There is an ingredient hidden, lurking in products much like the animal it came from. An animal that hides in the shadows and attacking from below. However, this pattern is now much rarer. Sharks are dwindling in numbers across the globe because of many reasons but especially because of many things some humans want from them. Whether it happens to be their fins, their liver oil or their meat, it results in the deaths of millions of sharks. They are the natural keepers of the oceans, natural cleaners and have existed since the dinosaurs, but they will soon lose the fight. Do we just have to kill sharks?
Believing that they’re only found in ‘shark fin soup,’ is a widespread misconception as they are found in a variety of different products, usually hidden with terms such as ‘fish oil’. You would be shocked at the amount of companies that use this ingredient in many everyday products and the harsh reality of their extraction while the sharks are alive.
The main culprit for shark’s demise on the other hand is the huge demand for shark fin soup which has now reached around 300 million people that normally eat it. Around 73 million sharks a year are hunted for their fins alone with no interest in anything else. In particular, open ocean species are targeted using long lines to catch Blue, Mako and Thresher sharks. You would expect this demand to come from the flavour …. But they are flavourless.
Eaten over the centuries in China, shark fins are something of a legend and are deep seated in their culture, being eaten originally only at important events to toast prosperity and honour. It has become a more common dish, hence why demand has increased. Yet there is no honour in pulling millions of sharks from the ocean, severing the dorsal fins off and throwing them back alive to slowly bleed and sink to the dark depths. This is something no animal should ever have to suffer. However, type of barbaric act is not limited to sharks and now also includes rays.
Shark cartilage- Cartilage of sharks is often used in pills and powders for various illnesses such as arthritis, shingles and asthma. The urban legend of sharks not “getting cancer “ can also be attributed to their demise , using shark products as supplements. Yet there is little evidence to suggest this is true, with numerous cases of sharks with cancer in captivity.
Manta Ray gills- Manta ray gills are becoming popular in Chinese medicine to help purify the body and remove toxins, as well as replacing the shark fin soup with gills soup. The only reason why they are being hunted is due to a reduction in numbers of sharks.
Shark meat- This is another reason why populations number has declined. Would you eat a Lion or a wolf? Then why would you eat a top predator like a shark? Shark meat is popular around the world but yet again it is due to its name being masked. For example in the UK rock salmon, Huss and flake are actually a spiny dogfish masquerading as something it isn’t. Now with the horse meat scandal causing public outcry, labelling horse as beef caused outrage so why not the same for sharks?
Don’t be squermy about squalene
The unique ingredient that I wanted to focus on is squalene/squalane, an ingredient sourced from sharks livers. Used in a variety of cosmetic products, this compound is generally not labelled. It may seem trivial but shark livers are harvested in their millions for an ingredient that is then used in anti -ageing creams or moisturisers and the companies that recently used them include Boots, Dove, Sun silk, Vaseline, L’Oreal, Lancome, Clarins, Sisley to name just a few. They have pledged to stop using shark derived squalene but there are still many out there.
The core issue is the labelling or lack of, as it is nearly impossible to work out if the squalene in some products is from a vegetable source (olives) or a sharks liver. Many websites I have visited state squalene, and only when looking deeper within the environmental sections do I discover it’s actually from olives. However, other websites such as Example 1 have no sign it’s from olives and leads me to think it has to come from sharks. Why if you were using a vegetable source would you not advertise it to the consumer? Unless you’re hiding behind a disgusting cheaper approach of extracting it from wild animals. Other websites state squalene, but clearly advertise that its come from olives, why cant they all do the same Example 2. If you continue browsing you can find some sickening websites selling pure ‘shark liver oil’, blatantly without regard for the environment Example 3. I could verge on the side of caution as the previous link is an Australian company, but it is a European website. The products are sold in Euros and could easily be bought and shipped to the UK. To me, this is actually quite shocking, and with all honesty shouldn’t be allowed. Not only does it sell squalene from sharks but also shark cartilage. The type of health kick voiced on this website and many others have no benefit to the consumer but these promises of health benefits are at the finger tips of millions of people, which result in 100’s of millions of sharks being killed to sustain this demand. It has to stop.
The issue of unsolicited extraction of sharks is an obvious problem with regard to their populations but the particular species targeted only survive at extreme depths as they have much larger livers than other sharks, which they need to survive. Their solitary lifestyle brings them into even greater peril as their chance to breed is significantly reduced. Without this type of process stopping soon, there will be literally no deep-sea sharks thanks to the liver they have, and shallower species because of their fins. All this greed for ingredients and body parts that literally have no benefit. The fins for shark fin soup contain only cartilage, the same material that connects and holds bones together and has literally no nutritional value. Any flavour comes from chicken stock and or spices that is added to the broth. Shark liver oil is, again, a parallel story giving no health benefits, as squalene is naturally produced by ourselves in lesser quantities. Any benefits for eczema or other skin problems really can’t permit the extraction of around 8000 sharks per hour for some dry skin. When has it been a natural part of human nature, now or in past history, to go down 200m to hunt shark for its liver oil? How can that be considered a natural product that we need?
We need to make a conscious choice, hunting something for an ingredient or body part that has literally no benefit or a much better option of admiring these creatures alive and well in the wild. I know exactly what i would choose and hope you would too.
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