On Sunday night, Gordon Ramsey revealed the grizzly truth behind the insatiable appetite for shark fin soup, in a distressing Channel 4 documentary. The expensive dish, hugely popular amongst Chinese communities throughout the world, is readily available, even in UK restaurants.
The concern is over the brutal and prolific slaughter of the endangered fish, which involves catching anything from bus-sized Great Whites to goggle eyed Hammerheads, slicing off their eight or so fins, and then throwing their worthless and, often live, torsos back into the ocean, to endure a slow death on the bottom of the sea bed.
Gordon starts his investigations in Taiwain, where he finds shop after shop of dried fins. Those selling the fins have little knowledge, or regard for that matter, of where the fins have come from. It's the high prices they fetch that they're interested in.
Despite their disregard for the bearers of the fins, the shark finning industry is a very hush hush business. Doors are slammed and cameras ushered away from London to Tokokyo; by the end of the show we've become accustomed to barking dogs and casual threats. Loose restrictions apply at ports, often including a requirement to land both toros and fins together, but there is zero policing and many seem to prefer closing their eyes to the obvious malpractice. Why waste space on a small boat with the worthless body of a two metre-long shark, when their fins are the only valuable product.
After trying the £100 a bowl soup, Gordon discovers that the fin itself is utterly tasteless, likening it to glass noodles. A man on a mission, he brings harrowing footage of the sickening practice back to the UK and holds an open-discussion with some of London's top Chinese restaurateurs.
The end result is that four of the establishments are said to have agreed to take the soup of their menus and are seen placing posters advertising the fact in their restaurant windows. However, learning from Gordon's introduction to the documentary, which showed consumers buying 'under-the-counter' (quite literally!)fins, we could be forgiven for questioning how stringently the new policy is being applied.
Out of his kitchen comfort zone, Gordon gave a watered-down performance of his characteristic palm-slapping, F-ing and blinding routine, showing genuine shock and sorrow, and about as much restraint as we could expect from the outspoken celebrity.
Although the uncontrollable industry is no doubt still enjoying rich profits right now, the program concluded with a feeling that it had been a step in the right direction. Love him or hate him, you can't argue with Ramsey for his attempt at opening the eyes of British viewers eyes to the shocking practice, which could well be in full swing at the Chinese Takeaway round the corner.
Gordon Ramsey is now a patron of The Shark Trust
You can watch the documentary again here, at 4OD
Other articles by Lucy Grewcock about shark finning:
Shark Fin Soup on Environmental Graffiti
Tiger Penis and Shark Fin Soup on Responsible Travel News