Reply To: Hong Kong Disneyland shark fin soup controversy


two more emails from Brian Darvell:

Confusion On Friday we reported Disney’s claims to have reached agreement with WWF on obtaining "friendly fins". However, Eric Bohm wrote a letter which appeared in Sunday’s South China Morning Post (June 12, 2005) which reveals Disney’s duplicity. I reproduce it here in full because it sums up the difficulties of dealing with this company. They are not open, they are not honest. (The emphasis of para. 3 is mine).

Disney green only in the US? We are deeply disappointed by Disney’s ill-advised decision to keep shark’s fin on its menu ("Disney seeks WWF’s green light for shark’s fin suppliers", June 8, and "Shark fin at Disney will come with a sermon", June 10). Disney has lost an excellent opportunity to take the lead as a proponent of sustainable consumption, the only solution available to mankind to preserve valuable marine resources.

In a teleconference with World Wide Fund for Nature Hong Kong and WWF USA last week, Disney USA agreed not to serve shark’s fin, either on the general menu or by request, until such time as WWF and Disney are able to identify a certified sustainable source. We were in the process of drafting a joint press release to reflect these discussions. The announcement by Disney Hong Kong comes as a surprise. Is Disney in control of its subsidiary? Disney does not say how its "responsible and reliable" source of supply will be monitored to avoid sharks slaughtered through finning and uncontrolled fishing practices.

We have to wonder which criterion is more important: responsible or reliable? In the context of Disney’s commitment to youth and its public pronouncements of concern for the environment, easily accessible from its website, this decision smacks of the grossest hypocrisy.

Does Disney’s environmentalism apply only in America? Outside America, do "different cultures" make environmentally unsound practices acceptable? For Disney to offer leaflets to those ordering shark’s fin, explaining "environmental concerns", can be compared to a pharmacy offering rhino horn tablets and saying: "We would like to point out that rhino are endangered, but the choice is yours". We strongly urge Disney to reconsider this abhorrent decision.

E. A. BOHM, CEO, WWF Hong Kong

I think Mr Bohm is upset, don’t you? So much for trust. This certainly confirms the impression that the HK appendage of Disney has a mind of its own and lacks the Enviromentality bump.

Of course, we should be reassured by Esther Wong, who said that selling the fins wasn’t a business issue, as if anyone could believe that! Disney not do something for profit with Mr Eisner at the helm? Maybe I have a solution… Matthew 5:30 advises: "And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell." Nurse, no anaesthetic …

Collusion There is a dreadful rumour today that Green Power, who have been called quite a few names elsewhere for "assisting" Disney with their explanatory leaflet, have received one million HK dollars in return. This conflicts with an earlier statement. I hope to be able to report a definitive denial very soon. One can imagine the temptation, but it’s that word again. [see below]

Cultural Card

Various reasons why playing the cultural card is morally depauperate have been advanced, but there is a precedent to contradict the claim that it is necessary: ivory. When this was banned, except for local sale of existing stocks, with no export, more or less overnight a huge traditional industry was destroyed. Ivory has long had images of prestige associated with it, and certainly has been part of Chinese culture for a long time – many classical images exist. However, our fearless government (then!), in the face of international pressure, shut it all down. This was managed through various measures, including retraining of the craftsmen, and alternative materials. This was a remarkable, laudable precedent. They had no difficulty then in coping with the defence of people’s livelihood by making alternative arrangements.

Now, Esther Wong and Rita Chan, explain to me again why it is essential to promote shark fin soup and environmental destruction? Costa Rican Corruption In principle, some have it right, but are thwarted by higher powers

Just look at the range of the ocean that is being destroyed and weep. Disney, HKTB, HKSAR government – your complicity is culpable. The OED2 has complicity 1. The being an accomplice; partnership in an evil action. I can say no more. Cassandra There have been claims from the trade that there is no problem, despite the evidence. Can we dare to hope that we are not going to suffer here in the same was as is described so well in this:

Communication Breakdown

Naively, one would imagine government officers to have a duty of care.

Yet Dr Wong Fook Yee , Assistant Director of AFCD, has made it very plain to a correspondent that e-mails that are longer than a page would not be read on the grounds that only bullet points should be given, and then only four of them, as people only spend 4 seconds reading an e-mail. Now, if this is the fate of all of our careful attempts to explain, it is no wonder the world is in a dire state.

I am sorry, Dr Wong, but life is more complicated than that. If we need to explain the self-evident to those who will not see, it necessarily takes more space than that. If we take the trouble, do you not think we are owed the courtesy of a reading? But then, you haven’t got this far, have you? Coverage A few more hits: which is remarkable because now a political party has joined in. confirms that Disney takes this seriously. Right. A succinct summary of the present position: BWD

Collusion Confusion – Resolved! Do a Google search on "Green Power" + Disney +shark +fin +soup and, as of June 14th, there are 40-odd English pages found which report the leaflet ‘collaboration’:

Yet, this same morning the following was sent to a correspondent: "No, Green Power is not responsible for or has not [been] invited to design the leaflet." – L.K. Cheng This followed: "Green Power has not received and will not receive any money from Disney for the production of leaflet. We give them the information of conservation of sharks and shark fins for free. We will not [be] involve[d] in the following production of leaflet." – L.K. Cheng

The confusion is worrying. I have now received clarification as follows: "Yes, we are against the serving of the shark fin soup under any conditions whatsoever at Disney. The issuing of the leaflet is not our focus because our goal is to stop Disney providing shark fins in their service. This is the main point. The information we gave [was] also aiming at this goal. We are not prepared to compromise on this goal. We are against the serving of shark fin soup, whatever issuing of the leaflet or not, or whatever it says.

Our position was clearly stated in South China Morning Post and other international news agency in these few days. That is why I cannot understand the rumour." – CHENG Luk-ki Division Head, Scientific Research and Conservation Green Power This seems clear enough. Remember: "Disney will work with the Hong Kong environmental group Green Power to produce leaflets about the topic, said spokeswoman Irene Chan."

In addition to the media errors, this seems to be another misrepresentation by the fully-autonomous HK element of the Disney organism. Not only do they rat on WWF HK, they attempt to subvert Green Power’s advice in an attempted "divide and conquer" manoeuvre. How despicable can you get? Ms. Chan, do us and Disney a favour – resign, and take Esther Wong with you. Campaign Intensification The calls for action are getting louder: More background:

Dr Wong Fook Yee, Assistant Director of AFCD, has written to apologize for a misunderstanding. His "4 bullets in 4 seconds" remarks in the last Update came from theory promulgated by a management and communication consultant! Evidently this theory was not taken to heart, fortunately, as Dr Wong did read the whole Update – for which effort, my thanks. It just goes to show that ill-considered repetition of trendy formulae can be dangerous. Think for yourself, is all we can suggest.

Dr Wong says: "This does not mean we will not pay attention to long emails. I am sorry for the confusion. Please be assured that we do pay attention to details." I take this to mean that whenever any of us write to him with local marine conservation concerns he will treat it all seriously. I have asked Dr Wong to see if efforts to prevent illegally-obtained shark fins being sold here can be improved. BWD