Yao Ming paid a visit to the Houston Zoo yesterday and shared his position on animal rights with many students.
“You have little pets in your house — dogs, cats, all kinds,” Yao said. “Just imagine your relationship with your pets. That’s the same thing, the same kind of thing, that the African people have with those big animals. They’re living in the same country, just like in the same house.
Yao’s increase in activity for animal rights was ignited by his home countries delicacy, “Shark-Fin” soup.
The former Houston Rockets center, in town in advance of this weekend’s All-Star festivities, has become increasingly active in animal-rights causes since he retired from basketball because of repeated injuries in July 2011.
Late in his playing career, Yao became a vocal — and the most famous — critic of shark-fin soup, a centuries-old delicacy in China. He began actively campaigning in 2006 against “finning” by fishermen — carving off the shark’s valuable fins and dumping their bodies back in the ocean, sometimes while the shark is still alive.
Before he walked around the zoo with about two dozen children, Yao filmed a public service announcement promoting his shark-fin cause with former Rockets center Dikembe Mutombo and current Houston point guard Jeremy Lin.
Yao has now started campaigning against elephant and rhino poaching in Africa and Asia. He’ll star in a documentary on the subject, based on his visit to Kenya last summer, that is scheduled to be released in China toward the end of 2013.
But the best part is that his hard work has paid off:
the South China Morning Post reported that census data from Hong Kong shows that imports of shark fins dropped from 10,292 tons in 2011 to 3,087 tons in 2012.
“The numbers show the payback for the effort that everybody has put in,” Yao said. “It showed that it was very effective.”