Using Psychology to End Shark Finning

This post started as a comment in response to Brian Linton’s post on Yao Ming’s Anti Shark Fin Soup Video, but then it got so long I thought I might as well repost it here (with edits).

Brian asks, “Take a look. If shark fin soup was an integral part of your ‘food culture’ would this deter you from eating it?”

And I responded:

This short clip would probably not deter me from eating shark fins if it were part of my culture. I was thinking, if this was a video of cows being killed, I’ll still eat steak. But then cows are not endangered and
they are killed out right, a limb isn’t cut off and then they are left to die.

But then cows are part of the problem for global warming and other issues…

I think it’s good there is a celebrity out there helping raise awareness but I don’t know how strong the influence of this video is. One of the best ways to change people’s behaviours is through peer pressure. Check out this article:

But in that article, people “know” that using too much energy is bad, so they are competing to be good. With the shark fin situation, some people don’t see it as being a bad thing. So I guess you have to start with changing the attitude first.

Also, you have to get to people’s values. For example, in this video, seeing a shark die won’t activate anything in me if I don’t care about sharks. But, if I value family, and this video is framed in a way that relates back to this value, for example, if sharks all die, the ocean’s ecosystem will go out of whack and then your children won’t ever see sharks again, then that could potentially work.

Even though something is part of a culture, that tradition can still change though. Cultures are there because it’s adaptive to the certain environmental pressures at the time, and if the environment changes, the culture should (or has to) adapt in order to survive. I read about some group in Indonesia where they conducted sacrificial killing of sea turtles for some ceremony. But then scientists went to talk to them about the endangered status of the turtles and the group used photos of sea turtles instead.

In conclusion, I think, no, that video alone would not deter me from eating shark fins. But it could help raise awareness and other measures have to take place in order to nudge us in the “right” direction.


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