The killing will stop when the eating stops

IT HAD struck me as unusual ... that the "shari" (vinegared rice) of the sushi I had picked up from the sushi bar was turning reddish. But having just witnessed the cutting up of a giant 100kg tuna by a sushi chef, I thought perhaps the "neta", the ingredient on the "shari" which together makes up sushi, may have been a bit bloody because the tuna was freshly cut.

Returning to my table from the sushi bar, I found that the shade of red had darkened so I elected not to eat the bloody rice, but to just take the tuna, a la "sashimi".

At first bite, I felt the coppery-tasting blood ooze into my mouth, then found the tuna chewy ... as if I was chewing on a slice of raw liver or beef. Eventually I gave up and discreetly spat it into a serviette which I then bunched up.
"Worst bloody tuna I ever had," I told a friend who was with me for lunch that day.

When I went for a second round of the buffet, I pointed to the reddish tray of "sushi" and asked the sushi bar tender why the tuna was so bloody.

"That's not tuna. That's vheal!" he said.

"Veal? You mean beef?" I asked.

"No, no ... not cow veal," said the flabbergasted man. "Vheal! Vheal!" he said, while at the same time using his hands to depict a humongous animal. Then it struck me! Oh, my God! He was referring to a whale!

"You mean whale?" I asked tentatively, hoping I had heard him wrongly, but he nodded in the affirmative. I was disgusted! I felt like throwing up right across the sushi bar, but instead made a bee line for the nearest rest room.

Why do whales, dolphins, sharks, turtles, tigers, sun bears, mouse deer and porcupines have to end up in the cooking pot? Are there not enough protein sources from chicken, beef, mutton, pork or fish?

Every year sees the brutal killing of more than 20,000 dolphins in Japan, and about 1,000 whales comprising the minke, finback and humpback species.

Studies estimate that 26-73 million sharks are harvested annually for their fins, but God knows how many are killed to feed the global shark fin trade estimated to range from US$540 million (RM1.6 billion) to US$1.2 billion (RM3.7 billion).

Let's get real! As the slogan goes, the killing will stop when the eating stops. It is only because of the high demand that the trade is lucrative and provides the impetus for shark finning to provide the supply.

Unfortunately, unscrupulous fishermen often cut the fins and throw the still-living sharks back into the sea to make room on their boats for more of the valuable fins. The finless sharks are left to either die from suffocation or to be eaten by others in the ocean.

In this respect, I laud the stand taken by Berjaya Corporation (Sun Media Corporation is a member of the group) which for many years has had a policy against the consumption of shark fin. We understand that in the enforcement of this policy, financial controllers at all Berjaya companies will reject any entertainment claims from executives if the bill shows that shark fin was served.

If more companies would adopt such policies, we could collectively help to reduce the demand for shark fin, and the killing of sharks.

On land, tigers are also being hunted, close to extinction. According to the WWF, there are fewer than 3,200 tigers left in the wild, a drastic decline from over 100,000 a century ago. Of nine tiger sub-species, three – the Balinese, Caspian and Javan tigers – are now extinct.

The Malayan tiger has also been greatly hunted and its numbers have been reduced from an estimated 3,000 in the 1950s to fewer than 500 today. And yet, every now and again, we read reports of wildlife rangers seizing tiger carcasses or body parts from exotic meat restaurants.

A former colleague who loves to eat the paws of tigers and sunbears, claims that besides enjoying the exotic meat, he is being supportive of the poor orang asli, who he was told, hunt wild animals for sale to the restaurants.

Under the Protection of Wild Life Act 1972, a member of an aboriginal community may shoot, kill or take wild animals and wild birds such as deer, mouse deer, game birds and monkeys to provide food for himself or his family. But to sell for money? Perhaps the Orang Asli Affairs Department should promote better ways for the orang asli to make a living through legitimate means.

In the final analysis, it comes to supply and demand: the killing will only stop when the eating or buying of exotic meat stops.

Anyone who has knowledge of wildlife-related crimes such as poaching or dealing in protected animals and exotic meat is urged to call the Wildlife Crime hotline at 0193564194 for the Wildlife Department to take action.

Freddie Ng is theSun's managing editor. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com