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.
[PHOTO CREDIT: GEORGETTE DOUWMA / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY]