Substitutes for Shark Fins and Rhino Horns

I have written several articles the environment. A list of links have been provided at bottom of this article for your convenience. This article will, however address different aspects on the environment and the planet in general.

Shark Fins

Shark fin soup is a traditional soup or stewed dish found in Chinese cuisine. The shark fins provide texture, while the taste comes from the other soup ingredients. It is commonly served at special occasions such as weddings and banquets, or as a luxury item.… It is said that he established shark fin soup to showcase his power, wealth and generosity.

The soup originated centuries ago during the Song dynasty in China, serving the imperial family and court members. During the Ming dynasty, the dish’s popularity increased and by the time of the Qing dynasty shark fin soup was in high demand. After the nineteenth century, the soup became highly sought-after dish as income levels of Chinese communities increased around the world. However, it has been condemned by the Humane Society International, which states that approximately 100 million sharks are killed each year for their fins. Currently, international concerns over the sustainability and welfare of sharks have impacted consumption and availability of the soup worldwide. Recently, health concerns about the high concentration of BMAA in shark fins have arisen.


Traditional shark fin soup or stew is made with fins obtained from a variety of shark species. Raw fins are processed by first removing the skin and denticles before trimming them into shapes and bleaching to a more desirable coloration. Sharks’ fins are sold dried, cooked, wet, and frozen. Ready-to-eat shark fin soup is also readily available in Asian markets. Dried fins come in cooked and skinned (shredded) and raw and unskinned (whole), the latter requiring more preparation. Both need to be softened before they can be used to prepare soup.


The taste of the soup comes from the broth, as the fins themselves are almost tasteless. Rather than for taste, the fins are used for their “snappy, gelatinous” texture, which has been described as “chewy, sinewy, stringy”. Krista Mahr of Time called it “somewhere between chewy and crunchy”.

Health impact

Shark fins are believed in Chinese culture to have properties of boosting sexual potency, enhancing skin quality, increasing qi or energy, preventing heart disease, and lowering cholesterol. In traditional Chinese medicine, shark fins are believed to help in areas of rejuvenation, appetite enhancement, and blood nourishment and to be beneficial to vital energy, kidneys, lungs, bones, and many other parts of the body.

There are claims that shark fins prevent cancer; however, there is no scientific evidence, and one study found shark cartilage generally to be of no value in cancer treatment. Furthermore, there is no scientific evidence that shark fins can be used to treat any medical condition. Sharks biomagnify toxins, so eating shark meat may raise the risk of dementia and heavy metal poisoning such as mercury poisoning.

WildAid, a wildlife non-governmental organization, warned that eating too much shark fin can cause sterility in men. It is known that larger fish such as shark, tuna, and swordfish contain high levels of mercury and methylmercury salts. For soon-to-be-pregnant women, pregnant women, nursing mothers and young children, the United States Food and Drug Administration has advised avoiding consumption of fish high in mercury.

High concentrations of BMAA are present in shark fins. Because BMAA is a neurotoxin, consumption of shark fin soup and cartilage pills may pose a risk for degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Lou Gehrig Disease, as well as Parkinson’s disease. Counterfeit shark fins often also contain toxins.

Market and demand

Restaurant sign-board, ChénghuángmiàoShanghai, China (2009)

Shark fin soup has a long history, but is declining popularity.

Early use

Shark fin soup was reported in Ming dynasty writings and by the Qing dynasty was considered a “a traditional part of formal banquets”; in Chinese cuisine, it was considered to be one of the eight treasured foods from the sea. It was popular with Chinese emperors because it was rare, and tasty only after a complicated and elaborate preparation. By the time of the Qing dynasty, shark fin soup was in high demand. Its manual of cuisine, the Suiyuan shidan, indicates that the shark fin was eaten as soup, stew, and even as a stir-fry, but in all cases the fin had to be boiled for two days.

The popularity of shark fin soup rose in the late-18th and early-19th centuries as standards of living began to improve.

Demand peaks, c. 2000

Shark fins are tempting targets for fishermen because they have high monetary and cultural value . They are used in a popular dish called shark fin soup, which is a symbol of status in Chinese culture. … As a result, fishermen have a large incentive to gather and sell shark fins.

In the late-20th century, shark fin soup was a popular delicacy in China, and was eaten in Chinese restaurants around the world. The increasing wealth of the middle class raised demand. The shark fin trade more than doubled between 1985 and 2001.

Based on information gathered from the Hong Kong trade in fins, the market was estimated in 2004 to be growing by five percent each year. Consumption of shark fin soup had risen dramatically with the affluence of the middle class, as Chinese communities around the world enjoyed increasing income levels. The high price of the soup meant it was often used as a way to impress guests, or for celebrations such as weddings, banquets, and important business deals. It was used to communicate wealth, power, and prestige, as it was believed to show respect, honor, and appreciation to guests, with 58% of those questioned in the WWF survey indicating they ate the soup at a celebration or gathering.

In Hong Kong restaurants, where the market had been strong, demand from Hong Kong natives had reportedly dropped in 2006. This was more than balanced by an increase in demand from the Chinese mainland, where economic growth put the expensive delicacy within the reach of an expanding middle class.

A survey carried out in China in 2006 by WildAid and the Chinese Wildlife Conservation Association found that 35% of participants said they had consumed shark fin soup in the last year, while 83% of participants in an online survey conducted by the World Wide Fund for Nature said that they had consumed shark fin soup at some time.

Demand declines, 2005–present

By late-2013, a report in The Washington Post indicated that shark fin soup was no longer seen as fashionable in China. The movement against shark fin soup began in 2006, when WildAid enlisted Chinese basketball star Yao Ming as spokesperson for a public relations campaign against the dish. The campaign was taken up by a coalition of Chinese businessmen, celebrities, and students. Businessman-turned-environmentalist Jim Zhang helped to raise concern within China’s government, which pledged in 2012 to ban shark fin soup from official banquets within three years.

In January 2013, China Daily reported that officials in Zhejiang province found that many shark fin soup restaurants were selling artificial shark fins, and that one-third of the samples that the officials had obtained contained dangerous amounts of cadmium and methylmercury. Within two months of the China Daily report, China ordered officials throughout the country to stop serving dishes made from protected wildlife at official banquets, and the Hong Kong government issued a similar order in September.

Consumption of shark fin soup in China has decreased. China’s Ministry of Commerce indicated that consumption of shark fin soup during the 2013 spring break holiday had decreased by 50–70%, and from 2012, and Hong Kong industry groups reported that shark fin imports were down by 20–30% from 2012. Also, anecdotal evidence points to a worldwide drop in shark fin prices and a move away from shark fishing in parts of Africa.

Ethical and environmental concerns

Shark fins used in the soup are the cartilaginous dorsalpectoral and caudal fins. These are regularly harvested by a process known as shark finning, which takes only the fins and discards the carcass, alive or dead. Overfishing poses a major threat to the world’s shark populations.

Some groups, such as Fins Attached, Shark Savers, IUCN, Shark Angels, Shark Whisperer and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, discourage consumption of the soup due to concerns with the world’s shark population and how sharks are inhumanely finned alive and returned to the ocean, unable to swim, hunt or survive. The prevalence of shark finning and the sustainability of shark species are both debated. Some feel banning the dish is offensive. As of 2011, major hotel operators such as Marriott InternationalThe Peninsula Hotels and Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts stopped serving shark fin soup in favor of offering sustainable seafood. The largest supermarket chains in Singapore – Cold Storage and NTUC FairPrice – have stopped selling shark fins, citing sustainability concerns.[41] Hong Kong Disneyland dropped the soup from its menu after it could not find a sustainable source.

Malaysia’s Natural Resources and Environment Ministry banned shark fin soup from official functions in a commitment to the Malaysian Nature Society to conserve the shark species.

In the United States, Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, California, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands have banned the sale and possession of shark fins, effectively eliminating the availability of the soup. Illinois, which had been a large importer of shark fins, was the fifth U.S. state, and the first non-Pacific state, to implement a ban on shark fin trade. In 2011, U.S. President Barack Obama signed the Shark Conservation Act, closing loopholes used to obtain shark fins. In October 2011, California governor Jerry Brown, citing the cruelty of finning and potential threats to the environment and commercial fishing, signed Assembly Bill 376, banning the possession and sale of detached shark fins. Two Chinese American groups challenged the law in federal court, arguing among other things that it was discriminatory against the Chinese-American community. The federal courts rejected these claims.

In Canada, the Vancouver city council decided to work towards creating a ban to preserve shark species. Toronto joined other regional municipalities in adopting a shark fin ban on 13 October 2011. The Ontario Superior Court of Justice overturned the Toronto bylaw, as it was outside the powers of the city. Calgary banned shark fin soup on 16 July 2012, but in May 2013 shelved the bylaw indefinitely.

On 2 July 2012, the State Council of the People’s Republic of China declared that shark fin soup can no longer be served at official banquets. This ban may take up to three years to take effect because of the social significance of the dish in Chinese culture.


The marine conservation organization Bite-Back has campaigned against the sale of shark fin soup in Britain. On the back of its campaigning, the London-based Michelin-starred Chinese restaurant Hakkasan agreed to stop selling the controversial soup. High-profile names such as Gordon RamsayHugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, and Charles Clover, author of The End of the Line: How Overfishing Is Changing the World and What We Eat, have lent their support to the charity’s ‘Hacked Off’ campaign. In 2019, environmental NGO WildAid partnered with Plan B Media on a public awareness campaign to discourage sharkfin soup consumption in Taiwan.

Faux Shark Fin Soup
Peter Pahk
Recipe by: Peter Pahk
Chef of The Mauna Kea Beach Hotel on the Kohala Coast, Hawaii.

Faux Shark Fin Soup

This delicious and shark-friendly alternative to traditional shark fin soup is a tasty way to support ocean health. “Close your eyes,” says Chef Peter Pahk. “Taste and savor the texture and flavor of this soup. It’s even better than the ‘real’ thing because it’s not shark fin!”

It’s estimated that tens of millions of sharks are killed around the world each year for their fins, and up until 2013 California was one of the largest markets for fins outside Asia. That’s why the Monterey Bay Aquarium sponsored a bill (which took effect January 2013) that banned the sale of shark fins in California.


(Serves 6)

  • 1 ounce Chinese black mushrooms (shitake)
  • 8-10 pieces of dried tree ear mushrooms
  • 2 ounces cellophane noodles
  • 2 ounces skinless raw chicken breast
  • 2 ounces lean raw pork
  • 2 cups unsalted chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
  • Dash of sesame oil
  • White pepper
  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 4 tablespoons water
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten


  1. Soak the black mushrooms, tree ear mushrooms and cellophane noodles separately in hot water for 4 hours until they soften. Drain well.
  2. Remove the hard stems of the black mushrooms (you can save them to cook with other Chinese soups) and cut the remaining pieces into small strips. Chop the tree ear mushrooms into small pieces and cut the cellophane noodles into 1-inch pieces with scissors. Set aside.
  3. Slice the chicken breast and pork into thin strips.
  4. Bring the chicken broth and water to a boil. Add the chicken, pork, black and tree ear mushrooms, and cook until all ingredients are cooked through and softened. Add the cellophane noodles, soy sauce, sesame oil and white pepper and salt to taste.
  5. In a small bowl, mix the cornstarch and water to make a thick slurry. Return the soup to a boil, stir in the cornstarch mixture and beaten egg and mix well. Remove from heat and serve in small bowls.

So we have a substitute that many people say is better tasting than the actual shark fin soup. So lets stop the fining already. Economically speaking there is more money to be made in conservation. Every country that has banned shark fining and turned to shark watching as a revenue source are doing better financially. You can only kill a shark once, the same shark can be viewed countless times. Not to mention the benefit conservation and preservation of the shark species has to the environment.

Rhino Horns

rhinoceros (/raɪˈnɒsərəs/, from Greek rhinokerōs ‘nose-horned’, from rhis ‘nose’, and keras ‘horn’), commonly abbreviated to rhino, is one of any five extant species of odd-toed ungulates in the family Rhinocerotidae, as well as any of the numerous extinct species therein. Two of the extant species are native to Africa, and three to Southern Asia. The term “rhinoceros” is often more broadly applied to now extinct species of the superfamily Rhinocerotoidea.

Members of the rhinoceros family are some of the largest remaining megafauna, with all species able to reach or exceed one tonne in weight. They have a herbivorous diet, small brains (400–600 g) for mammals of their size, one or two horns, and a thick (1.5–5 cm) protective skin formed from layers of collagen positioned in a lattice structure. They generally eat leafy material, although their ability to ferment food in their hindgut allows them to subsist on more fibrous plant matter when necessary. Unlike other perissodactyls, the two African species of rhinoceros lack teeth at the front of their mouths, relying instead on their lips to pluck food.

Rhinoceros are killed by some poachers for their horns, which are bought and sold on the black market, and used by some cultures for ornaments or traditional medicine.[2] East Asia, specifically Vietnam, is the largest market for rhino horns. By weight, rhino horns cost as much as gold on the black market. Some cultures believe the horns to have therapeutic properties and they are ground up and the dust consumed.[3][4] The horns are made of keratin, the same type of protein that makes up hair and fingernails.[5] Both African species and the Sumatran rhinoceros have two horns, while the Indian and Javan rhinoceros have a single horn. The IUCN Red List identifies the Black, Javan, and Sumatran rhinoceros as critically endangered.

Species of Rhinos still alive are:

+White Rhinoceros: The white rhino, or square lipped rhino, is found in northern and southern Africa. Facts about male and female white rhinos found in North Africa and South Africa.

+Black Rhinoceros: Black rhinos are the smaller of the two African rhino species. The most notable difference between white and black rhinos are their hooked upper lip. This distinguishes them from the white rhino, which has a square lip.

+Indian Rhinoceros: The Indian rhinoceros lives primarily in northern India and Nepal. These massive beasts have some noticeable physical differences from their African relatives. Their segmented hide looks like a formidable coat of natural body armor.

+Javan Rhinoceros: Javan rhinos are the most threatened of the five rhino species, with only around 60 individuals that live only in Ujung Kulon National Park in Java, Indonesia. Javan rhinos once lived throughout northeast India and Southeast Asia. Vietnam’s last Javan rhino was poached in 2010.

+Sumatran Rhinoceros: Population distribution of the Sumatran Rhino (Click for larger view) Sumatran rhinos are the smallest of the living rhinoceroses and the only Asian rhino with two horns. They are covered with long hair and are more closely related to the extinct woolly rhinos than any of the other rhino species alive today.

Predators, poaching and hunting

Adult rhinoceros have no real predators in the wild, other than humans. Young rhinos can however fall prey to big catscrocodilesAfrican wild dogs, and hyenas.

Although rhinos are large and aggressive and have a reputation for being resilient, they are very easily poached; they visit water holes daily and can be easily killed while they drink. As of December 2009, poaching increased globally while efforts to protect the rhino are considered increasingly ineffective. The most serious estimate, that only 3% of poachers are successfully countered, is reported of Zimbabwe, while Nepal has largely avoided the crisis. Poachers have become more sophisticated. South African officials have called for urgent action against poaching after poachers killed the last female rhino in the Krugersdorp Game Reserve near Johannesburg. Statistics from South African National Parks show that 333 rhinoceros were killed in South Africa in 2010, increasing to 668 by 2012, over 1,004 in 2013, and over 1,338 killed in 2015. In some cases rhinos are drugged and their horns removed, while in other instances more than the horn is taken.

The Namibian government has supported the practice of rhino trophy hunting as a way to raise money for conservation. Hunting licenses for five Namibian Black rhinos are auctioned annually, with the money going to the government’s Game Products Trust Fund. Some conservationists and members of the public however oppose or question this practice.

Background to the problem:

There is a strong centuries-old, cultural belief in Southeast Asia that crushing rhino horn into a powder and consuming it will cure illnesses, including cancer. 

Rhino horn is made up of a single protein called keratin, which is also found in hair and fingernail. There has been countless efforts to educate the public about the medicinal properties of rhino horn.

However, millions of people in Southeast Asia (particularly China and Vietnam) continue to use it as medicine, and more recently as a recreational drug. This has caused rhino horn to be worth more than gold. Thus, poachers are killing endangered rhinos in Africa and India for their horns and smuggling them in an illegal global trade.

Horn trade and use

International trade in rhinoceros horn has been declared illegal by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) since 1977. A proposal by Swaziland to lift the international ban was rejected in October 2016. Domestic sale of rhinoceros horn in South Africa, home of 80% of the remaining rhino population, was banned as of 2009. However, that ban was overturned in a court case in 2017, and South Africa plans to draft regulations for the sale of rhino horn, possibly including export for “non-commercial purposes”. The South African government has proposed that a legal trade of rhino horn be established, arguing that this could reduce poaching and prevent the extinction of this species.

Rhinoceros horns, unlike those of other horned mammals, (which have a bony core), consist only of keratin, similar to human hair and nails. Rhinoceros horns are used in traditional medicines in parts of Asia, and for dagger handles in Yemen and OmanEsmond Bradley Martin has reported on the trade for dagger handles in Yemen. In Europe, it was historically believed that rhino horns could purify water and could detect poisoned liquids, and likely as an aphrodisiac and an antidote to poison.

The Vietnamese are the biggest consumers of rhino horn, and their demand drives most of the poaching, which has risen to record levels. The “Vietnam CITES Management Authority” has claimed that Hanoi recently experienced a 77% drop in the usage of rhino horn, but National Geographic has challenged these claims, noticing that there was no rise in the numbers of criminals who were apprehended or prosecuted. South African rhino poaching’s main destination market is Vietnam. An average sized horn can bring in as much as a quarter of a million dollars in Vietnam and many rhino range states have stockpiles of rhino horn.

It is a common misconception that rhinoceros horn in powdered form is used as an aphrodisiac or a cure for cancer in Traditional Chinese Medicine as Cornu Rhinoceri Asiatici (犀角, xījiǎo, “rhinoceros horn”); no TCM text in history has ever mentioned such prescriptions.[79][80][81][82][83][84] In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), rhino horn is sometimes prescribed for fevers and convulsions, a treatment not supported by evidence-based medicine: this treatment has been compared to consuming fingernail clippings in water. In 1993, China signed the CITES treaty and removed rhinoceros horn from the Chinese medicine pharmacopeia, administered by the Ministry of Health. In 2011, the Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine in the United Kingdom issued a formal statement condemning the use of rhinoceros horn. A growing number of TCM educators are also speaking out against the practice, although some TCM practitioners still believe that it is a life-saving medicine.

In March 2013, some researchers suggested that the only way to reduce poaching would be to establish a regulated trade based on humane and renewable harvesting from live rhinos. The WWF however opposes legalization of the horn trade, as it may increase demand, while IFAW released a report by EcoLarge, suggesting that more thorough knowledge of economic factors is required to justify the pro-trade option.

To prevent poaching, in certain areas, rhinos have been tranquillized and their horns removed. Armed park rangers, particularly in South Africa, are also working on the front lines to combat poaching, sometimes killing poachers who are caught in the act. A 2012 spike in rhino killings increased concerns about the future of the species.

In 2011, the Rhino Rescue Project began a horn-trade control method consisting of infusing the horns of living rhinos with a mixture of a pink dye and an acaricide (to kill ticks) which is safe for rhinos but toxic to humans. The procedure also includes inserting three RFID identification chips and taking DNA samples. Because of the fibrous nature of rhino horn, the pressurized dye infuses the interior of the horn but does not color the surface or affect rhino behavior. Depending on the quantity of horn a person consumes, experts believe the acaricide would cause nausea, stomach-ache, and diarrhea, and possibly convulsions. It would not be fatal—the primary deterrent is the knowledge that the treatment has been applied, communicated by signs posted at the refuges. The original idea grew out of research into the horn as a reservoir for one-time tick treatments, and experts selected an acaricide they think is safe for the rhino, oxpeckersvultures, and other animals in the preserve’s ecosystem. Proponents claim that the dye cannot be removed from the horns, and remains visible on x-ray scanners even when the horn is ground to a fine powder.

The UK charity organization Save the Rhino has criticized horn poisoning on moral and practical grounds. The organization questions the assumptions that the infusion technique works as intended, and that even if the poison were effective, whether middlemen in a lucrative, illegal trade would care much about the effect it would have on buyers. Additionally, rhino horn is increasingly purchased for decorative use, rather than for use in traditional medicine. Save the Rhino questions the feasibility of applying the technique to all African rhinos, since workers would have to reapply the acaricide every 4 years. It was also reported that one out of 150 rhinos treated did not survive the anesthesia.

Another way to undercut the rhinoceros horn market has been suggested by Matthew Markus of Pembient, a biotechnology firm. He proposes the synthesis of an artificial substitute for rhinoceros horn. To enable authorities to distinguish the bioengineered horn from real rhinoceros horn, the genetic code of the bioengineered horn could be registered, similar to the DNA of living rhinoceros in the RhODIS (Rhino DNA Index System). Initial responses from many conservationists were negative, but a 2016 report from TRAFFIC—which monitors trade in wildlife and animal parts—conceded that it “…would be rash to rule out the possibility that trade in synthetic rhinoceros horn could play a role in future conservation strategies.”

Rhino Horn Substitutes

The horns of water buffalo and cows are being promoted as alternatives to rhino horns.

In an effort to disrupt the market and protect the global rhino population, scientists and campaigners have introduced alternatives to rhino horn that they hope will undermine demand and devalue it as a commodity. Here are three examples.

1. Nail trimmings

Swedish wildlife photographer Bjorn Persson has been collecting fingernails. Human nails are made of keratin – the same substance as rhino horn – and Persson intends to use the materials that he has gathered to replicate the medicine that’s popular in Asia.

Persson, who regularly photographs wild rhinos in Africa, says he already has thousands of dollars’ worth of keratin to produce the medicine.

“We’re asking people to donate their nails, and we’re going to make a medicine [to] sell to China and Vietnam as a substitute,” he says.

Between 2006-2015, 220 kg of illegal rhino horn was seized en route to Vietnam.
Between 2006-2015, 220 kg of illegal rhino horn was seized en route to Vietnam.Image: Statista

2. Horse hair

Scientists from the University of Oxford and Fudan University in Shanghai have come up with a way to create fake rhino horn using horse hair. Since rhino horns are made up of tightly packed hair, it has a similar composition when glued together.

Professor Fritz Vollrath, from the University of Oxford’s Department of Zoology, says: ‘It appears from our investigation that it is rather easy as well as cheap to make a bio-inspired hornlike material that mimics the rhino’s extravagantly expensive tuft of nose hair.”

The researchers hope that their discovery will not only undermine the trade in rhino horn by eventually flooding and confusing the market with credible fakes, but also find new uses as an innovative bio-material.

Alternatives to rhino horn are intended to disrupt poaching and illegal trade.
Two rhinos are poached in Africa every dayImage: Reuters/Jean Bizimana

3. 3D printing

A start-up in Seattle has trialled its own mock rhino horn, created with a 3D printer. Biotech firm Pembient’s horn alternatives are made in a lab, and are genetically identical to real ones on the “macroscopic, microscopic, and molecular” level, according to CEO and cofounder Matthew Markus.

By pushing fabricated horns into the supply chain at various points, he says, people won’t know whether they’re buying real rhino horns or fake ones.

But will it work?

Rhino conservation organizations are unconvinced by such efforts, suggesting that flooding the market with inexpensive copies will only drive up demand for the genuine article.

Research shows that despite fake horns already being on the market, an average of two rhinos are still poached in Africa every day.

And yet Persson and those like him are determined to continue their efforts.

“We need to create a debate in the world,” he says. “We need to spread awareness about what is going on, because these rhinos, they are killed for nothing. It’s a meaningless extinction.”

I think the only way to stop the poaching is to make poaching punishable by death. Anybody caught with rhino horns on them is simply shot without question. If you come down on the poachers like a ton of bricks, the poaching will stop. What good is the money if you are dead. There also needs to be censorship and boycotts of Chinese products worldwide. They are responsible for the death of tens of millions of sharks a year for soup and they are eradicating our natural heritage for toe nail clippings.

Resources:, ” Shark fin soup,” By Wikipedia editors;, “Sustainable Seafood Recipe,” By Peter Pahk;, “rhinoceros,” By Wikipedia Editors;, “These 3 innovative ideas could help the endangered Rhino survive,” By Katharine Rooney;

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