Sen. Larry Taylor's Shark Fin Flip-Flop

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Hair Balls is scratching our head over Republican Senator Larry Taylor's recent flip-flop on a bill that would effectively ban the already federally prohibited practice of "shark finning" in Texas waters -- i.e., catching a shark, cutting off its fin for use in a very expensive soup and then tossing it back in the water, where it dies an agonizing death.

Taylor, whose district covers parts of Harris, Galveston and Brazoria counties, first introduced the bill, would would prohibit the sale, trade, purchase and transportation of shark fins in Texas.. But after fellow Republican Senator Troy Fraser came out against it, Taylor followed suit. Yep, he reversed his position on his own bill, and it died in committee.

Now, we're not saying there couldn't be a perfectly rational explanation for behavior that at first blush appears to be cowardly and incompetent, we're just saying we have no idea what that would be. And Taylor's office isn't helping crack that code -- no one from the Senator's office will return our calls. (Same goes for Fraser's office.)

Admittedly, Hair Balls didn't pay much attention to this bill's legislative journey, mostly because we just assumed it would pass, as similar bills have in six other states. After all, here's a bill that wouldn't affect current state shark-fishing regulations, aligns with federal law and -- according to those people who monitor such things -- would help protect the rapidly dwindling numbers of certain shark species, which in turn helps balance the ecosystem.

Probably no one was championing the bill more than the Humane Society of the United States' Texas director, Katie Jarl, who issued a statement saying, "The unsustainable demand for shark fins has had a devastating impact on shark populations worldwide, and it is extremely disappointing that the Senate did not even take the time to vote on this legislation to end our contribution to the cruel and wasteful practice. A ban on shark fin products is the most effective way to eliminate the demand and to help eradicate shark finning around the world. We'll continue to fight in Texas for these laws."

Other backers of the bill included the Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, El Paso and Forth Worth zoos; SPCA of Texas; Coastal Conservation Association; Galveston Island Nature Tourism Council; the Houston Museum of Natural Science; and many others. (Even some shark fishers supported the bill.)

Now, Hair Balls understands certain politicians caving to powerful, well-established special interest groups. What we can't conceptualize is a powerful shark-fin-soup lobby. Exactly whose interests are protected by not banning something as downright douchey as disarticulating a live shark so that some tool can order a bowl of expensive soup to impress whatever other tool he's dining with?

To us, it's akin to poaching a rhinoceros for its horn, or an elephant for its ivory. But in its own way, shark-finning is even dumber.

Ill-informed, superstitious types believe the rhino's horn has medicinal or sexual applications, and, well, ivory is really, really pretty. But in shark-finning, the sole use of the eponymous appendage is soup. And, again, the people doing this don't even use the rest of the shark. They often don't even put the dang thing out of its misery before dumping it overboard. Ichthyologists have a term for this: it's called a "total dick move."

Maybe one day Senator Taylor will sit down with us over a steaming hot bowl of shark fin soup and explain his rationale, between slurps. Something tells us, though, that, despite how delicious the meal might be, his words would leave us with a rotten taste in our mouth.

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