Shark fin soup forum on Richmond table

As MP Alice Wong's eating of shark fin soup continues to draw condemnation and criticism from Richmond and around the world, two other interested parties have agreed to take part in a public forum.

Wong has caused uproar in her home constituency after posing in front of Chinese-speaking media with a bowl of the controversial soup, stating the federal government has no intention of banning shark fin products, despite some scientific evidence pointing towards certain species being endangered.

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The News has been deluged with letters of outrage from readers - many from Chinese descent - and Asian animal protection agencies have issued press releases condemning her actions, which Wong said is a cultural right for the Chinese community.

Anthony Marr, of the Vancouver Animal Defense League, last week challenged Coun. Chak Au - who would prefer to see shark fin education, rather than an outright ban - and Wong to a public debate.

Au, although steering clear of a debate, agreed to take part in a "less confrontational" public forum with Marr, with the News facilitating. Wong, however, declined.

"In a debate, it's very much one against the other, with the intention of someone to win," said Au. "There's often twisting of the facts and the one thing we need right now, is the facts, some rational discussion and working together."

The forum may take place early in November. It's also hoped that, if Wong won't attend, a representative of the federal government will be there.

The Capital Animal Welfare Association of China said it was "appalled at the poor judgment shown by Alice Wong," adding environmental groups in China have worked for years to educate consumers about the "devastating ... impacts of shark finning."

It claimed the Chinese government has even made its own position clear by phasing out the serving of shark fin soup at functions.

The Taiwanese SPCA also railed against Wong, saying that she does not speak for Asian people or its culture when it comes to the issue of shark fins being used for the likes of soup.

Meanwhile, Fin Donnelly, NDP fisheries critic and MP for Port Moody, Coquitlam and New Westminster, said Wong made the wrong call by eating the soup.

"There is a drastic decline in many shark species; it's a global conservation crisis and there's a worldwide movement to avert this," said Donnelly, whose private member's bill to ban shark fin products coming into Canada is still working its way through the parliamentary system.

"How can Ms. Wong know if the soup she ate came from an endangered species or not? She can't, because there's no legal requirement to indicate that on the products that are imported.

Donnelly said he's confident support for the bill, which he hopes will see the light of day by the end of the year or early next year, has gained enough traction over the last year to succeed.

"There's a large degree of support from parliamentarians who want to do the right thing and that includes a number of Conservative MPs," said Donnelly.

A statement emailed from Wong's press office read, "...our government condemns the reprehensible practise of shark 'finning,' which has been banned in Canada since 1994. On the other hand, I am of the view that shark which comes from a legal, humane and sustainable fishery is no different from any other imported food that Canadians may or may not choose to consume."

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