The BLOGFlume—Quickie

No shark fin soup in Hong Kong, an acrobatic accident, and Six Flags improves despite Kingda Ka's downtime.

Written by Russell Meyer
Published: June 26, 2005 at 9:34 PM

Off the Menu
New York Times 6/25/05

It looks like Disney has caved to environmentalists, and removed shark fin soup from the menu of Hong Kong Disneyland. The delicacy, very popular among the Chinese, was going to be reserved for special banquets and events, but now it seems that not even those special events will be able to order up the popular soup. The controversy stems around the way in which sharks are harvested. In most cases, a shark is caught, and sometimes killed before the profitable fins are removed, and then thrown back into the water. It’s definitely not the most humane process in the world, and incredibly wasteful, as only the fins are used. It seems that the environmentalists hammered so hard on Disney’s door that they couldn’t stand it any more, and the soup was removed from the soon to be opened park because “shark fishing could not be conducted in an environmentally sustainable way.” Sounds like a cop out to me, but there don’t appear to be a whole lot of people complaining about this decision. I’m surprised more Chinese are not critical of this decision. Disney is taking a big risk by placing a theme park in China, and in a way, it is saying that part of the culture of the country that is hosting their newest park is that it is inhumane to animals. I’ve never had an opportunity to try shark fin soup, but I have been in authentic Chinese restaurants where it is served- not Panda Express or your local food court restaurant- and the soup is easily one of the most popular on the menu (sorry won ton, egg drop, and hot and sour). Even though the harvesting process may seem inhumane to us silly Americans, is it our place to remove a staple banquet menu item because we don’t like how the ingredients are brought to the table? When in Rome, do as the Romans do, and instead of trying to make an environmentally friendly statement, just serve the soup.

KSDK 6/21/05

There was an accident last week at Six Flags St. Louis. The incident involved an acrobat performing in the Cirque Magnifico show. Wong Shawmin was performing spins and twists over the audience, and somehow lost control and fell ten feet onto the stage. The show continued, and the acrobat was rushed to the hospital with only minor injuries. The trapeze can be one of the most awe inspiring circus acts, especially when performed without a net, but as this case shows, there is still a chance of an incident even with very talented and highly skilled performers. Thankfully Shawmin will be fine, and will probably be back in front of an audience within a couple of weeks. It must have been pretty stunning to the audience, because we take for granted the risks that the performers take when doing such incredible acrobatic displays.

No Impact
Business Wire 6/14/05

While I have been bashing Kingda Ka over the past few weeks, it seems that Six Flags has not been feeling much of an effect from its significant downtime. Six Flags has announced that it does not expect to see much effect from the world’s tallest and fastest roller coaster being down. In fact, attendance is up 4.4%, and season pass sales have increased 18% (probably more likely due to lower prices than better parks, though). It’s possible that the increased attendance is more due to some great weather over the past few weeks all across the country, or just a better job of marketing the parks this year (Mr. Six is all over my television). Part of the increase could also be because so many coaster fans had already planned a trip to New Jersey before Kingda Ka went down, and decided to go to Great Adventure anyway (I’m one of them). At any rate, maybe Six Flags will see that it’s not a coaster that makes a park, and the attendance increases that they’re seeing are not because of the world’s tallest and fastest roller coaster, but because of an experience that lasts an entire day, not 4 hours of waiting and a 30 second rush. Six Flags is obviously working furiously to get the roller coaster back on line, but their numbers show that they’re doing just fine without Kingda Ka.

Readers' Opinions

From Kevin Baxter on June 27, 2005 at 12:01 AM
Umm... Six Flags Season Passes aren't any cheaper than they've been for the past few years. And weather certainly hasn't been routinely spectacular. We had hail here this month! I would guess that people have been staying away for a few years and have decided to give their local park a try again. Also, when local park attendance is up, that means family trips are down. I wonder what the numbers in Orlando are.

As for the shark fin soup, it has nothing to do with China's lifestyle. What about killing tigers for their testicles? Or elephants just for their tusks? Or baby seals because their fur is really purty? Or dolphins just because saving them made catching tuna a little harder?

Isn't it a little ridiculous to kill a shark (or make it impossible for it to live for long without part of its navigational system) just for a tenth of its body? Especially when shark meat is entirely edible. If they were killing the shark and using it all, there wouldn't be much problem, would there? (Plus, I can't believe a shark fin would add much actual flavor to anything. It'd be like killing eagles for bay leaves!)

From Ben Mills on June 27, 2005 at 3:16 AM
Like Kevin said, a shark fin adds NO TASTE WHATSOEVER to the soup. It's usually flavoured with chicken.

When a company like Disney is in the general public eye across the World, they have a responsibility to act in an ethical manner. I'm not saying that they should be disregarding all local customs, but the method of getting the fin is horrific, and it's a complete waste to throw the soon-to-be-dead shark back into the water. This is only done to make more money -- with limited space on the boats, more profit is to be made if only the fins are taken back to land. Like in most businesses, greed prevails.

Check out this site for more info about the process and its implications.

From Russell Meyer on June 27, 2005 at 10:57 AM
A number of Six Flags parks have reduced their season pass costs. Magic Mountain's 2005 pass was $47.99 at the end of last year, when it was somewhere around $85-$100 for 2004 pass. Great Adventure even lower its early season pass price to $74.99, down from $85 in 2004. As far as weather, in the east, it's been really great theme park weather. Not necessarily great water park weather without the long standing heat wave yet, but just about every weekend in May has been sunny with very few exceptions from Atlanta to Boston. Even the midwest has had a better than average late spring and early summer weather. There have been relatively few tornado outbreaks, and the last time I checked, the Cubs only have one game to make up on their schedule (alomst unheard of going into July). I would agree that the weather in the west has been a little dicey with a lot more rain and strange weather patterns than normal, but there are only 2 Six Flags parks that would be effected by California's recent crazy weather.

Why is it Disney's job to force its morals on a foreign country, especially when the US is already on rough diplomatic terms with the communist nation? Disney should be trying to embrace other cultures, and forming its theme park concepts around the heritage of the countries for which its theme parks reside, not pushing American and Western beliefs and morals on the people of a foreign country.

Regardless of what ethical questions it raises, shark fin soup is a staple of the traditional Chinese menu. The Chinese embrace their tradition, and they may be insulted by the soup suddenly being pulled from the menu when it was originally going to be offered. The Chinese covet their food, so much so that many Chinese chefs are incredibly insulted even if you put a little soy sauce on their dishes. With the Olympics coming to China in just 3 years, the rest of the world should be looking to embrace a little bit of Chinese culture, not forcing western cultures and beliefs on the Chinese.

I agree it's terrible that shark is fished in the manner that they are. If Disney wants to be the morality police, perhaps they should be trying to find a source of the ingredient that is more environmentally friendly, or teaching Chinese fishermen how to better utilize the entire fish instead of ignoring the problem altogether as if it did not exist.

From Chuck Campbell on June 27, 2005 at 7:10 PM
Russ, you wrote, "Sounds like a cop out to me, but there don’t appear to be a whole lot of people complaining about this decision. I’m surprised more Chinese are not critical of this decision."

Perhaps this tells us something right here, this apparent lack of outrage on the part of the Chinese.

From Kevin Baxter on June 28, 2005 at 12:16 AM
And I don't think it is necessarily a "staple" of the Chinese diet any more than Fugu is a "staple" of the Japanese diet. Just because it's a dish we recognize doesn't mean it's a dish the average Chinese person ever eats. And how EXACTLY is Disney forcing its morals upon China in the first place? Disney hasn't told the Chinese they can't eat shark fin soup. They simply aren't serving it. The end of a non-story.

As for Six Flags, OVERALL the passes aren't any cheaper, except apparently at the company's two biggest parks (and they were only $70 at SFMM last year, unless you got parking). SF Marine World's hasn't changed in five years, minimum. And it went up five bucks from its original $49.99. I checked a few other parks too: SF over Georgia went from $49.99 in 2004 to $59.99 in 2005. SF Great America is a whopping $94.99, so I'm sure that's not a major decrease from last year. SF New England's are up there at $69.99.. is that a decrease? SF over Texas's are $80.99.

Discounting doesn't seem to be rampant in the company at all. If I had to guess, I'd say SF is trying to bump up attendance figures at their most popular parks. Why? 400K separated SFGAdv and Cedar Point last year, and 500K separated SFMM. Cedar Point isn't adding a coaster this year and is receiving even stronger pressure from PKI. I think SF wants nothing more than ANOTHER phony thing to brag about

From Christian Wright on July 5, 2005 at 6:31 PM
This is one rare occasion that I totally agree with Keven Baxter. The fishing of sharks in not only cruel but is destroying the shark population for the entire world. Shark Fin Soup is not a Chinese staple but rather a status symbol for rich people to show off ($100-$400 a bowl). The Chinese do many things that are damaging to the lives of everyone on this planet, not only a local morality issue, but rather doing actual damage that causes real problems for everyone around the globe. I say BRAVO to Disney for not participating in this one hurtful practice.
From Kevin Baxter on July 5, 2005 at 11:24 PM
I always enjoy that people have to be bungholes to me when I haven't said one thing to them, yet I'm considered the jerk around here.
From Christian Wright on July 7, 2005 at 2:12 PM
Glad you enjoy it. Really I was agreeing with you and you call me a "bunghole". I just don't agree with you on most issues, I guess you can't handle that can you?

"I'm the jerk around here"
You said it not me.

From Kevin Baxter on July 8, 2005 at 12:44 AM
When I agree with someone do I go, I rarely agree with this person, BUT... That's stoopid and unnecessary. Yeah, I'm a jerk. I can handle it. But as such, I also get to point out when other people are being jerks. I have never been one to you, so I called you on being one to me. And you couldn't handle it.
From Christian Wright on July 8, 2005 at 4:30 AM
Your the one calling names. I just thought it was interesting that we agreed on something. And yes in the past you have been a jerk to me. I do rarely agree with you and you just give more and more reason for me to think less of you. And really who uses a term like "bunghole"?
From Christian Wright on July 8, 2005 at 5:02 AM
"When I agree with someone do I go, I rarely agree with this person, BUT... That's stooped and unnecessary."

OK I did not say that. I said, "this is one rare occasion where I TOTALLY agree with Keven Baxter." I never even said you were wrong about anything, I just said that you and I don't look at things the same way. I don't see how saying that I usually don't see things the way you do is being a jerk to you. I did not say "BUT" I just said that I don't usually see things the same way you do (in the past we have not seen eye to eye on most subjects that I posted on). I was saying that I felt you were right on the money with this topic. Really I was shocked that I would ever agree with you on anything, I have read your posts off and on for a couple of years and I rarely found any common ground. I did not post calling you down time and again like I could have. The few times I have posted you were very defensive, just like you are now. Then you call me stooped? More name calling? I have seen you use terms like "just because you took the short buss to school". What kind of adult uses juvenile putdowns like that? I am sorry I ever agreed with you on anything. Is that better? Come on, all I did is agree with you on a topic and in the past we did not agree on things. I was pointing out that even though two people see many things very differently they can find some common ground. But you have too much of a problem with that? You can't handle the slightest comment without calling names, and making rash statements? Don't worry about me posting again, I won't.

BTW: If you said something like "I was offended that you opened your statement by saying you don't usually agree with me" I would have responded "I am sorry about that, I did not mean to offend you, I take it back." Try it next time instead of hurling juvenile insults.