Environmentalists urged Hong Kong Disneyland on Monday not to serve shark fin soup when the park opens in September, but Disney officials said they planned to offer the dish at special banquets in accordance with local customs.
Greenpeace and the Worldwide Fund for Nature have asked Hong Kong Disneyland to take shark fin soup off the menu after the theme park announced last week the delicacy would be served at wedding banquets and other special events at the park.
Environmentalists say millions of sharks are killed each year for their fins, driving many species close to extinction. The fins are hacked off and the fish are dumped back into the sea to die.
"It's a hugely wasteful practice," said Greenpeace spokesman Martin Baker. "We were incredulous when we heard that Disney would be serving shark fin soup."
Baker added, "We would have hoped that a company with a global reach like Disney could have made a statement on the issue."
Hong Kong Disneyland spokeswoman Irene Chan said, "Hong Kong Disneyland takes environmental stewardship very seriously, and we are equally sensitive to local cultures. It is customary for Chinese restaurants and five-star hotels to serve shark's fin soup in Hong Kong as the dish is considered an integral part of Chinese banquets."
Another Disneyland spokeswoman, Esther Wong, stressed that shark fin soup would only be served when customers requested it at special banquets. She declined to discuss whether not selling the dish would substantially hurt business. Wong said that selling the fins wasn't a business issue.
"The whole point is being respectful to local cultures," Wong said. "It is what the locals see as appropriate."
Another Hong Kong environmentalist, Brian Darvell of the South China Diving Club, said, "The very fact it is traditional does not make it right. It's mind-boggling that Disney could be so inconsistent with their environmental line and go on with defending its decision."
The park is a joint venture between the Hong Kong government and The Walt Disney Co., the media and entertainment company based in Burbank, Calif.
By Chuck Chiang