eating shark fin soup!")

Goofy food bans seem to have become the hot new thing among Bay Area liberals. Guess it's easier to do that than try to cut state spending or reform state pensions.

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