Friday, June 25, 2010

Whaling Outcome

Thought I'd give you an update on the whaling situation I talked about a while back. It seems, the decision has been postponed for a year. This actually kind of stinks, as without the guidelines some nations were seeking, the illegal culling of whales by Japan, Iceland, and Norway will continue unchecked.

After reading the International Whaling Commission synopsis, I don't get the impression that a vote was held (however, the report wasn't complete), so don't know what St. Kitts intended to do (but I have a pretty good idea). After being confronted about the alleged bribery attempt by Japan, Dr. Harris (the St. Kitts Minister of Marine Resources) got a bit ornery. He definitely wasn't apologetic, or shamed. Interestingly, a bunch of nations that had voted with Japan last time, couldn't this year because they hadn't paid their dues or shown up (perhaps Japan's $ could have been put to better use than offering female "perks"). If St. Kitts goes any further into debt, maybe they won't get to attend next year either.

Believe it or not, what caused the stale-mate was the fact that countries and representatives of what are sometimes considered "extreme" animal rights groups actually wanted the ban lifted, but with many conditions attached to that decision (conditions that aren't being met now, or are being blatantly ignored, under the current rules), while others didn't want the ban lifted at all (better to just enforce the current decrees). I think the countries trying to keep the ban in place, were actually trying to do the right thing (if you're against whaling), but might have done more damage than good. Things are never as cut and dried as we want them to be and sometimes we have to give to get.

Interestingly, I think even Bequia, a tiny island in the southeast Caribbean, is getting around the current rules. Whaling is not approved for "cultural" purposes. It is approved for Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling (something that would date much further back than the late 1880s). There was no whaling operation of any type established in the Grenadines prior to the mid 19th Century. And more importantly, the islanders don't need the meat or the oil (so it's not for subsistence).

I tried to find pro-whaling articles to understand why anyone would support this endeavor, and found this cheerful article on Bequia's whaling "tradition." With their current "old-fashioned" method, can you imagine the amount of pain these mammals go through before they're finally killed? Here's a neutral witness account of a recent (April 2010) whale kill off of Bequia from a boater passing through. Her pictures of revelers swimming amongst the whale's blood just makes me giddy.

What people will accept in the name of tradition. You know what else was happening in the 1800s when a Bequia local brought back the fun of whale killing from his Nantucket vacation? Slavery (and lynching), the slaughter of American Indians, the burning alive of India's widows, and the foot-binding of women in China. In Africa and the Middle East, it's still quaint to mutilate girl's genitals so they don't like sex. Does whaling compare to these horrors? Maybe not, but can we please stop using "cultural rights" as an excuse to allow for all kinds of atrocities? For all you boaters that keep going to that island, maybe you can sway them a bit during your next visit. Believe me, if St. Kitts started actually whaling locally, this blog would get a lot more interesting...

So we have another year to figure out how to get everyone to do the right thing. I have to admit at this point though, that I'm not sure what we were signing the petition for last month. It seems we did want the ban lifted, so that all the other conditions could be attached to any upcoming kills. But there were other horrible proposals put on the table by Japan that did get knocked down, so maybe we had a hand in that. Maybe by then we can abolish another lovely tradition, this one enjoyed by the Danes who have concluded that they must barbarically pulverize friendly dolphins they've lured into a cove as a right of passage to adulthood (note the video is incredibly graphic and disturbing - well, at least to anyone with a heart).

So, until next year. Assuming all the species survive it (including ours).