BBC Wildlife Magazine
Shark meat found in pet food
Consumers in South-East Asia are unwittingly feeding endangered sharks to their cats and dogs due to poor labelling
Astudy has found that some pet foods contain meat from endangered sharks. Inspired by a 2019 US study that found shark meat in pet food, scientists investigated whether there was shark DNA in 45 pet food products from 16 brands on sale in Singapore. Of the 144 samples taken, 31 per cent contained shark DNA, most of which came from blue, silky and whitetip reef sharks.
The populations of the silky shark and the whitetip reef shark are listed as vulnerable according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
“None of the products listed shark as an ingredient, using only generic catch-all terms such as ‘fish’, ‘ocean fish’, ‘white bait’ or ‘white fish’ to describe their contents,” says Ben Wainwright, co-author of the study from Yale-NUS College in Singapore.
“The majority of pet owners are likely lovers of nature and we think most would be alarmed to discover that they could be unknowingly contributing to the overfishing of shark populations,” he adds.
Overfishing has devastated global shark populations, which have declined by more than 70 per cent in the last 50 years.
While it is known that global demand for shark fins and meat is driving this decline, the use of shark products in pet food and cosmetics is often overlooked. For example, shark liver oil or squalene is used in some beauty products.
“Shark meat and other derivatives are widely and increasingly being used, and informed consumer choice will only be possible if product labelling is improved,” says Ali Hood from the Shark Trust.
Nicole Paley, deputy chief executive of the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association says UK pet owners should have no concerns: “The [pet food] products in question were for sale on the Asian market and there’s nothing to suggest that any of these are likely to find their way onto the UK market. The fish used by the [UK] pet food industry are byproducts sourced from fish that are caught for