Starwood’s Impressive Response Regarding Shark Fin Soup

Filed Under: Hotels, Media

Color me impressed. Earlier today I wrote about how the Sheraton Grand Taipei Hotel was violating Starwood’s ban on shark fin soup. A reader reported the hotel’s restaurant serving shark fin soup during the Chinese New Year celebrations. In 2014 Starwood took a stance and banned shark fin soup at all their hotels and restaurants globally, without exception. It’s great to see global companies take ethical stands like this, even when it’s not popular in some areas.


It was obvious to me that in this instance we were seeing one hotel violate Starwood’s policy, rather than Starwood having a change of heart. With so many hotels around the world and tens of thousands of employees, I guess it’s to be expected that not everyone will always “get the memo.” What’s important is how they handle the situation when it arises.

Starwood’s social media team has just reached out with the following update:

As you stated, Starwood instituted a global ban on shark fin soup in 2014 and we take that very seriously.  It was very unfortunate that the Sheraton Grande Taipei Hotel did not follow that ban.  It has since been removed from their menu and we have assurances that it will not be served again.  We apologize for what happened.  We are not aware of any other instances of it being served and we are communicating to all Starwood properties in Asia Pacific to reiterate our global ban.  If you learn of it being served currently, please let us know and we will act immediately.

I’m very impressed that Starwood addressed this with the hotel in a matter of hours (especially given the time change), reaffirmed their stance, and are communicating with other hotels in the region to remind them.

Well done, Starwood!

  1. Agreed Ben…awesome response. We have to stand up to and against this kind of horrific slaughter of wonderful graceful creatures that have been on this earth long before us.

    As you said… well done Starwood. Now others?

  2. Hey! Starwood!

    I’m staying at one of your properties as I write this.

    Way to reinforce my decision to stay loyal to you.

    Nicely handled.

  3. It is great that they have extended the memo to other Asia Pacific properties and taking action to ensure the compliance!

  4. @ Patrick @ lopere – lmao

    Staying at a Starwood property shortly and very impressed!

  5. @ Patrick…100 million sharks being horrifically slaughtered in the worst cruel manner every year for a literally tasteless fin while a beautiful creature dies in agony. 100 million+…every year. Yes other animals are killed in a horrible way, and I do not eat meat anymore after wising up this year, but sharks are now in very real danger of extinction very very soon.

    @ Lopere… seriously go “do” yourself, you narcissistic under-educated tool.

  6. @lopere – The person who tweeted about it is Asian. So is he a hypocrite as well? He’s an easterner! What a conundrum!

  7. This shows cultural insensitivity. Hindus dont eat beef. What would be your response if 1 billion Hindus started a campaign to get Beef banned from Starwood Hotels.
    Shame on you for supporting cultural bullies.

  8. @prabuddha – Cultural sensitivity cant be the smoke screen to brutality and driving species to extinction. Hindu culture also condoned sati, child marriage, dowry and many other practices which are now against the law – its called evolving and not hiding behind the veil of “culture”.
    @Ben Glad you wrote this piece and kudos to starwood for their honest response.

  9. What’s wrong with cannibalism? Let people eat whoever if it’s their culture.

    Frankly there are too many people on this planet. I prefer getting rid of people than getting rid of sharks. So how about it? Indians and Chinese start exporting some of your people as food.

  10. Shame on the liberals. One day there would be no Tuna sushi in Japan, nor any meat in the future. The number of restaurants serving dogs are already shrinking in South Korea. Whatever, eaters will just enjoy the Shark fin soup some where else then. The profits will then not be awarded to the liberal hotel chains. It’s all such worthless points accumulated then made a hotel group not performing, then acquired by Marriott, a group committed not to restrict eating shark fin. Free economy wins.

  11. time to do the same for veal, foie gras or dog soup.
    i doubt any starwood property in korea, china, vietnam, indonesia or switzland offers dog meat but who knows.

  12. @steven k – What’s wrong with eating dog meat? People shouldn’t eat dogs because they’re cute? It’s the same as any other animal raised for meat; in certain cultures there are dogs who are raised as a food source, certainly not putting any species at risk for extinction. Don’t worry – nobody is going to a pet store and buying Spike to chop up and saute with some onions and peppers.

  13. rh,
    it’s not that dogs are cute but rather, they are the only animal that will protect their master to death.
    and yes, food is culture.
    that type of vicious, back-stabbing cultural element should be frowned upon.

  14. to the ignorant folks who have posted on this chain.. 15 major hotel chains and 30 airlines have banned shark fins. The sharks are killed for their fins alone and the rest of the animal is wasted. Amazing the number of clueless people.

  15. RH: “Don’t worry – nobody is going to a pet store and buying Spike to chop up and saute with some onions and peppers.”

    You are wrong, in some dog-eating countries, pet dogs are stolen and sold to restaurants.

    Stay calm, stay amazed.

  16. @Adam – I don’t think I said anything about people stealing dogs? That speaks to thievery and corrupt business practices, not whether it is “acceptable” to eat dog meat. Of course I think it’s wrong for someone to steal a pet dog regardless of their intentions.

  17. They’ll still serve it in the hotel, they just won’t put it on the menu, and they’ll only serve it to Asians. If a Westerner asks, they’ll just answer, “we don’t have that.” I’m not saying that’s right, but that after living there a while, my bet is that’s exactly how it goes down.

    re: the source of dog meat, in some parts of rural Thailand they buy peoples’ pet dogs for meat. My ex-wife’s grandmother sold the family dog, when drunk, to buy more alcohol. The family was pissed at her, because they knew what its fate would be.

  18. Shame about this – the shark fin soup tastes amazing :D.

    This really is just some due to western influence in being totally politically correct in everything. Carry on like this and we will live in a society where expressing your cultural/ethical beliefs in any way will be frowned upon

  19. I want to see how many people (including all of you who cheer for the ban of shark fin) will still remain quiet if Starwood also remove steaks, hamburger, chicken tender, fish filet, pork chop…etc (any kind of animal meats) from the food menu of all their hotel chain restaurants due to their policy of banning animal cruelty. One animal’s life is less worthy than the other kinds ?? Same as one kind of human race is less worthy than the other kind of human races ?? Com’on people….. Where are you going to draw the line ????

  20. Shark fin soup is delicious. Im dissappointed the price of shark fin is sky high in australia. Bangkok serves a bowl for $16 aud so if starwoof hotels dont serve it go to bangkok restaurants and send your cash to where the supply is. They are missing out on a business opportunity. Truely shark fin is delicious i dont see whats wrong with killing for deliciousness.

  21. Hmm, it’s basically just a short statement where they tell “Sorry, it won’t happen again”. Not thaaat impressing…

  22. @thomas would really hope for a goodwill gesture to donate the sum of money from the sale to a shark conservation cause!

  23. I agree that they should not just be serving just the fins, they should be serving the rest of the shark too. I had shark at Disney World and it was very good.
    I did notice that nobody really responded with any rational argument to the person that suggested beef should be banned because cattle are a religious symbol for Hindus. I don’t see how cattle are different from sharks or dogs or horses, other than that North Americans have traditionally eaten beef and not the others.

  24. @Ryan YOU are the one who is clueless – Shark meat is food in many parts of the world and no fisherman worth his salt is going to throw away the rest of the shark after removing the fin: it makes no economic sense to the fisherman. (But sure, you can find an isolated case here and there, and use that exception to generalize and bully an entire food culture). On the other hand, wide-scale net-trawling when fishing tuna and swordfish (and other western seafood) has led to the death of seals, dolphins etc which are literally thrown off the fishing boat. Don’t be clueless 🙂

  25. The south Koreans have held numerous dog-meat eating sessions to protest against westerners *and* their own countrymen (who hold the white-men-best mentality) who advocate that eating cows is morally superior than eating dogs. Kudos to these South Koreans!

    Alas, in other parts of Asia, such as Singapore and Hong Kong (where their respective airlines are known to have flight attendants who pay extra attentions to white men while showing disdain towards Asian paseengers), many of their citizens so look up to their former colonial masters that their own citizens actively protested at local hotels which serve shark fins.

    See? When you colonize a group of people well, they will do your dirty culture-bullying for you. It is this type of culturally-anemic locals that I look down on most. Pathetic. (and on the related note oh homosexuality: it is also due to western i.e. Christianity influence, that these Asians become homo-phobic, and yet they have the cheek to cite “asian values”. For the record, Asian cultures have always been very acccepting of homosexuality with lots of poems, stories etc openly depicting, condoning and even supporting such sexual orientation. Some people are just really culturally-anemic. And to repeat: pathetic!)

  26. Singapore’s Marina Sand says it best: (paraphrased) “We do not have shark fins soup in our restaurants’ menu. But we do keep a small supply of them for our VIP (who spend hundreds of thousands to gamble in our casinoes). If a VIP would like to order one for himself and everyone in the private gaming room to celebrate a big winning, we will not stop him. We do our best to serve our best customers…” It’s reported in the local newspaper. Now that’s frank money-talk and I like it.

    Starwood is no different. I bet if someone with top elite status were to ask for shark fin, it will somehow magically appear even if it is not on the menu. Maybe they will say: “we went out to buy it specially for you…” In the world of business, money talks. And people on this blog should know 🙂

  27. @Ryan actually you are the one who is clueless – shark meat is a staple food in many parts of the world and the fishing industry does not throw away the rest of the shark just to get the fins, since it makes no economical sense (But I bet you can find an isolated exception to support your generalization). On the other hand, it is well-documented that tuna-fishing using net-trawling has resulted in dolphins and seals being thrown overboard.

  28. South Koreans have held numerous public dog-meat eating sessions to protest against those who think cow-eating is morally superior to dog-eating. Kudos to them! What’s so superior about rearing cows for food, compared to rearing dogs for food?

  29. I wouldn´t mix culture to this too much. Generally people all around the world are becoming more aware of the fact that we can greatly minimize the suffering that we are causing to innocent animals. Slowly furs, circuses and bad treatment of animals are becoming to be socially unacceptable. Well, thats great!

  30. What’s great in banning traditional Chinese food, especially in Chinese speaking countries?
    Instead of more freedom we are getting more and more stupid prohibitions, in 21st century.

  31. @ SPC: I totally agree with that. For those who commented against shark fin soup, I encourage you to add your comments as well to voice your opposition against foie gras. And to sign the petition.

  32. Good job, Ben and Starwood. Just because something is part of someone’s cultural heritage, doesn’t give it a free pass from ethical scrutiny by the modern society. Cruel treatment of animals (or people for that matter) should not be condoned or enabled in the 21st century. I don’t see anything wrong if there is a shark/dog/pig/any animal farm somewhere that raises animals for meat and kills them in one humane way or another. I do have a problem with any animal having its body parts cut off while it is alive and left to die just because some ignorant person on the other side of the planet believes that body part possesses some magical or medicinal powers.

  33. @Clue – here is a little blurb on the truth of shark finning, or obtaining shark fins for soup. This sort of shoots a hole in your argument that it makes no economical sense to throw the shark away… when in most cases that is what is done.
    “Shark finning refers to the removal and retention of shark fins while the remainder of the shark is discarded in the ocean. Sharks returned to the ocean without their fins are often still alive; unable to move effectively, they sink to the bottom of the ocean and die of suffocation or are eaten by other predators. Shark finning at sea enables fishing vessels to increase profitability and increase the number of sharks harvested, as they only have to store and transport the fins, by far the most profitable part of the shark. Some countries have banned this practice and require the whole shark to be brought back to port before removing the fins.” <—– and then the shark is discarded.

  34. Shark fins are actually tasteless. When those of you who support this say “it’s delicious”, you are talking about everything else in the soup besides shark fin. All it does is give texture, and is just collagen like cartilage. Sounds like you were duped. Lots of things are considered a delicacy, like bull testicles and snake wine, doesn’t mean they should be.

  35. Starwood’s SLS Las Vegas, Tribute Portfolio hotel has coconut shark fin soup on the Northside Cafe Chinese New Year Menu tonight and scheduled through February 22.

  36. @susan thanks for regurgitating for us the relatively rarer, comparatively more isolated practice of “shark finning” where only the fin is harvested. And in doing so, reaffirm what I have said all along: in general, the practice is to harvest the whole shark because shark meat is a staple food in many parts of the world! The Chinese has been eating shark fins (along with the meat of the rest of the shark) for thousands of years. That has always been the way the Chinese eat, for example: pigs’ blood, pig’s liver, pig’s ear, pig’s feet, pig’s belly, pig’s tendons in addition to what you call pork. And so on.

    By the way, your eating of eggs and goose liver disgust me. For every egg that you eat, many male chicks are sorted and grinded to death at birth. And the rest of the goose was discarded when you ate that liver. You should learn from the Chinese. As mentioned above, the Chiense eat pigs’ blood, pig’s liver, pig’s ear, pig’s feet, pig’s belly, pig’s tendons in addition to what you call pork. The way you discard 90% of a pig just to feast on a small part of it, tsk tsk… veyr barbaric!

  37. @vitali
    your problem with “any animal having its body parts cut off while it is alive and left to die” is truly of your own making because save for recent exceptions specially blown out of proportion by people with hidden agendas, no shark has ever had its fin cut off while it is alive and left to die…in the past one thousand years that the Chinese has been consuming shark fins. Are you even aware that shark meat has always been available (and mind you, not as a delicacy) as a staple food for thousands of years? That has always been how the Chinese eat: pig’s blood, pig’s intestine, pig’s belly, pig’s tendons, pig’s foot blah blah blah in addition to what you call pork! And likewise shark.

    Similarly, for the the past one thousand years that Westerners have been consuming eggs, never has any male chicks been sorted and grinded to death at birth. Such problem is a most recent exception. But given that it is now occuring, have you stopped consuming eggs? Should I take this recent exceptions to tell restaurants to ban eggs?

    You also find it a problem that there are “some ignorant person on the other side of the planet believes that body part possesses some magical or medicinal powers.” Well, I don’t know about you, but the Chinese certainly don’t believe eating shark fins can make them swim or balance in the water better. They kill a shark – the meat, which comprise the bulk of the shark, goes to the poorer consumer who can only afford the meat, the fin, there being only that much on a shark, goes to the richer consumer who can afford it.

    What about you? Do you believe consuming eggs confer some magical or medicinal power on your egg/sperm-producing ability. Are you that ignorant? If not, why are you still consuming eggs given the number of male chicks which have to die because of your eating habit?

  38. @V
    you know, what you call beef, is actually tasteless. no, in fact it tastes worse than tasteless: it is so uneatable that only carnivores like tigers and lions enjoy them. You have to cook it and season it with pepper, in order to add taste to it! Look like you have been duped.

  39. @V
    “Lots of things are considered a delicacy, like bull testicles and snake wine, doesn’t mean they should be.”

    Why shouldn’t they be? You can eat your bull meat aka beef. I didn’t protest. I can eat my bull testicles. Who are you to protest? You kill a snake and use its skin to make belts. Did I say a word? So, I drink snake gall soaked in wine and you complain? Geez…

  40. Simple Fact: Dogs don’t only protect people, dogs ATTACK and BITE people.

    Just google “dog attack” or “dog bite” and you will easily see a ton.

    Becuase SOME dogs protect SOME people, we are not allowed to eat ANY dogs? What a stupid thing to do. The main reason people don’t want dogs eaten is that people keep dogs as pets. This is hypocracy at its best.

  41. People should be able to eat whatever food they desire, as long as its not cruel or wasteful.

    From the sounds of shark-fin, it sounds like the poor shark is left to die, and mostly wasted for his fin.

    Unlike with a cow, or pig, most of the animal is used, and generally killed in a humane way.

  42. nobody actually gave a reason for why beef is legal( btw I eat it in burgers but it’s pretty tasteless otherwise and unhealthy too)
    And if beef ( which is the no one reason for global warming) is legal what moral standpoint is there to criticizing shark fin
    There’s none it’s just a form of cultural bullying .
    I would not eat shark fin soup but I defend anyone’s right to eat anything except humans
    still waiting for an apology from lucky

  43. @Prabuddha, if you actually read the arguments provided by Lucky and several others above, you would know that the issue here is not shark vs cow, it is how the fins are obtained. the only way your argument would be valid, is if cows had best and most expensive pieces of flesh cut out of them and then released back into the field. this is how fins are obtained from sharks and this is the reasoning behind the shark fin ban.
    still waiting for an apology?

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