Friday, April 9, 2010

Tell me why non-endangered whales shouldn't be harvested.

I saw an online Greenpeace petition that wanted me to tell Obama to oppose any relaxation on a ban of commercial whaling and it got me thinking.

I don't know much about the international ban on whaling but I've always heard it was because whales were hunted to the point of extinction. Overfishing of whales was one of those short-sighted practices of centuries past before the idea of environmental stewardship had really taken hold. Without getting into the history of whaling, which has been happening for millennia, and the specific numbers of whale populations, if you assume for a minute that whale populations have rebounded enough to safely allow some limited harvesting, would you have a problem with it?

I think a lot of people would say "No whaling under any circumstances." If that's your stance, I want to know why. Aside from being a mammal, what makes a whale different from a sardine or a tuna?

If you're vegetarian or vegan and don't think we should be eating animals at all, that's fine. I disagree, but that's fine. I'm not really concerned with you, though. I want to know what would make a omnivore be opposed to whaling.

I would imagine you could make the sentience argument for cetaceans, but that's getting dangerously close to speciesism. I just don't think we know enough about animals to assume that a whale or dolphin has sentience but that a pig or chicken or cow or oyster does not.

I have to admit that there's something troubling about eating and killing animals that I have paid just to try to get a glimpse of and that might be more intelligent than we are, but my brain tells me I shouldn't let my emotions get in the way of an ethical decision. Do we really want our dietary decisions made for us based on someone deciding that an animal is sufficiently intelligent.

I also probably wouldn't make whale or dolphin a regular part of my diet based on mercury consumption alone, but I'm having trouble finding any reason that limited whaling should be banned if the population numbers have truly rebounded. Tell me why I'm wrong.

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