Shake Shack, an American burger chain opening its first restaurant in Asia this spring, has started vying for potential customers’ attention by launching a pop-up in Hong Kong. But among the crowds coming to the pop-up were some visitors that the company probably had not expected – activists from the organization WildAid who were there to shine a light on the deeply troubling partnership between Shake Shack and Maxim’s, Hong Kong’s biggest restaurant chain selling tons of blue shark fin every year.

Shake Shack has a number of vegetarian options on its menu and proudly claims to “Stand For Something Good,” championing humane farming practices, sustainability, recycling, and partnering with charities. On the other hand, however, the company is now engaging with the cruel and unsustainable shark fin trade – which is arguably the biggest threat to the world’s sharks – through their partnership with Maxim.


“[I]t  broke  our  hearts  to  learn  that  Shake  Shack,  a  company  that  has  as  its  company  mission  to Stand For Something Good, should choose to partner with Maxim’s Caterers Limited, a company that despite our best efforts to convince otherwise, is still engaged in cruel, barbaric and unsustainable shark fin trade,” Alex Hofford of WildAid  wrote in an open letter to Shake Shack. “It may be simply an  oversight  on  your  part,  but  it  is  a  great  shame  that  your  due  diligence  did  not  extend  to  a  full  audit  of  that company’s  background – before  entering  into  an  agreement  with  them – to see  how  their  policies  on  everything  to  animal welfare, recycling, clean energy, climate change, sustainable materials sourcing, etc, compare so unfavorably with yours.”

He explained that WildAid has been attempting to engage with Maxim’s since February 2016 to educate the company on the many reasons why they should abandon selling shark fin soup – to no avail.

Hofford also pointed out the staggering fact that a quarter of all shark species are currently threatened with extinction – and shark finning is a major part of this problem.

Paul Hilton via Racing Extinction/Facebook

In the shark fin trade, sharks are ripped from the sea, their fins are cut off and they are cruelly thrown back into the water – where, mutilated, they either drown, bleed to death or be eaten by other animals.


“To be clear, shark fin is not a cultural issue, and any calls for it to be framed as such are bogus,” Hofford adds. “We pride ourselves in the overwhelming support we receive for our wildlife crime and endangered species campaigns to ban shark fin and elephant ivory trade domestically in Hong Kong and in mainland China. Our millions of supporters in Hong Kong, as well  as  on  the  mainland,  are  ethnic  Chinese.”

WildAid is now urging Shake Shack to formulate a favorable position on the issue and enter into a dialogue with the group. “On behalf of our millions of supporters in China and across the world, as well as the last remaining populations of threatened sharks, we look forward to your favorable reply,” the letter concludes.


Lead image source: darksouls1/Pixabay