I’ve been reading Richard Black’s updates from the latest IWC* annual conference with interest. Like him, and many fisheries experts, I am struck by the fact that the IWC was set up to regulate whaling not ban it, and that it has been somewhat hijacked by more fundamental conservation interests.
That is not to say there are not moral arguments against whaling, but that I do find it hard to know why the line should be drawn at whales and not other apparently sentient animals. This is the conservation world’s version of the Iraq war argument: sure toppling an evil dictator like Saddam Hussein may be a good thing**, but why stop there? Why not Burma (as it was in 2003), North Korea and Zimbabwe? (Why also not the Central African Republic which is equally badly governed but gets far fewer column inches?) To which one inevitably concludes that the second Iraq war was at least partly about oil, just no-one would admit it. Similarly one concludes that the ban on whaling is at least partly about public opinion driven by idealistic visions of majestic oceanic leviathans and impressively intelligent dolphins than the Hobbesian reality of life in the open seas.***
But the first of Richard’s posts got me thinking about the opposite point of view. Before giving my perspective, I’m going to try an experiment, and post a poll on this blog for the first time, to get reader perspectives. So go and have a read of this, then tell me what you think.
I think all of the above have some legitimacy, but I’ll expand on that and come off the fence next week. If enough of you have voted by then I’ll let you know the results, but either way will leave the poll open for a while and see what transpires.
* International Whaling Commission
** In practice, of course, it didn’t exactly turn out the way everyone hoped, but that is a different kind of argument, that suggests that going to war very rarely achieves the aims of the aggressor, but definitely will lead to huge loss of life and human suffering.
*** Ref that scene in David Attenborough’s magnum opus, the Blue Planet , in which a baby grey whale is mercilessly hunted down by killer whales.