Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Ethics of whaling

It's been good to see Greenpeace out at sea against the whalers last month. Like in the old days.

I had the opportunity in the last few months to look back into the whaling issue quite extensively. Japan is now very close to regaining a simple majority at the International Whaling Commission (IWC), and this year's annual meeting in St Kitts, an island nation in the Eastern Caribbean which is thought to have been bought by the whaling industry could be the make it or break it meeting.

It has been many years since the whaling issue was at the centre of international environmental policy. Back in the 1970s we used to say that if we cannot secure the survival of the largest animals on the planet, how can we secure a future for the rest (including ourselves)?

Our friends at the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) have exposed the ties between Gorton's of Gloucester fish fingers and the on-going subsidised Japanese "scientific" whaling programme. Greenpeace and other organisations are using this information, and you can join them to put pressure on Japan.

The #1 argument used to justify whaling is not so much that whale meat is a legitimate source of proteins (read the story in this week's New Statesman: it appears that the Japanese don't really want to eat that stuff), but that because they are predators whales need to be culled as a fisheries resource management measure.

When everyone talks of the ecosystem approach for biodiversity conservation, this raises a fundamental ethical question:

Should the ecosystem approach be implemented from a homo- or an eco-centric stand-point?

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