Some Starwood Hotels Not Compliant With Shark Fin Ban?

Update: Starwood has already addressed the situation with the hotel and is sending a reminder to other hotels in the region. See this post for an update.

I have a lot of respect for Starwood, and find them to be one of the most impressive brands when it comes to standing up for what they believe in, even when it’s not popular. In 2014 Starwood announced that they will no longer procure shark fin in any of their hotels or restaurants around the world, without exception. Here’s their press release, at the time:

As part of its ongoing commitment to sustainability, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. (NYSE:HOT) today announced that, beginning July 2014, it will no longer procure shark fin in any of its nearly 1,200 hotels or 1,300 restaurants around the world. The company has committed to completely eliminating the consumption of shark fin, without exception, in all restaurants and food and beverage services across its global portfolio by year-end. Starwood is the first global hotel operator to take this strong stand and commit to banning the ingredient across its entire portfolio.

Frits van Paasschen, President and Chief Executive Officer of Starwood, said: “At Starwood, we believe economic growth and the well-being of society are inextricably tied to the health of the environment, including the health of the world’s oceans and its inhabitants. Our worldwide ban on shark fin represents an important, environmentally responsible step to aid in the collective goal of marine preservation. As a company with a collection of hotels that span the globe, Starwood has a unique opportunity to influence travelers and guests worldwide, and to underline the importance of good stewardship of our planet.”

The world’s shark population is in severe crisis, with an estimated 100 million sharks lost each year to illegal hunting and poaching, primarily for use in traditional luxury dishes throughout Asia, often at weddings. Some shark species have suffered population declines of as much as 90 to 99 percent in recent decades.

It’s a cruel and inexcusable practice, where in many cases the shark’s fin is cut off, and then the shark is thrown back into the ocean to die. So basically they’re killing the shark just for the fin. In China it’s considered to be a delicacy and can be quite costly.

Well, via @tboons on Twitter, the Sheraton Grand Taipei Hotel was serving shark fin soup over the Chinese New Year celebrations the past few days at one of their restaurants, The Guest House.

Shark-Fin

I don’t at all think Starwood is behind this and had a change of heart, but rather perhaps that they haven’t done enough to force hotels to comply. I’m not sure if the person responsible for sourcing food wasn’t aware of the policy, if they willfully ignored it, or if they proactively just got a shipment because it was Chinese New Year, and their supplier assumed they wanted it. Regardless, I hope Starwood addresses this not only with the Sheraton Taipei, but also reinforces the policy with all of their properties.

Guest-House-Sheraton-Taipei
The Guest House at the Sheraton Grand Taipei

Bottom line

Shark fin is a terrible thing to source, especially given how wastefully it’s usually done, where the whole shark is killed just for the fin. Kudos to Starwood for taking a strong stance on this globally, though it might be time for them to send out a reminder of their policy. It doesn’t look good when a brand takes a stand on something, only to have individual hotels not comply.

Comments

  1. Yet another western-centric complaint rooted in hypocrisy. Pray, selective outrage, tell us how the killing of sharks is any less cruel than the raising, treatment, and slaughter of the 10 billion+ animals for slaughter in the US each year. Or the fact that Nordic countries and Japan continue to slaughter whales for no reason.

    Sure, if it’s policy it should be addressed and followed with no exceptions. But it’s a silly policy to appease caucasians with selective morals and a belief in cultural superiority who themselves go on to devour their own 100% OK meats delivered through assembly line animal abuse and excruciating pain without the slightest sense of hypocrisy.

  2. Lucky – being that Hong Kong is your favorite city in the world, how do you dine being that so many restaurants serve shark fin? Or do you patronize those restaurants anyway?

  3. @Ted…your ignorance and incredible stupidity disgusts me.

    @ Westerner …there is massive cruelty in the meat industry worldwide you’re right, but shark slaughter is particularly gruesome, AND not to mention 100 million sharks a year massacred for TASTELESS fins is just a disgrace.

  4. “Real Morals” apparently prevent reading comprehension. The point was not that killing animals=bad, but that cutting off only the fin and leaving the shark to die is bad. Pray, Real Morals, tell me where in the West chickens are killed only for their wings and then the bird is thrown out in the wilderness to die? Real morals would mean that if you eat meat, you should support nose-to-tail eating and humane breeding and slaughtering practices (yes, these exist).

    Also, whales are not slaughtered “for no reason”. The reason is that those countries eat whale meat.

  5. Westerner with Real Morals –

    That’s about the most common sense comment I’ve ever read on this blog.

    I love the addage “When You Point a Finger at Someone, There Are Three More Pointing Back at You” – it couldn’t apply more in this situation. How many are OK with eating beef/chicken/pork that’s been manufactured in a slaughter house yet get in a tizzy about shark fin?

  6. Don’t Starwood restaurants serve foie gras? Because that particular food item also falls into the cruel/gruesome category. There is no reason it should appear less cruel/gruesome than shark fin other than the fact that foie gras is a “cultured” French delicacy and shark fin is Chinese.

  7. ANY cruel heartless massacring of animals is wrong. Gotta start somewhere in reducing the horror.

    And it IS more wrong when species will be wiped out. OMG, what is wrong with people?

    I am in a “tizzy” about sharks, amongst other BS annihilation of animals. Its wrong, it is hugely cruel and we WILL eradicate sharks from this planet soon.

    Try and process the figures people. 100 million+ every year. Almost every species of shark (around 70 types I believe) are endangered. Its F’in wrong.

  8. Those of you who don’t understand why killing sharks for their fins is so bad need some serious education. Become a scuba diver to see sharks in person, and learn more about what impact the ocean and marine animals have on everyone and everything in the world. We do not survive (even in the short term) without a healthy ocean.

    http://www.stopsharkfinning.net/shark-fin-soup-facts/

    @Westerner with Real Morals :

    5. It’s hypocritical to ban shark fin soup and not other types of meat like chickens and cows.

    Vegetarians and vegans would agree that no type of animal should be eaten. However the shark finning issue is different in a number of ways. Firstly, finning means that the main part of the shark is wasted, only the fins are used. On top of this the act of finning a shark while the creature is still alive is barbaric and cruel and is a practice that would be illegal in most countries’ slaughterhouses were it to be practiced on a farm animal (for example if a lamb’s legs were cut off and it were left to bleed to death in a crate). Another big difference is that sharks are not farmed animals, they are part of the marine ecosystem, and so many of them are being killed that their very existence as a species is being brought into doubt. According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), 143 shark species (where there is sufficient data to determine conservation status) are at high risk of extinction either now or in the near future. That’s over 55% of shark species.

  9. If people are really interested in restricting the shark fin trade, they need to focus on what really matters. Harvesting fins from live sharks is certainly cruel and wasteful, but focusing on the pain and suffering of fish isn’t going to get very far with anyone accustomed to eating shark fin.

  10. Let me say this first – I do not support the harvesting or consumption of shark fin.

    But let’s get to the hypocritical part.

    Yes the method of harvesting shark fin produces significant waste, but waste alone doesn’t justify not consuming something. Americans waste up to 40% of food produced – hardly surprising when shows like Iron Chef would boil a whole basket of lobsters just to get a bit of broth out for a dish. In comparison, the Chinese people who eat shark fin are also regular consumers of animal parts that Americans don’t even consider food to begin with – skin, feet, head, organs, etc. Shall we ban steak because the butchers carelessly throw out the cow intestine?

    On that, I am more interested in conversations around reducing the waste of shark meat. I don’t know what the issue is… there are people around the globe who sell and eat shark meat. Perhaps the fishermen should be encouraged to keep the shark in the entirety and market the meat more effectively. (note: it’s entirely possible that it doesn’t taste good… I’m not knowledgeable of this).

    The cruelty part is also moot. Anyone who’s read in depth on how farm animals are produced and slaughtered in this country can tell you how pretty that is. Visit one of those plants and chances are high that you turn to a vegetarian. The vast majority of cows and chicken produced in this country suffer way more than a wild animal bleeding to death.

    That being said, animal cruelty is terrible in either case. Again it should be a change in conversation, i.e. perhaps encourage more responsible harvesting of sharks. Even if the meat is completely unmarketable, fishermen can choose to kill the entire animal instead of leaving it out to suffer.

    Starwood has every right to make up whatever rule it pleases, and can choose to enforce it or not. But to make shark fin a big moral issue is hypocritical.

  11. Oh, go home and cry into a Peter Singer book, vegans.

    By your logic, no one who enjoys the occasional omelette is qualified to criticize even the most brazen, prolific poachers.

    Must be pretty lonely up there.

  12. Cows and chickens are not facing extinction, but sharks definitely are facing extinction.

    Also, eating cows and chickens is not throwing off the biodiversity of the planet, but eliminating the shark population has a major impact on the oceans.

    Typing this has tired me out…think I will go to Ruth Chris for a New York Strip steak.

  13. I love shark fin soup… I don’t understand why they would ban it

    Most animals are in extinction, why only sharks?

  14. We will wait until Marriott finish the acquisition of the Westin of Taipei and then enjoy the yummy shark fin there soon, liberals.

  15. @john: “Why only the fin, is shark meat not good?”
    Shark meat is delicious (baja “fish” tacos originally were predominately shark), but most finning (i.e. cutting off fins, throwing the rest into the sea) is done because poachers don’t want to waste space on the ship – fins are sold at prices 100s of times higher than shark meat.

    @Joe: “Most animals are in extinction, why only sharks?”
    Most animals are not nearing extinction, but there are lots of restrictions on animals that are endangered. Most restrictions involve internationally agreed upon limits.

    For anyone curious about what seafood they should avoid to help endangered and threatened species, please check out http://www.seafoodwatch.org (run by the Monterey Bay Aquarium).

  16. Stop eating eggs! The egg industry kills off the male chicks at birth! Yes, you read correctly and you can verify that for yourself by googling: male chicks are identified at birth, sorted and killed by grinders.

    Stop eating goose liver! After the liver is harvested, the rest of the goose is thrown away.

    Stop drinking milk! Most male calfs are killed too, since they keep only a few stud for reproduction.

    In fact, only the Chinese should be eating meat since no part goes to waste. They eat pig’s blood (made into a curd form), duck’s tongue, chicken feet pig’s intestine etc. Westerners should be banned from eating meat since they wasted 90% of the animal.

    Is this the kind of logic you want to use, when talking about how much of the animal is eaten and how much is thrown away? (and by the way, shark meat is actually a staple food in many parts of the world and fishermen do *not* typically throw away the rest of the shark. But of course, it is always possible to find exceptions to the norm, and then use such exceptions to support one’s cause)

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