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Whaling Wars: Why are Whales sacred and Kangaroos not?

January 9, 2010

Whaling Wars: Why are Whales sacred and Kangaroos not?

You have to hand it to the Japanese for their ingenuity in finding a loop hole around international treaties. Disguised for years as science the Japanese whaling fleet were able to supply the bulk of their find to restaurants in Japan. For activists this was an outrage where they claimed that the Japanese were being barbaric for serving up these so called beautiful creatures of the ocean. The Japanese whalers were adamant and resisted all pressure to cease their operation. They wanted the world to butt out of their lucrative businesses.

Much of the debate has raged over the emotional appeal of the whales as the cute fat babies of the seas. They were big, very big, but still had a delightful way of lighting up the whole day. Without the iconic image of whales the New Age would have seem so much more self insular and alien. Once they adopted whale and dolphins as their mascots it somehow became a noble pursuit. In an age where environmentalists like Green Peace could afford to run and supply the ship called the Rainbow Warrior is was becoming clear that the age of the cashed up protestor was about to begin. Ships, speed boats, helicopters, film crews, trained spin doctors and even lawyers all with the hint of an alternative dreadlock haircut were now supporting the environmentalists. The sacred whales were going to be protected.

As much people may dislike whaling they still have not been able to mount a successful argument to convince those that have the power to stop it: The general population of Japan. Instead we have a very emotional debate run by activists that lay claim to the moral high ground based upon some strange absurdities.

The ‘edge of extinction’ claim seems to be the only one that can find any traction. For a long time it was claimed that the whales were on the ‘edge of extinction’ and if this is true then there is at least one claim that has validity. Yet confusion abounds about which whale species are endangered and which are not. We read terms like Minki and Humpback but few people would know the estimated numbers of each, nor would they be able to point to reliable studies where population drops have been documented. Instead we have to rely upon third parties to carry the message. Unfortunately often those third parties are activists or whaling spokes persons.

The next claim is that whales are intelligent animals and we should not kill intelligent animals. Often this is based upon brain mass but at no stage has this claim been tested. In some extreme cases it was claimed that whales and dolphins could be as intelligent as humans. Therefore they have the cognitive power to be afforded equal rights to humans. This is a very wonderful theory if brain mass is only a result of higher intelligence but not so great if it is caused by other physiological factors. One theory raised some years ago was that sea mammals have larger brains to cope with the enormous changes in water pressure. Though this may be an untested theory it is no less tested that the theory that whales have intelligence that rivals our own. Questions of higher intelligence also seem odd when we see the regular beaching of the whole pod of whales. Why would an intelligent species continue to do this without eventual inventing a way of preventing this?

This leaves us with the aesthetic features of a whale. Whales are indeed magnificent and gentle creatures but it can also be argued that a cow is equally magnificent and gentle. A whale may seem graceful and majestic but so too is a kangaroo. Do we just eat the ugly animals and keep the good looking ones?

This brings me back to my original point. Every day kangaroos are being killed and served in restaurants around Australia. The meat is tender and lean with very clean flavour not unlike beef. It may not be everyone’s idea of a great feed but for some it is a worthy dish. Pigs are far more intelligent that kangaroos, but there is little hesitation in serving up a few pork chops. Now we have progress to the stage where you can openly buy kangaroo meat in a supermarket. (Where are the protestors?)

Some people may be able to rationalize in their own minds that there is a difference but the Japanese public may not be convinced that this is anything other than hypocrisy. Those that think that we can make a deal where we give up eating Skippy in exchange for Japan not eating Moby Dick are living in a dream world. It is not going to happen.

In the end we are being left with a status quo that does not suit either party. Whaling continues and protestors follow on the high seas. Regardless of what happens at the high seas, until the Japanese public start to turn on the whale industry it will continue. Without more compelling arguments than whales are beautiful the shift of public opinion is unlikely to move beyond the rebuff that kangaroos are also beautiful.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. similimodo permalink
    January 9, 2010 12:43 pm

    All animals (and birds) are cute to me, when they’re chopped up on a plate. I like eating meat. Probably as much as hard-core environmentalists like chasing whaling ships, and converting people to their way of ‘save the environment’ thinking.

    I met an environmentalist on the bus yesterday. She went into some spiel about joining the wildnerness society, how people power speaks louder than money, etc. Showed me pictures of trees and animals, etc. Eventually, when she’d finished, she spoke more conversationally, and said, “Don’t you care about the environment?” I said, “Not really.”

    I guess my disinterest was that obvious.

    But essentially, most environmentalists don’t care about souls, so why should I care about what they’re interesting in saving?

    If it makes the news, it probably isn’t that important in the overall scheme of things, I reckon.

    As for ‘intelligent’ animals, I’ll stick to my own beliefs about them possessing none, until an animal goes to university and does a thesis on the evolution of the species.


    • January 9, 2010 1:37 pm

      Thanks for your comments.

      One thing that I also try to ignore is a person with a cause. If they have a flyer and a concerned look then I am off to somewhere else.

      I keep seeing all these emotional images and demands for action coming through the media but not much else. So pass me another kangaroo steak and I will think about it.


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