tue 22/07/2014

Gordon Ramsay: Shark Bait/ Dispatches: Fish Unwrapped, Channel 4 | TV reviews, news & interviews

Gordon Ramsay: Shark Bait/ Dispatches: Fish Unwrapped, Channel 4

Inside the shark-fishing industry: it's not a pretty sight

Gourmet gumshoe Gordon Ramsay probes the dark secrets of the shark-fin industry

With such weighty gastronauts as Heston Blumenthal, Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall all aboard Channel 4's Big Fish Fight jamboree, Gordon Ramsay obviously couldn't bear to be left standing on the quay. In fact, with Gordon Ramsay: Shark Bait he has made the most provocative film of the season, a punchy documentary in which the shouty superchef did some bold poking about in the hideous innards of the global trade in shark fins.

Shark-fin soup used to be a delicacy reserved for Chinese emperors, but has subsequently grown into a staple of Chinese restaurants and even street vendors. A top-end bowl of shark-fin soup can cost you 200 quid. But why does anyone eat this stuff, Ramsay wondered? On a trip to Taiwan, a major centre of both the shark-fishing industry and shark-fin consumption, culinary sleuth Ramsay barged into a restaurant kitchen and investigated the ingredients of the revered dish. The fin is left to infuse in chicken stock until it becomes gelatinous, then it's added to a broth flavoured with ham and soya sauce and boiled in a clay pot. Add bamboo shoots and coriander and consume. "It's really pretty bizarre", Ramsay concluded, "because it actually tastes of nothing."

'It's without doubt the worst act of animal cruelty I've ever seen,' said the appalled chef

However, the insatiable Chinese appetite for nothing soup has led to the development of a vast industry which is systematically emptying the oceans of sharks. Amid a spattering of hair-raising eco-statistics, we learned that in some areas shark populations have seen a 90 per cent decline in less than a decade. There was an inkling of the scale of the carnage when Ramsay, defying shadowy figures tipping gasoline over him from above, shouldered his way onto a Taiwanese rooftop to find a panorama of shark fins drying in the sun. Their combined value could only be guessed at. "Fuck me!" exclaimed Ramsay, whose language throughout was appropriately seaman-like. "Let's get out of here before we get shot."

He was apparently threatened at gunpoint when he went to Costa Rica, where sinister private companies have built their own fortified docks solely for shark-fin processing, but the scene wasn't in the film. Frankly, Ramsay is lucky not to be threatened at gunpoint on a daily basis, but that's another story. The private docks were seemingly a way to circumvent local laws forbidding the landing of fins but not the concomitant sharks, introduced to curb the vile practice of "finning" them and chucking the mutilated bodies back into the sea, still alive. The bodies have no commercial value, which means 95 per cent of each shark is discarded. Ramsay had acquired footage of hammerhead sharks being finned, which, inevitably, was utterly sickening. "It's without doubt the worst act of animal cruelty I've ever seen," said the appalled chef (hammerhead shark in its natural habitat, pictured below).

hammerhead_shark_smallIf there was a slight whiff of the late-to-the-party zealot about Ramsay's shark crusade, at least he's getting out there and using his reputation and his bellicose attitude to try to whip up some positive action. Back in London, he convened a meeting of restaurateurs from London's Chinatown and showed them what he'd found. Four restaurants subsequently agreed to take shark-fin soup off the menu, but one ranting superchef is unlikely to make much of a dent in the wider Chinese consciousness, in which the concept of animal welfare doesn't exist.

It isn't only sharks which have fallen victim to the world's insatiable lust for seafood. Dispatches: Fish Unwrapped paraded some stomach-turning facts about what you're really eating when you think you have a mouthful of fish. Scampi may very well turn out to be "reformed scampi", assembled from fishy scraps glued together with Sodium TriPolyphosphate. Mmm! Prawns farmed in Bangladesh (and widely sold in the UK) might have been reared on a diet of raw sewage and pesticides, and then had their weight inflated with "bulking liquid". And beware of that "fresh fish" sign in the supermarket - "fresh" could actually be a euphemism for "frozen nine months ago". Eating only home-grown vegetables is beginning to look like the only truly safe, not to mention humane, option.

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Comments

Well, I believe that though

Well, I believe that though someone loves to eat seafood, it does not necessarily that he or she try eating sharks. I don't eat sharks but I love eating Pan-fried baby Spanish octopus / white bean puree / garlic / parsley / chilli / Sicilian lemon from Fish & Meat - one of the best restaurants in Hong Kong!

Firstly, you have more chance

Firstly, you have more chance of gtteing hit by a car or killed by a coconut falling on your head than gtteing attacked by a shark. A shark isn't going to pick you by what colour your boogie board is. Usually they attack people who have just gone to the toilet or are simply the unlucky ones. I think Mythbusters found that sharks are not attracted to certain colours but they tend to bite the colour yellow more once they do attack. Dont worry about them though, they aren't an issue! Just pick a cool bodyboard!
This programme brought tears to my eyes, I am disgusted at this barbaric torture of a beautiful creature. We are a cruel, greedy and relentless mammal. And as said previously we have managed to ban the ivory trade and many more barbaric things we do just to support our own gain and greed. Stop this now
Cant Channel 4 forward Gordon Ramsay's prog about the slaughter of sharks to the UN & the EU. This slaughter must be banned ! How humans can butcher creatures like this beggars belief. As for the people doing it.....well they are either mentaly subnormormal or mentaly deranged. If thier wife's or children could see them doing this (during a hard days work ?) they would form a different opinion of them.
Well done Gordon on such a very sad but powerful documentry. Hope your crusade gathers strong momentum and this awful soup is taken off every menu!
i was truly shocked by what i saw im a big fan of gordons and i am also a supporter of greenpeace and i couldnt believe what i saw it was horrible i was truly shocked. i think he went as far as he possibly could with this and he did an amazing job he really pushed himself and the fishing industry. he did put himself in great danger and i wish to express how utterly amazing he was and this should now kick start a massive change in the fishing industry i just hope the human race can change before it is too late
This truly was sickening to see.... removing elephant tusks and rhino horn has been illegal for years, its time people demanded action on this issue. As a marine scientist I've been lucky enough to dive with sharks all over the world, they are so beautiful in their natural habitat, graceful, powerful and aweinspiring. Removing apex preditors in this way is going to have untold consequences on the remaining food web. These creatures are not farmed for our consumption, some take decades before reaching sexual maturity and their populations simply cannot cope with this level of fishing. Please... lets not allow these creatures to disappear from our oceans!!!
I've not been a fan of Gordon Ramsay since I heard he delighted in boiling crustaceans alive, but maybe this was a false report, as he seems genuinely stirred by the shark issue. Fois gras off your menus next please, Gordon, but well done on the shark issue. Chinese people have a lot going for them, but their attitude to animals is so cruel that they can never be regarded as a civilised people until this culture changes. However, there are fledgling, but growing, animal rights/welfare movements arising, with some vegetarians. We need to support these small humane Chinese movements as the way to eventual change.
This documentary as seriously disturbed me , its all I have thought about since seeing the programme, Im not completely naieve , I know this goes on but to these extremes I did not. The way they commit such a cruel act on an innocent creature and disregard its body in such a disgraceful way phisically made me sick to the stomach and will continue too for the rest of my life, I cant beleive how cruel this is and want to say well done for Gordon and his team for showing this to the world. However I really dont think the situation will calm down as there is such a high demand for shark fins in the fare east and even in london ! It upsets me soo much to see people being so sick with no remorse ! What can be done to make this better? The governments should take action buth they choose to ignore ! Its small charitys that are trying to make a difference but with such little help, if only the world could pull together and make it right , but as sad as it is to say I odnt think it will ever happen.
I watched the shark bait programe and was disgusted regarding this going on .I lived in Taiwan for 6 years and one year in Hong Kong so have a good understanding of the chinese customs, beliefs,and culture.The chinese eat everything that walks,flies or swims.Their demand for food fressness is such that eveything is left alive as long as possible during the cooking prossess serious pain for whatever is being cooked. E.G.- Taipei city a road exisits where u can see a snake being strung up whist its heart is removed still pumping and shown to the crowds.This is just one example of animal crueltly,many of their beliefs are unfounded regarding health benefits from animals E.G.-Tiger penis extrat for aphrodisiac use proven to be of no use and effect other than in the mind of the user.These animal products have a high price connected to them due to years of misbelief with this comes a face issuse regarding money spent .

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