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HONG KONG (AFP) - Disney, under fire from green groups for planning to offer shark's fin soup at its Hong Kong resort, announced a novel plan to ease activists' fears -- it will hand out leaflets explaining the cruelty of shark fishing with every bowl of the controversial dish.
The leaflet scheme is the latest salvo in a global row with environmentalists over its decision to serve the delicacy, blamed for a sharp decline in shark numbers worldwide, at wedding banquets when the Hong Kong theme park opens in September.
Disney has resisted calls to drop the luxury item and instead seeks to educate customers against buying it.
"If customers insist on shark's fin soup we will agree to serve it to them but with a leaflet carrying information on how shark fins are harvested," Disney spokeswoman Irene Chan told AFP.
"It will be written in a suitable manner for a wedding, but it will explain the environmental impact of shark fin fishing," Chan said.
Cheng Luk-ki, a spokesman for local activist group Green Power, which had been asked by Disney to design the leaflet, said it would pull no punches.
"It will explain the importance of sharks to marine ecology and explain how they are cruelly killed," Cheng told AFP. "It will detail the environmental and health impacts of eating it."
Disney has become the target of a global email and web protest over its decision to sell shark's fin in its two Hong Kong hotels -- the entertainment giant's only resort that will feature the dish.
Activists complain that shark's fins are harvested inhumanely by fishermen who brutally hack the fin from sharks and toss the bodies back into the sea to die -- a practice known as "finning".
The company defended its decision, saying not to offer the dish was unthinkable in Hong Kong where the food is a delicacy and where, because of its high value, its consumption is considered a sign of affluence.
Disney said it would serve shark's fin in consideration of "local cultural sensitivities".
Chan said Disney had also vowed to buy fins only from suppliers whose fishermen did not "fin" and who did not cull endangered shark species.
"We will buy fins only from suppliers who are responsible and reliable," said Chan. "And only those that fish according to international treaties."
She said the company had sought the advice of other green groups to find environmentally sound fin sources.
An official at Hong Kong's office of conservation group WWF confirmed it was one of the organisations consulted by Disney.
"There has been a meeting and discussions are still in progress," said Margaret Chan, spokeswoman for WWF Hong Kong, without elaborating. "The talks have been taking place between the two sides here and in the United States."
Disney's proposals got a cool reception from other activists who said further action, including protests during the park's opening ceremony, were being considered.
"We will have to see what happens, but basically there is no substitute for dropping shark's fin altogether," said Greenpeace spokesman Martin Baker.
"We will keep up efforts for a dialogue and we still have some time, but this issue has a lot of backing and you may find a coalition could form in the time being to protest against Disney," Baker added.