Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay was doused in gasoline and held at gunpoint while trying to expose the shark finning industry in Costa Rica.
The practice of shark finning has become a popular issue for animal activists in recent years as stories of sharks caught, de-finned, and tossed back in the water to bleed to death multiplied on the internet in concert with increased demand for the ingredient in delicacy dishes. Chinese shark fin soup is the primary dish that calls for sharks to be finned.
The shark-fin industry is unregulated and illegal in many areas. Many of the people who engage in the trade are criminal thugs; Gordon Ramsay was attempting to investigate some of these gangs and traced them to Costa Rica for his new show “Big Fish Fight.” Ramsay claims that the headquarters for the operations are guarded like military forts with armed guards in towers and barbed wire.
While trying to elude pursuers and get a look around, Ramsay was caught and had gasoline poured on him while being held at gunpoint. Costa Rican police advised Ramsay to leave the country for his safety, saying if he tried to enter one of the compounds of the gangs he would be shot.
It remains unclear what exactly Gordon Ramsay’s motives were for investigating the shark-finning industry, but I believe it is safe to say that his concerns were not for the safety or well-being of the sharks themselves.
Gordon Ramsay is hardly an animal rights activist and so hardly deserves the praise being heaped on him by some people animal activists and fans. It’s true that he risked his safety to expose an illegal animal trade, but if his previous antics are any indication this was much more about TV ratings than a moral campaign.
Ramsay came under fire two years ago for an episode of his show “The F Word,” which featured a hunter snapping a wild puffin’s neck on camera. Ramsay ate the puffin’s raw heart afterward. On some of his food shows, he raises animals for slaughter, naming them early on in a grotesque display of callousness.
The shark fin industry is horrifying–an illegal trade run by thugs who slaughter animals in a gruesome manner hard for us as land mammals to truly imagine. And while I agree that any amount of attention brought to the issue is beneficial in the right context, Gordon Ramsay isn’t a hero. He was just being another sensationalist TV star trying to get ratings. You can’t praise a man for trying to raise awareness with one hand while slaughtering and killing indiscriminately with the other.
Shark finning can’t be viewed in a vacuum as a singularly cruel practice, wholly disparate from other forms of animal slaughter. Why does shark-finning cause more outrage than other forms of fishing? Because we’ve arbitrarily decided which animals are worth our respect and compassion and which methods of killing animals are acceptable. The moral justification gets thinner the more you think about it.
If you abhor shark finning, then you must abhor all forms of animal slaughter, and if you do, the only morally justifiable course of action is to cease supporting industries that torture and kill animals.