Oxford students call for boycott of Somerville College ball over shark display
The Guardian in London
Students of Somerville College, Oxford, whose alumni include Margaret Thatcher, plan to boycott a college ball next month if plans go ahead to display a live shark in a tank as entertainment at the party.
Clare Phipps, who graduated in 2011 and is studying for a PhD in London, and Matthew Hawkins, a history graduate, have written, with 10 others, to the college principal, Dr Alice Prochaska, asking her to "please use your authority to prevent any live animals from being used at the ball", which is jointly run by the Somerville and Jesus colleges and is held in the former's dining hall.
Phipps said the committee would not provide details of where the shark was hired from, and whether it was bred in captivity or captured in the wild.
"I am worried about the unnecessary stress for the animal of being transported and lots of people gawping at it," she said.
"There is a difference from a shark in an aquarium because that has an educational purpose. This is about nothing more than showing off."
The cheapest tickets for the event - billed as "one night of decadence, debauchery and indulgence" - cost £110 (HK$1,300).
Levin and his committee were apparently unwilling to reveal more details, and several more emails were exchanged before Prochaska confirmed that a shark was part of the plans. Anyone objecting was offered a refund.
Hawkins said: "It's worrying that … Oxford college would allow that view of nature to be perpetuated, of animals as an extravagant, gaudy show."
Levin said the idea of having a shark at the ball came from Baz Luhrmann's 1996 film Romeo and Juliet, in which the star-crossed teenagers meet while gazing through a fish tank.