This blog was first published at Earth Tongues on March 9, 2022
“It’s a sin to destroy God’s creations”
The above is a 2000-era quote from Tom Herschelman. While I don’t agree with three of the terms in the quote, it perfectly and succinctly sums up my feelings on the issue.
This essay started as an expression of my absolute revulsion and anguish on my becoming aware that whaling – and by that I mean the authorization for, and the murder of, a whale person or whale people – persists in Norway and Iceland, and has also continued, in one guise or another, in Japan. This extends to all those who would continue the slaughter of a whale person or whale people under any pretext whatsoever. One must remember that there is no evil act so vile that it cannot be rationalized into acceptance by some. (To understand where I’m coming from, it would help to read my blog post on hunting. Relevant, too, is a piece on the Faroe Islands slaughter co-authored by the Editors of this blog.)
As I ruminated on this essay, my focus slowly changed. I realized that there are many kinds of assaults on whale people: some are murderous; some, while immediate such as ship strikes and net entrapments are equivalent to negligent manslaughter; others, such as making and disposing of plastics, are unthinking; and still others, such as catching all the fish the whales eat and the spreading of industrial toxins, reflect the obliviousness of much of humanity to anything that matters. All these assaults must be addressed if one is to have a clear conscience.
In order to keep this essay within bounds, I’m not addressing the deaths of the many other sea mammals at human hands. And then, of course, there are all the other gratuitous deaths inflicted on the rest of sea life too. (Another reason is that it’s personally too sickening for me to consider it all at once.)
As an ecocentric thinker, I fully understand that all living beings have inherent value, irrespective of human wants or desires, and therefore are subjects, with full rights to their person, habitat, and anything else essential to their lives. This understanding is supported by the basic tenets of animal rights, which hold that all living entities have rights similar to, and as inalienable as, human rights for humans. Ecocentrics often adopt the animal rights position and, in addition, include all species and the full breadth of ecosystems as entities holding rights.
Thus, without further argument, it is obvious that humanity’s treatment of whale people constitutes an atrocity. This includes the deliberate murder of a so-called hunt, the quasi-deliberate murder of negligence, the effective murder of habitat destruction, or the oblivious murder of the unthinking.
I have a long history of opposing sea mammal slaughter starting with supporting the International Fund for Animal Welfare in the 1960s and Sea Shepherd in the late 1970s. For more of my history see the article here. This ecocentric stance allows the easy negation of the various rationalizations put forward by the pro-slaughter minions.
A historic right? Well, it looks to me like the ‘right’ to burn witches in the Middle Ages. In my thinking, there is no right, on any basis, to do unnecessary harm. Where did the so-called right come from to pilot a ship fast in a whale habitat, which ensures whale strikes? Where did the ‘right’ come from that allows fishermen to use nets that get ‘lost’ in the ocean and entangle whales? Or the right of a foolish culture to dump plastic into the ocean that fills a whale person’s stomach to the point of their death? Or to steal all the fish? No human has any of these ridiculous ‘rights’.
If you want particular information on whales, read Carl Safina’s marvellous book Becoming Wild. There you will begin to love them and learn about their social structure, their talking to each other, their mutual support, their separate societies, the support grandmothers give their daughters’, and others’, calves, and the existence of their group’s extended traditional knowledge. Why should this be the family which has members murdered out of it? Nothing, absolutely nothing, can justify that barbarity towards fellow Earthlings! The scourge of murdering whale people must be stamped out.
Now comes the interesting part; you’re convinced, so what should you do, what steps should you take? Take a minute and consider the following: Silence, or Knowledge without Action = Complicity; Complicity = Guilt.
It’s my opinion that a society that allows atrocities, of which whaling is but one of countless, to be inflicted on fellow Earthlings is perhaps sick beyond redemption. It is incumbent on each of us to take whatever steps we possibly can to change the culture that allows the infliction of such misery. Encourage reverence for all life in all that you do. You all know of many ways and means that, if implemented or changed, would at least start to create a more life-affirming world. Don’t you think you should get started?
Personally? The fact that there are so few ways for an individual to make a difference causes me great angst. I will buy nothing from the three whaling countries. I write to their embassies on this subject from time to time. Also, Iceland, for instance, has become a destination for travellers from Canada; I speak against tourism there whenever I get the chance among my friends and acquaintances. Nothing Japanese that’s available elsewhere ever crosses my door. I write to expose atrocities, as here. I talk to all those I know about ecocentrism, Earthlings, whaling’s despicable acts, and my love for life. I bring the ecocentric worldview and thinking to every listserv of which I’m a member.
I expect and hope that each person who reads this blog post will do their part in advocating two things: in general, to support the ecocentric position everywhere; and, in particular, to press for the cessation of all whaling. And I expect and hope that they’ll take action in every way possible.
Ian Whyte is Associate Editor at The Ecological Citizen . His path to ecocentrism has been strongly informed by two major influences, one experiential and the other philosophical. The first is a lifelong passion for the wild and he has had a long-time interest in wildflowers. Recently, he has branched out to study birds, moths, butterflies, turtles, and bumblebees. Over time these interests led to knowledge about ecosystems. The other influence was the discovery of deep ecology in the 1980s and many subsequent conversations, especially with David Orton and Ted Mosquin. Both, along with nature and deep ecology, much reading, talk, and thought, led him to ecocentric thinking.