Shark Conservation – The first shark conservation letter focusing on the well being of the shark. How could Great Britain even think of starving the poor shark.
“To the Right Honourable the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of Great Britain, in Parliament assembled.
The PETITION of the SHARKS of AFRICA
THAT your petitioners are a numerous body, and at present in a very flourishing situation, owing chiefly to the constant visitation of the shipping of your island.
That by hovering round these floating dungeons your petitioners are supplied with large quantities of their most favourite food—human flesh.
That your petitioners are sustained, not only by the carcases of those who have fallen by distempers, but are frequently gratified with rich repasts from the bodies of living negroes who voluntarily plunge into the abodes of your petitioners, preferring instant destruction by their jaws, to the imaginary horrors of a lingering slavery.
That among the enormous breakers and surfs which roll on the shores of your petitioners, numbers of English boats are destroyed, the crews of which usually fall to their lot, and afford them many a delicious meal, but, above all, that large vessels crowded with negroes, are sometimes dashed on the rocks and shoals which abound in the regions of your petitioners, whereby hundreds of human beings, both black and white, are at once precipitated into their element, where the gnawing human flesh, and the crashing of bones, afford to your petitioners the highest gratification which their natures are capable of enjoying.
Thus benefited, as your petitioners are, by this widely extended traffic, a traffic which has never before been molested, it is with the utmost indignation they hear that there are in Britain men, who under the specious plea of humanity, are endeavouring to accomplish its abolition.—But your petitioners trust that this attempt at innovation, this flourishing of the trumpet of liberty, by which “more is meant than meets the ear,” will be effectually frustrated.
Should the lower branch of the legislature be so far infatuated by this new-fangled humanity as seriously to meditate the destruction of this highly beneficial commerce, your petitioners have the firmest reliance on the wisdom and fellow-feeling of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of Great Britain.
Your petitioners know, that the truly benevolent will ever be consistent – that they will not sacrifice one part of animated nature to the preservation of another, that they will not suffer sharks to starve in order that negroes may be happy;—yet your petitioners are apprehensive, that the baleful influence of this philanthropic mania is already felt even within the walls of your Lordships, wherefore they crave to be HEARD BY COUNSEL at the bar of your august assembly, when, notwithstanding the wild ravings of fanaticism, they hope to evince, that the sustenance of sharks, and the best interests of your Lordships, are intimately connected with the traffic in human flesh.
Fearful of becoming tedious, your petitioners have only to add, that should the abolition take place, which the god of sharks avert, the prosperity of your petitioners will inevitably be destroyed, and their numbers, by being deprived of their accustomed food, rapidly diminished.—But, on the other hand, should your Lordships in your legislative capacity, scorn the feelings of the vulgar, and nobly interfere, either openly, or by procrastination, to preserve this invigorating trade from the ruin that now seems to await it, your petitioners, and their wide-mouthed posterity, as by nature urged, will ever,
The Petition of the Sharks of Africa is attributed to Scottish abolistionist, James Tytler, who was forced to flea England to American due to his many controversial writings. The macbre relationship between sharks and slave ships raises graphic and disturbing imagery that was made especially popular as a propaganda tool for the abolustionist movement in Great Britain and the United States from 1630 through 1835. The horrors impressed upon the imagination of the listener offered a ghastly and terrifying vision of the slave trade and such tales were effective in gaining popular support for ending this most brutish form of free market capitalism.