When I was eleven, I gave up meat on the grounds that the way it was harvested was really rather gross and unnecessarily cruel. I know a lot of people who don't eat things like veal or lamb because the thought of killing a newly born creature disturbs them. Many people have their cruelty limits, things which bother them enough to make them alter their eating habits. Sometimes they come and go--I started eating fish again recently, for example--and sometimes they become cultural standards. We don't eat dogs in the United States. You wouldn't eat cows in India. Different practices are differently cruel depending on where you go.
I never thought of sharks as needing much defense from us humans, but now certain Chinese people are calling for the end of shark fin soup as a delicacy. The old adage about sharks--that we kill far more of them than they do of us--has turned out to be true. The practice of shark-finning has led to a noticeable decline in shark populations--enough to cause concern with environmental scientists.
Shark-finning has shot up red flags with animal rights activists too--and not just because it's not vegan. It turns out the practice of acquiring shark fins is not the cleanest in the world. You don't kill the whole shark for the fin because most of the shark isn't quite as tasty. You catch the shark, slice its fin off the top of its body, then throw it back into the ocean. It bleeds out and dies a slow, painful death. Sounds like a nasty botched amputation--not a fate I'd wish on most sentient beings.
Up to 73 million sharks are harvested annually for their fins. The hunting has threatened marine ecosystems as prey populations grow unchecked. Sharks have been around for millions of years--they're the epitome of a sturdily evolved organism. They haven't needed to change much about themselves since the age of dinosaurs. It would be a shame to see them wiped out for the sake of an expensive delicacy.
Yao Ming, among other celebrities, are now calling for the boycott and eventual ban of shark fin soup. If the economic demand for the dish decreases, we might just see a return of the shark to its natural ecosystems.