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article imageOp-Ed: Gordon Ramsay roasted for eating whale meat on a trip to Iceland

By Elizabeth Batt     May 15, 2012 in Environment
Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay faced criticism from a marine mammal conservation group this week, after he allegedly tucked into a plate of minke whale on a trip to Iceland.
According to the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) and this report by the Scottish Sun, during a break in Iceland last week, the outspoken chef, "Tucked into a pal’s plateful of minke," whale.
What is strange said WDCS, is that Ramsay, who has so far remained uncharacteristically reticent on the issue, "Was recently campaigning against eating shark fin" but "seemed to be unaware of the cruelty involved in whaling" or that his actions were helping to keep the flagging whaling industry in business."
Ramsay's actions appear strange considering the popular chef has always prided himself on knowing where his food sources come from. As a June 2011 article in the UK's Guardian newspaper showed when it covered some of the chef's most outrageous moments to date, the chef wasn't above filming the slaughter of lambs and even his children's pet pigs.
While Ramsay is not known for his affinity for vegetarians and the slaughter videos probably only succeeded in turning more people off meat, the UK-based chef has always walked a controversial line. After his shark campaign was initiated, Britain's Daily Mail newspaper, revealed images of the chef catching two rare sharks in Florida some 18 months previously.
In the same month as the Mail's expose, Ramsay reported that he and his TV crew were held at gunpoint and dowsed with gasoline as they filmed illegal shark-finning trade in Costa Rica, allegedly controlled by the Taiwanese mafia.
Costa Rica has a notorious history when it comes to illegal shark-finning, and is one of the world’s largest exporters of shark fins, a trade thought to be worth millions of dollars. The connection between Taiwan and Costa Rica was also explored in the award-winning 2007 Canadian documentary Sharkwater. A film that featured Rob Stewart and Capt. Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS).
Ironically, events from Sharkwater (filmed in 2002), have reared their head some 10 years later. SSCS Captain Paul Watson, was apprehended three days ago in Frankfurt Germany on a warrant issued by Costa Rica for an incident that occurred after the country's government invited Sea Shepherd to patrol for shark poachers around Cocos Island.
There is no doubt that shark-finning is inherently cruel, but so is whaling. It's tough to fathom then, why the celebrity chef would eat whale after denouncing shark-finning as, "Cruel, sick, tragic and barbaric." Yet more puzzling is the failure by Ramsay to appreciate how the corruption he encountered in Costa Rica, ripples through many practices involving ocean animals exploited for financial gain, be it shark-finning, dolphins, the tuna industry or whaling.
Back in 2010 for example, two reporters from Britain's Sunday Times newspaper posed as lobbyists for a fictional Swiss billionaire out to buy votes at an International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting.
Six countries told the reporters they were willing to consider their offer, but they would have to do better than the aid offered to them from the Japanese. Aid that apparently included said the journalists, supplying prostitutes.
Iceland meanwhile, was voted in as a full member of the IWC in 2002 – even though the country said it would resume commercial whaling (and did), in 2006.
Five years on in July of last year, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke certified to President Obama that Iceland’s commercial whaling and international trade in fin whale products was diminishing the effectiveness of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), and urged the Government of Iceland to cease permitting commercial whaling.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) added that, "Locke invoked the Pelly Amendment and certified Iceland for its continued slaughter of both fin and minke whales, stating that Iceland’s disregard for the global ban on commercial whaling was ‘unacceptable’.
Iceland continued with plans to hunt endangered fin whales until last week, when it called an end to its 2012 hunting of the endangered species. Minke whales were less fortunate, and remain on the menu. In its last six years of whale huting, Iceland has harpooned some 280 endangered fin whales, illegally selling the meat to Japan.
Gordon Ramsay appeared to have risked his life in order to raise awareness over the shark fin industry. He followed the practice from Taiwan to Costa Rica, and back to the UK, receiving a great deal of kudos for his hard-hitting documentary Shark Bait. For his efforts, he was even appointed as patron for the organization Shark Trust, who published this letter from the chef in response to the earlier shark-fishing trip:
This was a fishing trip in the summer of 2009, over a year before discussions about making a film about sharks with Channel 4 first occurred. It was then that I become aware that sharks are endangered but also through the making of this programme, learnt about the cruel and inhumane practice of finning. Now I understand the full situation I very much regret the fishing trip and no longer support any type of shark fishing. I do hope Shark Bait does the same thing, in that viewers who saw the programme will be educated, and support you and the other organisations, who work to protect these endangered species.
Ramsay obviously learned from his mistakes, so it would be wonderful if the chef would now consider furthering his education on whales. There are some incredible entities in the cetacean world, such as WDCS and the American Cetacean Society. Both organizations have contacts around the world; they would love I'm sure, to treat Mr. Ramsay to a whale watching trip.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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