What’s Up With Whaling? Humans, the Unnecessary Predators of the Ocean

“Ships are expendable; the whales are not.”

– Paul Watson, founder of Sea Shepherd.

Humpback stellwagen edit by Whit Welles is licensed under CC BY 3.0

As I scroll down my Twitter feed, it seems that almost every other post is distressing images of blood red seas, vulnerable creatures, or an idyllic tourism image which has been edited in some way to shock the viewers. Don’t visit Norway, they hunt whales. Icelandic nature is beautiful but their whaling practices are ugly.

Like most people, I’m very anti-whaling, but I just want to say for the record that we shouldn’t point fingers of blame at the Norwegian people. Most of them are just as disappointed that this practice still goes on. When I lived in Iceland, I saw far more anti-whaling information being spread in the streets than I ever did pro-whaling.  Calling all Icelandic people whale hunters is like calling all British people badger cullers, or fox hunters.

Why Does it Still Go On?

'AustralianCustoms-WhalingInTheSouthernOcean' by Customs and Border Protection Service, Commonwealth of Australia is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 AU

A slow, painful and degrading death

With this is mind, with so many people against whaling, why does it still go on? As whale-watching has now become the biggest eco-tourism activity out there, it is clear that these beautiful ocean giants are far more beneficial to human populations alive rather than dead. I wouldn’t want to put a price tag on another creature, but if it meant saving them from needless slaughter, then that is what we should do.

People will pay anywhere between $50 to over $100 to see a whale in its natural habitat, and there are a lot of tours that will take enthusiastic guests out to catch a glimpse of a breaching beauty. So again my question is, why does it still go on?

Whale hunting is prominent in three countries: Japan, Norway and Iceland (and the Faroe Islands). Between them, they kill around 2,000 whales per year. Not only that, but the way these creatures are killed is slow, painful, and degrading to the animal. The whales are killed with a mere profit in mind, making the people actually doing the hunting look like money-grabbing fools.

I don’t think its just about profit. If it were, then they would know by now that they would be so much richer changing their boat into a nature sightseeing tour or something. Whalers from Japan claim they are hunting whales for scientific purposes, however many environmental groups argue that this just a cover up so that they can find a loophole to hunt legally. Besides, the scientific purposes excuse is not satisfactory in my opinion. Why would you want to research and count whale populations by slaughtering them? I’m not an expert, but surely simply tagging a whale would be the more preferable option. Better yet, why can’t humans just stay out of their business?!

“Tradition is an Explanation for Acting Without Thinking”

'Japanese Waves' by Taymaz Valley is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Hokusai’s Wave tainted with the spilled blood of whales

I think, on some level, commercial whale hunting is related to power, and let’s not forget the good old tradition excuse! Aside from all participating in whaling, Iceland, Norway and  Japan all share a common history. They have been doing it since as early as the 10th century, and they did it to survive. By this logic, modern day whale hunting is completely justifiable (according to them). You know what I think? I think you should all put your harpoons down and eat some vegetables. It’s 2016, you don’t need whale meat to survive.

Stop using tradition as a way to justify cruelty. It’s wrong, and brings out the very worst in people. Traditionally, black people were slaves. Does that justify slavery today? Of course it doesn’t.

I’ve been called out before for being too insensitive when getting angry about unnecessary traditions, but I kind of think that 3,000 whales’ lives are a little bit more important than offending some self-righteous humans.

Is it Going to Get Better?

'2009-02-01 Sea Shepherd crew in a Zodiac race alongside Japanese harpoon whaling vessel the Yushin Maru No 1' by John is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Sea Shepherd vs. Japanese whalers

The good news is yes. I think it will. Iceland’s tourist population is rapidly on the rise, which is the country’s main source of income, so if it looks like their whaling practices will affect their tourism figures, they will definitely back track. I have high hopes that this, combined with organisational pressure, will push whaling back into the cupboard for good.

The same applies for Norway and Japan. Norway is a beautiful, desirable Scandinavian country with varied landscapes and nature. People have, and will continue to travel to the country to experience this. Would the government really jeopardise this in favour of needless hunting? I don’t think so. Japan, too, is a unique place on our planet, and they hosted 19.73 million tourists in 2015, generating 3.48 trillion yen for their economy. Think about how much more money their country would make if only they threw out their whale hunting boats.

Activists, too, are actually making a significant impact. NGO Sea Shepherd forced Japanese whalers to retreat early in 2009/10, meaning less whales died that year. In fact, Sea Shepherd has been the ocean’s saviour for the past 30 years, working tirelessly to protect all sea life from the destructive nature of humankind. Every year they combat whalers using direct approaches and stopping the action at the roots – in the oceans themselves.

Voices on social media are also making a difference. By sharing vivid images, gifs, and petitions, we are spreading the word. Our online voices are making noise, and that noise can’t be ignored.

So stand up, speak out, and support organisations like Sea Shepherd. If you do go on holiday to one of these places, make sure to boycott any company that supports whaling, or serves whale meat. If you live in one of these countries, your activism can be more direct by doing public protests, or writing letters to your government.

The more we do, the faster things will change. And things need to change. For the sake of our planet’s whales.

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Image Attribution:

Humpback stellwagen edit‘ by Whit Welles is licensed under CC BY 3.0

AustralianCustoms-WhalingInTheSouthernOcean‘ by Customs and Border Protection Service, Commonwealth of Australia is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 AU

Japanese Waves‘ by Taymaz Valley is licensed under CC BY 2.0

2009-02-01 Sea Shepherd crew in a Zodiac race alongside Japanese harpoon whaling vessel the Yushin Maru No 1‘ by John is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

A Message To All Millennials*

*And anyone else younger or older who identifies with the content I’m putting across here.

Dear Fellow Millennials,

I don’t know you, and you don’t know me. I’m just another person on the internet sharing thoughts and ideas that probably only a few people will read. But I feel as though my message is an important one, and I want as many people to read it as possible.

The world around us is crumbling. Maybe this has been going on for years, but it’s only within the past two decades in which the internet has been around to provide information and let us know what’s going on. But things are falling apart, there’s no denying this. And I don’t think we can rely on the older generations to fix this anymore. No, this is up to us.

And I have – or at least, I desperately want to have  – faith in us. This isn’t a competition of who can be more socially aware, but if it were a contest, then our generation would be winning. We are the generation that grew up with social media, and finding comforts with internet friends who lived on the other side of the globe. We are the generation that old people shake their heads at. We are a generation of kids who struggled with self-esteem and body positivity as beauty expectations rose higher and higher. We are the generation of change.

Every generation faced their own struggles as they grew up and into the real world, the difference about our generation is the urgency to do the right thing before it’s too late. And I believe that we have a power to make change. If I don’t believe this, then I have nothing to believe in. Being the change isn’t hard, though. If everyone stands together to meet a common goal, then change is achievable. We just need to figure out how to do this. In my opinion, education is the most important part of this. Education = knowledge. Knowledge = power. Power = change. See where I’m going with this? (I think it’s really important to use your university degree  to help influence your activist voice, I’ve discussed this in this blog post).

With the whole world right at our fingertips on our iphones and laptops, it has never been easier to educate yourself. Question everything. Don’t believe what the media says. Find out for yourself. Develop your own opinions and ideas, and when people try to crush them, simply respond with an offer to help.

Learn about what’s wrong with this world, and learn what you can do to help. I don’t have all of the answers, but I’m reading, and I’m learning all the time. Being at university has helped me think more critically about everything. Even my younger sister (just turned sixteen), has more political knowledge than I ever did when I was her age. This is so inspiring, that in a mere five years, people younger than me are developing their minds. What will she be like when she’s my age? She wants to do some good in this world, and fortunately our parents are liberal enough to let her.

As I’ve said before, every time we spend money, we are either supporting or boycotting a company. We need to be thinking every time we make a purchase. What are we eating? What are we wearing? Should we be supporting this? Does this conflict with my moral values? For example, most people are against animal cruelty. So why do so many of us still eat meat and wear leather? Educate yourself about what you support, no matter how small it seems. Change your lives to fit with your views.

Also, don’t just live the way your parents want you to. If my mother had her way, I’d be in a career in business straight after finishing my degree, and getting a mortgage on a house. But how am I supposed to influence and change the world living like that? It’s up to you to find your own path and follow it, rather than blindly obeying what other people want you to do. Being comfortable and moderately wealthy is one thing, being happy is another. What would you rather?

I’m not writing this message to tell people what to do, as usual I’ve kept it pretty vague. It’s just a collection of thoughts and rambles that go through my head on a daily basis when I worry about the state of the world. The only thing that reassures me today is the work from conservationists, activists, and our own generation. Every time I see someone unexpected from my old school stand up and speak out, I feel slightly reassured. We are thinking along the right lines. And there’s so many of us, that surely, surely if we all practiced what we preached, something good would come from it?

I don’t know. What do you think?

Yours sincerely,

Me.

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