A couple of days ago, someone from Greenland involved in the whaling debate accused WDCS of being ‘food fascists’. This was in response to a news piece on Iceland and illegal exports of whale products, and was likely a result of our campaign asking for Greenland’s whaling be subject to international controls, rather than the ‘free for all’ they seem to want. I can imagine the term “fascist” was thrown with some venom. But rational parties campaigning for, or against, an issue should choose their words carefully. Otherwise, the language no longer serves the cause for which one fights; it is simply becomes the rhetoric of a zealot.
For most people the concept of fascism forbids openness in political systems; it does not allow for opposing views to be heard and it supports the use of violence to ensure that the single view is upheld - all concepts that WDCS abhors. In fact, it is openness and accountability for the Greenland whaling proposal that we seek.
I actually think the ‘pro-commercialization’ interests in Greenlandic whaling have a right to make their case. I just don’t agree with them. I think Greenland’s interests are better served by pursuing a responsible Aboriginal or truly Indigenous Subsistence Whaling approach hand-in-hand with the world community through the IWC. But I also believe they have the right to make their case for anything they wish to call for. I also believe I have the right to make a case to oppose them. That’s democracy.
It appears that the arguments of Greenland’s pro commercial-whaling
interests are that ‘their rights are paramount’ but with no
corresponding concept of responsibility or duties to others beyond their
direct civic group. Their proposal to hunt whales poses a philosophical
dilemma - what is the ‘moral right’ of the individual, what is owed and
what is ‘owned’? Their insistence to subjugate the interests of the
species they seek to hunt much less the wider human community, imposes a
philosophical autocracy – based on their belief in their individual
‘moral right’ over all else. Their interpretation of their ‘moral
rights’ appear to include the absolute control of ‘their’ world around
him, to buy and sell, but also to abuse and destroy. There does not
appear to be consideration of the rights of the wider human community in
this doctrine or the individual’s duty to that wider human society, let
alone any consideration of duties towards other beings.
we forget that every individual exercising their rights unchecked
cannot serve the greater good. The greater good must be learned from the
lessons of history, our moral and physical understanding of the world
around us, and the concept of shared responsibility and duty to each
And as a proposal to allow commercial whaling is ever
closer to being finalized, it’s the lesson that those who are rushing
headlong into “compromise” seem to have forgotten. They argue that their
intent is to ‘bring whaling under international control’, but they are
actually, by default, placing whaling into the sphere of ‘domestic
control’ and therefore strengthening the argument for moral right of the
nation state to demand and receive their ‘individual rights’ over
international cooperation and responsibility.
The irony of the
situation is all the more acute because it focuses on the fate of
species that do not belong to any one nation, and regularly cross
national boundaries to feed, to breed and live their long lives. To
whom do whales ‘belong’? Isn’t it possible that they don’t ‘belong’ to
any nation? What of whales’ own moral right to go about their lives in
It’s also important to point out that the rhetoric of
zealotry is an equal opportunity offender - and those that promote
conservation and/or environmental causes can be guilty of it as well.
Lawson writing on the Climate Action Centre Website
argues that climate change is the most important issue facing
campaigners. That’s fair enough I say, any campaigner can claim that
they think their subject is important, they can even claim it’s the most
But Lawson goes on to imply that people should ‘only
be campaigning on climate change’ and singles out some other campaigns,
such as the campaign for whales in contrast, should be put aside in
favour of focusing on the climate change debate.
It reminds me
of the rhetoric of ‘it’s the economy stupid’, - the claim that is ‘my
goal is the only goal that has worth’, and to the rest of us - well, we
are all a bit stupid is the implication.
What Lawson forgets is
that many of the people that campaign for whales are also the
constituents that support campaigns for addressing climate degradation.
These are the same people that support ‘Amnesty’ and ‘Children in Need’,
attend their local school’s spring fair and donate to the local
hospice. The moment you denigrate their democratic right to pursue and
support such campaigns and initiatives, then you begin to loose the
The conservation, environmental and animal welfare
movement is a broad church. Let’s respect each other’s views. I respect
others' right to campaign, I respect the ideals of Lawson to say climate
change is important. We should not, however, respect the gross and
offensive misuse of words that hold so much deep and passionate meaning
in our society. Open discussion and debate is a hallmark of our time –
treat it with care and do not become intellectual lazy because of the
ease. With the slip of the pen it is easy to become associated with the
hollow rhetoric of zealots.
No-one should denigrate the
millions of people who also think whales are important.
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