Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Whales, Cows, Pigs, Cars and Motorbikes

Whales, Cows, Pigs, Sheep, Fish, Chickens, Dogs, Cats, Guinea Pigs, Kangaroos, Snakes, Crickets and any other life-form you care to mention; somewhere in the world, someone is eating one right now.

That, dear reader, is the argument most regularly put forward by the apologists for whale murder who seem to appear en masse every time a campaigner highlights the atrocities perpetrated against ocean wildlife in the killing fjords of the Faroe Islands and the killing Cove of Taiji.

It is not, they will tell you, the whale murderers who have the problem, it is us, the stupid, hippy, tree-hugging, eco-nutters who fail to understand that these poor, impoverished people have to kill to survive. We fail to understand that it is traditional for them to kill whales. To top it all, they will tell you that if we don't protest against battery farms (remember when they used to just be for hens - did you know that pigs and cows are factory farmed as well now?) then we are being hypocrites for campaigning against unnecessary and extremely cruel whale murder.

I am going to deal with that last point in today's blog. Future blogs will look at the ridiculous claims for "tradition" and the even more ridiculous claims for subsistence, coming from 2 of the richest nations on the planet.  You can be sure that the people of the Faroe Islands or the fishermen of Taiji have neither need to survive on forage nor any demonstrable adherence to tradition in a material form other than the barbarities which they inflict on defenceless animals using rather non-traditional tools to do so.  For now, let us deal with the hypocrisy challenge.

Stealing cars is a crime. So is stealing motorbikes. Both modes of transport. Both could be said to be similar.

If I witness someone attempting to steal a car and step in to stop it does it make me a hypocrite if I don't step in to stop some other criminal attempting to steal a motorbike at the same time? Let me take that a bit further. If, while I was concentrating on the car crime, I knew that there was someone else concentrating on the motorbike crime and therefore my assistance was not required - am I still a hypocrite? 

Does anyone think the respective owners of the car and the motorbike actually care who stopped their vehice being stolen? Do you think either owner said, "Hey, why are you stopping that being stolen, I wanted the other guy to stop it?" Doesn't seem very likely does it? Frankly, neither of them would care who prevented the crime, they would just be glad it had been prevented.

There are an enormous number of animal rights campaign groups out there. Some are general ones campaigning for all animal rights, regardless of species. Some are very specific, targeting just one species.

My own organisation, Sea Shepherd is not specifically an animal rights campaign group, it is an ocean conservation society and that is where our focus must lie.

Of course we have sympathies with many of the other groups Those sympathies are shared especially by the vegans amongst us of which I am one. But we are highly focussed on protecting ocean wildlife worldwide and - if you will forgive my hubris on this occasion - we are rather good at what we do.

It is true that you could argue we are only interested in protecting cars whilst leaving others to worry about the motorbikes but then, there are others protecting "motorbikes" so what is the problem? Is it perhaps just that our enemies would rather all the various campaign groups were arguing amongst themselves rather than getting on with the job of protection? I think it might be.

I must say though, that even if there were no other campaign groups out there, if it was only us - and sometimes it sure feels like it! - then I would still not be willing to sacrifice my ocean focus.

You see, whilst the vegan in me does not really see a difference, cruelty is cruelty is cruelty, the researcher in me (and in particular the researcher part which has actually been on the beach and in the water and in boats alongside pilot whales in distress) understands that there is a world of difference between the manner in which agricultural animals are killed individually and the way in which entire families of dolphins and pilot whales are ruthlessly slaughtered.

I can't give you a safe car vs motorbike analogy for this one. the closest I can get is someone being executed on death row (which I also think is totally barbaric just in case you wondered) vs the Rwandan Genocide of very recent history. Let me not dwell on that but instead describe what happens to dolphins being slaughtered in Taiji's killing cove

It can take 6 hours for the killers to drive dolphins into the cove. 6 hours during which the terrified animals are herded together and pushed to near exhaustion (and in some cases beyond exhaustion to actual death), kept disoriented, frightened, scared beyond limits that any human could endure, forced to face fight or flight as a family group with nothing to fight against and flight being the inevitable acceptance of trickery away from apparent danger into apparent safety. In fact, into certain death.

There is no quick way to kill dolphins and pilot whales. It is a slow, agonising death and these are highly vocal animals who scream with pain, over and over again. It can take more hours.

There is no way to break the social bonds which these animals have in there large, extended-family groups. No way short of death. As this death is not short, as this death is horrific, as this death is not quick and as the death of any one amongst a family group and as the death of each one in succession becomes a shared horror, there is no way this can be compared to the death of any other animal other than, perhaps, those humans who have experienced the extreme war crimes associated with ethnic cleansing by an oppressor who had no fear of reprisals.

Can you imagine the terror of a child swimming in its own mother's blood, hearing the screams for hour after ghastly hour of its brothers, its sisters, of all of its family members? Can you imagine waiting for your turn next? Can you imagine relief turning to numb disbelief as you are captured live and transported to a life of captivity entertaining spoiled adults with their dragged along children in an ocean park claiming to be an educational centre of excellence?

Still want to tell me I'm a hypocrite because I am willing to tell you how much I care about that but not give someone else a hard time because they put butter on their bread?

Taiji, Japan and Faroes, Denmark are places of horror. A horror that must be stopped. I don't have a lot of energy left to focus on other things right now, my focus needs to be on doing what I can to end ocean cruelty. End it especially in these two revolting shrines to slaughter.

Thank you for reading.