eateries sue green group for lost trade
BANGKOK: Shark fin soup restaurants in Bangkok's Chinatown yesterday filed a
103 million baht (HK$17.51 million) law suit against conservation group
WildAid over its high-profile campaign against the costly dish.
The group of 15 restaurateurs said their trade had dropped by up to half
since the activists launched an advertising campaign two months ago claiming
that shark fins contain poisonous mercury.
``The campaign has not only spoiled our decades-old reputation but also our
sales,'' said Chinatown Food Producers Group chairman Adul Laohapol, adding
that sales of canned shark fin soup had also fallen.
``The plaintiff has been damaged because overseas supermarkets returned
products, fearing the shark fin was laced with mercury as the group
claimed,'' court papers said.
Mr Adul said the suit also targeted advertising agency JWalter Thompson,
which devised the shock advertisements that included pictures of a bowl of
soup with human ears floating on the surface.
``If shark fin traders do not take any action it will cause them billions of
baht in damages in the future,'' Mr Adul said, adding that any proceeds from
the court case would be donated to Thailand's tourism authority.
WildAid has argued that the trade in shark fins will damage Thailand's
valuable tourism industry by wiping out the species of sharks that scuba
divers come from all around the world to see.
It also said that the way the fins are harvested - by slicing the cartilage
off the body and dumping the animal in the sea to die - is cruel, and that
the dish has no health benefits, as its proponents claim.
WildAid director Steven Galster yesterday vowed not to call off the
campaign, despite the legal action and ``vague threats'' from shark fin
traders which have prompted him to hire security for the group's offices.
``WildAid stands behind its campaign to raise public awareness about the
realities associated with the trade in sharks fins, and will not back down
from legal or other types of threats,'' he said.
``We told and showed the public the truth. We remain committed to working
co-operatively with shark fin merchants in order to find a solution that
benefits sharks, the oceans, and Thailand.''
Mr Galster said the campaign had been stepped up after initial efforts to
engage the support of shark fin merchants were rejected, with the traders
dismissing WildAid's action as ``toothless''.
``We are happy about our progress, but still desire a co-operative approach
with shark fin merchants on how to resolve this problem,'' he said.
1 September 2001 / 02:01 AM