Taiwan's environment minister blasted for eating sharkfin soup

Taiwan's environment minister blasted for eating sharkfin soup
Environment Minister Lee Ying-yuan

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Environment Minister Lee Ying-yuan (李應元) was blasted by environmental groups Sunday after he was caught eating shark fin soup.

Political pundit Tsai Han-hsun (蔡漢勳), also known as Windson (溫紳), posted photos of a lunch that both he and Lee attended onto Facebook. One photo showed a bowl of shark fin soup, a luxurious delicacy but a controversial dish that environmental and animal rights groups have been trying to ban.

Windson has since deleted the post.

Lee admitted Monday that despite being initially hesitant, he had eaten the shark fin soup served during the lunch.

He said that in the future he "needs to be more vigilant" and would proactively remind fellow dining participants not to order the controversial menu item in order to protect the environment.

Read also: Chinese 'pangolin princess' detained after allegedly eating endangered animals

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA, 環保署) said he would reflect on the incident to prevent any misunderstanding, vowing that he and his family members will never again eat shark fins.

The government passed new fishery laws in January as part of a move to get Taiwan removed from a European Union watch list of countries that have not acted against illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing.

The law seeks to curb shark fin supply through banning the removal of shark fins at sea, forcing fishing boats to bring any sharks caught to shore to remove their fins. Meanwhile, many environmental groups have been campaigning to reduce shark fin consumption due to the cruel and unsustainable practice of shark finning.

Read also: Identities of pangolin dinner attendees named

Finning is a process by which fins are removed while the shark is still alive, before they are tossed back into the water bleeding and unable to swim. This leads to either a slow death by suffocation and blood loss or being eaten by other scavengers.

Prominent chefs such as Gordon Ramsey, Wolfgang Puck, Cecilia Chang, Mario Batali and many others have pledged that they would never serve shark fins at their restaurants.

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