Boycotts – Where to Stop?


I am appalled that Japan has recently decided to hunt Humpback whales in significant numbers again.

Okay, I eat meat, yes – I grew up on my family’s Aberdeen Angus beef farm in Ireland so vegetarianism has never been something I’ve seriously considered – but I go to a lot of trouble to ensure I know where the meat I am buying has come from and how the animals were reared and slaughtered.

If cows were harpooned by passing trucks and then dragged along the road, bleeding to death, back to the meat-packing factory there would be a horrified outcry. But apparently its okay to do the equivalent to marine mammals, despite their demonstrable intelligence. Which is sickening.

So, I am considering how to show my disapproval. Should I boycott Japanese goods since the world seems to turn according to market forces?

But then, I am also enraged by the practice of shark-finning (live sharks are caught, have their fins and tail sliced off and are then thrown back into the sea, alive but unable to swim so they’ll either suffocate or starve to death, depending on the species and whether it needs to keep moving to breathe) to provide ingredients for the ‘delicacy’ of shark fin soup.

Fins fetch high prices and shark species numbers are crashing partly as a result of this trade – and once you remove the apex predators from any balanced ecological system the consequences are dire for pretty much everything else…

Should I boycott the goods of the countries who eat shark fin soup, or the countries whose fishermen mutilate the sharks to supply the demand? Or both? Or neither?

But then, is it just that these are two of my ‘favourite’ animals? Creatures I happen to know a little about and can therefore sympathise with? Afterall, insect species are currently suffering the highest rates of global extinctions and I’m not outraged… So if a humane way could be found to slaughter whales and sharks, would I be okay with it?

Or is it simply that they are endangered, that their species diversity is threatened by the numbers of them we kill and the length of time it takes their populations to recover? If they weren’t endangered, would that be fine? If their numbers could be managed – if they could be farmed as we farm cattle – would that make it acceptable to eat them?

Sometimes its good to question one’s outrage.


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10 Responses to Boycotts – Where to Stop?

  1. As I get older I become more depressed that there is so little that we ordinary people can do about these outrages. This hurts all the more because back in the 70’s we knew we were changing the world. We went so close in those special years. Then some of our fellows betrayed us! They used us to gain power then sold their souls to the big corporations.

    Crosby Stills and Nash are still working within – – – along with Woody Guthrie.

    We may not overcome, but we should never stop trying!

    A special hug for you because you care, and think about your caring. There is still hope.

  2. I don’t think you can equate eating beef with eating endangered species, or killing them simply because you can. Your outrage is not misplaced. I think you should definitely act on it. But bear in mind that boycotting all Japanese products is not going to affect the marine mammal fishing industry particularly.

    What I do is I check in on the National Seafood Guide run by the Monterrey Bay Aquarium to get guidelines on what seafood is harvested sustainably, and only buy that. and then click on the Seafood Watch icon.

  3. Jenny says:

    Good point. Are cows, chickens and whales different? Is it okay just because one is more beautiful, or than the other? Is it okay because one is killed more humanely than the other? And you’re right … what about the insects?

    I think we all need to make as many changes as we can. Buy local, eat more vegan, recycle – all the things that we know are better for our planet. Small changes do have an effect!

    Maybe we could all take the David Suzuki Challenge?

  4. ombudsben says:

    There is a legal term for acts that are shock and offend the sensibilities.

    For me, factory farming poultry and then pigs are among them. Veal, too. Also puppy mills in the US — all this stuff is straight from the movie Koyanisqaatsi (life out of balance) for me in the prolonged suffering it entails.

    The de-finning of sharks and slaughter of whales is also shocking and offensive, I think, so it bumps up into a morally repugnant category.

    In some ways deforestation bothers me, rationally, more than the others — in that it has both awful local (e.g., insects, birds) consequenves, as well as global consequences.

    But de-beaking poultry or the prolonged suffering of pigs or calves or de-finning sharks strikes me in a visceral, emotional way, which sets them apart. And there’s nothing wrong with that registering in its own gut level way — I have to think eventually this stuff will stop.

    It’s good, too, to remember that some progress is made. The wholesale slaughter of the 19th century has mostly stopped.

    And there are odd little bits of progress. Here in what all you foreigners call “the states”, the common crow has in the last couple decades made a remarkable comeback. They have moved back into most American cities in surprising numbers, and are ubiquitous. Yes, they can be pests, but I kind of admire them for how bright they are.

    Why have they moved in among us?

    We are no longer shooting at them as we once did.

  5. truce says:

    Thanks Archie – and its odd, but I distinctly remember joining Greenpeace in 1987 (good grief that’s 20 years ago!) in order to stop whaling… back to square one now I guess *rolls up sleeves and cracks knuckles* A big hug to you, too, for caring 🙂

    hmh – that Monterey Bay link is brilliant, thanks, I will definitely use their guides to Ocean-friendly seafood.

    Jenny – yep, eating local produce to reduce food miles and recycling are two things I make a conscious effort to do, but going vegan is not an option for me, I love meat and seafood – I just want to be sure the critters had a good life and a fear-free, pain-free death. I’ll look into the challenge link, seems great!

    Ombudsben – goodness yes, intensive ‘battery’ farming of poultry (as well as pigs, and calves for veal) is dreadful. Any animal that pecks its own – or its cellmates – feather’s off is obviously unhappy and disturbed. There can be no clearer test of whether animals suffer than that.

    I do agree that progress has been made and hopefully will continue to be made. But sometimes it seems that we’ve just replaced the wholesale slaughter of one species for another… okay so we don’t kill thousands of egrets for their display feathers anymore, but we are trawling the ocean bottoms and killing hundreds of thousands of crabs (along with anything which gets in the way and is just collateral damage – ‘bycatch’) every year at an increasing and alarming rate.

    But here’s to the success stories, such as the crows, who have made a comeback, almost despite us!

  6. I’m a bit curious about the results of examining your outrage. You ended with a bunch of questions. Were the rhetorical questions?

  7. piereth says:

    Same. I struggle with these abstractions and never seem to find any kind of resolution… as a little person what do I do? Surely I’m a tiny cog in the machine; however tiny I still have some clout, so what can I do?

    I know what I don’t like and I know what I can do, myself, to work towards supporting the things I do like. No-one can do everything, but everyone can do something!

  8. azahar says:

    I don’t think you need to justify your outrage, nor whatever you choose to do about it. If we all took small steps towards setting stuff right then things would change. Even if it ‘only’ affects your life – there will still be a ripple effect and who knows how far it will reach?

  9. truce says:

    Bobby – the results of examining my outrage were more questions, so I decided that even if the small-scale actions I can take do nothing more than appease my conscience, rather than materially affecting the way the world runs, that’s okay.

    It also made me remember how consistently and permanently outraged I was during my late teens and early twenties… which has got to be a good thing. Things mattered a lot to me then, and by and large they still do.

    piereth – “No-one can do everything, but everyone can do something!” Well said 🙂

    Azahar – yes, it makes me remember Gandhi and how much that one man managed to achieve.

  10. I used to be really concerned about nuclear war. Somehow my concern about it has kind of fizzled. I don’t think it is right that it has fizzled. I still think war is one of the biggest problems we have. This isn’t just because wars are terrible. They also distract people from paying attention to other real problems.

    I think I’ll have to think more about that. And I offer you compliments: the way this was put led me to the idea that I should think more about that.

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