I am currently sat on a train traveling back from Finland. I have just had the privilege of spending a couple of days with group of lawyers, philosophers, and dolphin and whale biologists meeting at the University of Finland to examine the current level of scientific and legal evidence for the inclusion of whales and dolphins into the moral community.
Yep, I did not know what that meant either two days ago, but I was amongst people who did, and the team systematically sifted through the evidence before them and came to what I feel is a remarkable conclusion – that whales and dolphins have a right to life and protection that goes way beyond our current constructs of ‘conservation’ and ‘protection’.
The team looked at the dynamic changes in customary internal law and the latest evidence that cetaceans have sophisticated levels of culture and social complexity that can no longer be ignored or dismissed.
I thought it might be hard to come to a conclusion that whales and dolphins now deserve even greater protection, but the meetings findings reveal that it would now be disingenuous to deny them the status of non-human persons, a term the philosopher and speaker at the conference, Thomas White has introduced me to.
I know that this claim will cause some to mock us for considering such a view, but I challenge anyone to examine the evidence and not come to the same conclusions.
Hearing the distinguished scientist Hal Whitehead discuss the discovery of culture in sperm whales was met with amazement and awe. The reflections of Professor Sudhir Chopra, reflecting on the seminal paper that he co-authored twenty years ago, Whales: Their Emerging Right to Life, published in the American Journal of International Law, concluded that even after almost two decades since this publication, his conclusions ring true today as they did then. What was particularly interesting was the rigour of the science involved at a time when the IWC is turning its back on science and using what it calls 'Ad Hoc scientific approaches', or 'twaddle' science, as Sidney Holt more clearly refers to it.
The meeting was the first stage in an ongoing debate, but its going to be a remarkable road, and it was privilege to be there at its beginning. It is also doubly important at a time when the IWC is still beholden to those who subscribe to the archaic belief that whales and dolphins are just resources. Those who support this view, such as whalers and their insipid allies such as Sweden, should reflect what has been happening at the University of Finland. Its time for a new beginning - lets hope the IWC doesn't set us back fifty years again as its threatening to do with a resumption of commercial whaling.
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I see the IWC Secretariat have reissued the Chairman's campaign document, sorry press release . The statement indicates that the Chairman has redone his numbers and has to revise down the fact that his proposal will now only 'save' 320 whales a year, rather than the 400 a year that they originally claimed
Its not clear whose mistake this was, or where the new advice comes from, but it shows that someone is busy selecting the best spin they can find for their ever shaky proposal to resume commercial whaling
I notice that they have now also selected the years 2005-2009 to compare their proposal to. This selective period over-emphasizes the claims to potential success of the deal. If they had selected 2000-2009, we would see greatly reduced numbers, and indeed for Iceland and Norway huge increases in actual whales taken. Ah statistics and whales - two things often abused.
One would be forgiven in thinking that the whalers have been aware of this strategy and spin for some time wouldn't you.
It reminds me of the old adage, 'there are misunderstandings, misrepresentations and then there is the propaganda of the pro-deal advocates'
My first reaction before we discuss some of the comments included in the press release is to ask on whose authority is this release based. Is this the IWC speaking? Is this the members of the IWC speaking? I really don’t believe so for the latter?. For one thing, the authors refer to Iceland’s whaling under ‘reservation’, a made-up category of whaling that a large number of member states don’t recognize and has no basis in the ICRW The press release refers to the Chair’s and Vice-Chairs proposal as a ‘peace plan’. I am sorry but its not a peace plan, it’s a retrograde step back to the block quotas of 30 years ago. What has been presented before as a negotiating process is now obviously being touted as formal proposals from the Chair and Vice-Chair and for one believe the almost emotional blackmail in this press release should be formally rejected by governments and ngos alike. But what does it actually offer?
The IWC Chair and Vice-Chair have just issued a press release saying ‘If you really care about whale conservation - give our proposal a fair reading’ (7 May 2010) http://iwcoffice.org/index.htm
My first reaction before we discuss some of the comments included in the press release is to ask on whose authority is this release based. Is this the IWC speaking? Is this the members of the IWC speaking? I really don’t believe so for the latter?. For one thing, the authors refer to Iceland’s whaling under ‘reservation’, a made-up category of whaling that a large number of member states don’t recognize and has no basis in the ICRWMy tax goes towards paying for my home government to attend the IWC and I don't like the thought that my hard earned cash is paying for the IWC Chairman and Vice-Chair to push their agenda out to the press.
The press release refers to the Chair’s and Vice-Chairs proposal as a ‘peace plan’. I am sorry but its not a peace plan, it’s a retrograde step back to the block quotas of 30 years ago.
What has been presented before as a negotiating process is now obviously being touted as formal proposals from the Chair and Vice-Chair and for one believe the almost emotional blackmail in this press release should be formally rejected by governments and ngos alike.They claim that it brings ‘all whaling operations under full IWC control and to strengthen further and focus the work of the IWC on conservation issues’
But what does it actually offer?
Continue reading "IWC: Whaler's Charter or cuddly peace plan?"
This is almost directly taken from the Guardian newspaper, but I thought it was worth recounting here.
When a 13ft gray whale was found dead on a beach near Seattle (Washington State), the following was found amongst the 190 litres of algae in its stomach;
Continue reading "What one whale ate"
Well Denmark has at least got an excuse. It's Government has to constantly put the interests of Greenland and the Faroe Islands before its own citizens it seems, but who is the main proponent of commercial whaling outside of Denmark in the EU?
It seems that Sweden has the whaling bug. Whenever the issue is discussed in the EU it's the Swedish Commissioner who is primary salesman for the whalers.
Like an addict that is desperate to see whales dying, the Swedish Commissioner is running a one man crusade within the EU to get commercial whaling back, whatever the cost it would seem.
I would ask the Swedish Government, as I take it that the Commissioner is acting under their direction of course, and not pursuing his own agenda, to look to the latest Scientific Whaling Permit issued on the 19th May for whaling in the north west Pacific to take 120 minke whales. the permit states, 'Revenues derived from the sales and deducted with necessary costs can be regarded as proceeds'. Those 'costs' are commercial profit to the whaler to the rest of us.
So, Sweden, where is Japan's good faith now?
But maybe Sweden is not that interested in the terms that Japan is insisting on, maybe the Swedish Commissioner is simply focused on getting commercial whaling back, whatever the cost - to the whales.
So thanks a lot Sweden. You now lead the ranks of 'European Whale Enemy No 1!'
I want to issue a challenge. Not to the whalers, but to all the organizations such as Friends of the Earth that fought so hard to achieve the moratorium on commercial whaling to revisit that victory and see what the current challenge to the moratorium means for the environmental movement.
I once interviewed a senior bureaucrat in the Japanese Far Sea's Fisheries Department about his role and Japan's addiction to whaling. What struck me was that whilst he personally was a vocal representative of the Japanese Government on whaling, often being interviewed and actually outspoken in his opinions, when I switched off the interview tape and asked him his personal views, he sighed and told me he thought that the whole things was the biggest waste of time for Japan.
Continue reading "The loss of the environmental debate"