Hakkasan drops its famed £40 shark fin soup over ethics

When Alan Yau opened his prestigious Hakkasan restaurant in the heart of London’s West End seven years ago it promised to provide patrons with a truly authentic Chinese culinary experience. It earned him a Michelin star.





But for some Hakkasan was unpalatably authentic, not least its £40-a-bowl shark fin soup.

And now, following a consumer backlash over the ethics of international shark fin trade, Hakassan has withdrawn its controversial dish. Environmental campaigners are hailing the move and declaring it as a starting point for a global protest targeting restaurants and businesses in the developed world that profit from the shark trade.

For conservationists, shark-fin soup leaves a distinctly bad taste. A symbol of wealth and prestige on mainland China and much of South East Asia, it is responsible for barbaric fishing practices that are decimating the world’s shark populations.

Environmentalists now hope to kick start a global movement reminiscent of the anti-whaling campaigns of the 1970s where activists were able to turn public opinion in the developed world against whaling which in turn pressured major whaling countries to sign up to a moratorium on hunting.

A spokesperson from Hakkasan today refused to be drawn into why the restaurant decided to stop using shark fin in their dishes after more than seven years of doing so. Jessica Salmon, a spokeswoman for the restaurant said: “There were many reasons but none that we would like to talk about.”

But campaigners are adamant their protests and growing public awareness of the plight of sharks were behind the sudden change of heart.

Since January this year environmental activists from the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and UK-based charity Bite Back have been targeting Chinese restaurants in London that still place shark fin products on their menus.

Hakkasan was particularly singled out because it has a global footprint, with a restaurant already open in Istanbul and more chains planned for Abu Dhabi, Miami and Shanghai.

Activists began holding regular protests in Chinatown and handed out flyers explaining how the fin trade leads to what marine scientists say is the unsustainable deaths of millions of sharks each year.

Campaign director at Bite-Back, Graham Buckingham, said: “This victory for the seas sends out a determined and resolute message to the restaurant world … sell shark-fin soup and be damned. The only reason shark populations are facing extinction is because of retail and consumer demand. Remove that demand and the shark fishing trade will collapse.”

And the campaign appears to be becoming more dramatic. This afternoon a woman placed hooks through her skin and hung herself from a shop window on Regent Street to highlight the plight of the world’s sharks.

Canadian film maker Rob Stewart who has spent his life documenting the damage done to the world’s shark population told the Independent today that he hoped more restaurants would follow Hakkasan’s lead. “If you go down Chinatown in London, Toronto or LA, believe me, shark fin will be available. It might not be on the print menu but it’ll be there.”

Every year more than 100 million sharks are killed for their fins which conservationists say has led to a devastating 90 per cent reduction in the global shark population over the past 30 years. Most of those that are caught are killed for their fins. In order to save space on the boats, the vast majority of those that are caught have their fins removed with a knife on board the ship – a process known as finning - and are then dumped back in the ocean where they die slowly.

Shark fin soup is coveted across China and South East Asia for its supposed “medicinal qualities” based on the erroneous belief that sharks never get sick.

Although 16 countries and the EU have banned finning, it is still not illegal to import or export fins anywhere in the world and hundreds of tonnes of fins arrive in the UK ports every year.

Activists now say they will continue to target restaurants that use shark fin in their dishes as well as any businesses that profit from the sale of jaws, cartilage, fins, teeth, meat and liver oil. Next on their list is the health product store Holland and Barrett which sells capsules made from shark cartilage.

Holland and Barrett today said that their shark capsules would not be withdrawn but they were being discontinued. A spokesperson said: “You may still see it in the shops but it will phase out very quickly.” This afternoon the capsules were still available on the shop’s website.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Transportation Contracting Manager

    £33000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A global player and world leade...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel and Spa Duty Manager

    £18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are friendly, sociable, ...

    Recruitment Genius: Payroll and Benefits Co-ordinator

    £22300 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This museum group is looking for a Payro...

    ICE ICT: Lead Business Consultant

    £39,000: ICE ICT: Specific and detailed knowledge and experience of travel sys...

    Day In a Page

    Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

    Making of a killer

    What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
    UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

    Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

    Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
    Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
    Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

    No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

    Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
    Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

    Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

    The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
    Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

    Something wicked?

    Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
    10 best sun creams for body

    10 best sun creams for body

    Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

    Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
    Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

    There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

    The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

    Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
    Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

    One day to find €1.6bn

    Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
    New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

    'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

    Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
    Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

    Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

    The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
    Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

    Historians map out untold LGBT histories

    Public are being asked to help improve the map