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It is just another day in the life of a whale. Swimming through the waters of the Southern Ocean, a whale happily plays with its family. Then, in an instant, everything changes. A spear is impaled in the whale, and it wails in pain. In fear, the whale’s family frantically flees for safety. Left behind is a slaughtered whale and water dirtied with crimson blood. For years, commercial whaling has been a controversial subject. Japanese whaling fleets have killed whales in mass numbers. The government of Japan insisted the whale deaths were for scientific research, but the whale meat was sold to the government for consumption. In the Faroe Islands, traditional grinds have constantly taken place- resulting in a high number of dead whales and lots of whale meat available in food stores. Animal conservationists believe the population of whales in our oceans is low, and bans on whaling that aim to conserve the population are either being violated or are not strict enough. Whaling should be illegal worldwide.
Whaling has a negative effect on our oceans and ultimately our society. Paul Watson, captain of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, says, “The oceans have been so severely diminished that there’s a good chance we could kill them. And if the oceans die, we die” (Shapiro). Every part of our world, including the oceans, impacts our daily lives. If the oceans were to become unbalanced or unhealthy, the rest of our world would also become unhealthy. The population of whales is already decreasing and the population of fish is increasing, which makes the food chain unbalanced. Furthermore, according to Ben Macintyre’s article The Commercial Ban is Necessary to Protect Endangered Species, “Killing a whale for research is like building a coal-fired power station to examine greenhouse gases.” The damage done in the process of learning something cannot be undone, nor can it be overlooked. When whales are being slaughtered, it is not just one whale that loses a life for research or consumption. Many whales die, and the population of whales suffer. In addition, whales help the ocean store carbon dioxide. In the article The Impact of Whaling on the Ocean Carbon Cycle: Why Bigger Was Better, Andrew Pershing, professor at Cornell and researcher of biological oceanography, et al states, “Because of their large size and few predators, whales and other large marine vertebrates can efficiently export carbon from the surface waters to the deep sea.” The more whales killed, the more carbon lost. “Populations of large baleen whales now store 9.1x106 tons less carbon than before whaling” (Pershing). The food chains of our oceans are not only becoming unbalanced, but the carbon cycle is also being affected. The rest of our climate will face changes as a result to the impact on the oceans.
Also, whaling is animal cruelty. Humans do not have methods of killing whales in a humane manner. Typically, whales are shot with explosive harpoons. In other cases, however, they have been electrocuted with an electric lance. Who would choose to die in this painful manner? Paul Watson describes a shocking encounter in which he experienced the slaughter of an innocent whale:
But they were waiting for him and with an unattached harpoon at point-blank
range he fired and that whale screamed, fell back on the water and was rolling in
agony on the surface when I caught his eye. Suddenly I saw him dive and a trail
of bloody bubbles coming towards us real fast. He came up and out of the water at
an angle so that the next move was that he would fall right down on top of us and
crush us. As I looked into that eye, I saw something which really changed my life.
That whale had the power to kill us right there and I could see understanding. I
could see the whale really understood what we were trying to do. I could see him
pull himself back and his muscles move and instead of coming forward he fell
back and I saw his eye slip beneath the surface and he died. He could have killed
us but he chose not to do so (Shapiro).
Whales are intelligent creatures. They have a family, and they have the ability to communicate. They experience the pain of a spear piercing their skin and digging into their body, releasing a stream of blood that dyes the water a sickening red. Also, a National Geographic article titled Blue Whale states, “Blue whales are among the loudest animals on the planet. They emit a series of pulses, groans, and moans, and it’s thought that, in good conditions, blue whales can hear each other up to 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) away.” The intelligence whales have is similar to the capability humans contain, and they deserve to be treated with respect. Furthermore, how is butchering a pod of whales any different from human genocide? “It has been estimated that in the Antarctic alone, more than 2, 000, 000 whales were killed by commercial whalers during the twentieth century” (SeaWeb). The amount of whales killed in the twentieth century alone totals to nearly one-third the amount of Jewish people killed in the Holocaust. It is animal cruelty when humans drastically decrease the whale population via mass killing.
Not only is whaling considered animal cruelty, but it also is barbaric. Years ago, commercial whaling was popular due to its profitability. But nowadays, we no longer survive solely on whale meat nor do we depend on any of the resources whales provide. Sue Lieberman, head of the global species program at WWF, says, “Economically it makes no sense, it’s not necessary for food security” (Commercial). If our society does not need whale meat to survive, why should we continue to slaughter whales? In addition, whaling has nearly ended in disaster from the past. Richard Page, who works for Greenpeace and aims for protected marine reserves, says, “Commercial whaling in the past led to the devastation of population after population of whales” (Whaling). If we continue to slaughter whales and act in a barbaric manner, history will repeat itself, and whales will be pushed closer to the brink of extinction. Lastly, some cultures continue to hunt whales in modern day because it is a tradition. Greenpeace International, an organization that aims to conserve the environment and promote peace, explains in an article, “Japan’s Antarctic whaling did not begin until the 1930s, and was expanded massively following World War II at the instigation of the United States, as a means of feeding a starving population” (Whalers’). Just because a tactic once worked in the past, does not mean it is appropriate to continue. “According to an opinion poll conducted in Japan in June 2006, 69 percent of Japanese people do not support whaling on the high seas and 95 percent never or rarely eat whale meat” (Whalers’). Whaling is no longer as popular as it once was in Japan. The government continues to kill these creatures despite the general public’s view. It is barbaric that Japan is inflicting pain upon these animals when their meat is not being consumed or used for any substantial benefit.
Many Faroese believe whaling is essential to their survival. Traditionally, people living on the Faroe Islands participate in mass whale slaughters, otherwise known as a grind. In a grind, Faroese will force groups of whales towards the beach where men await the whales with various spear-like tools. The whales are killed, and their meat is sold for consumption. In Lucy Brake’s article, Sea Shepherd fights slaughter of pilot whales in Faroe Islands, she says, “…some of the inhabitants of the Faroe Islands see the whale killing as a god given right.” However, God would want humans to treat animals with respect rather than butchering them. Despite whaling being a part of some traditions, it should not be allowed to continue in our society today.
We all want a prosperous, healthy world. The world would not be the same without our oceans, in which whales play a major role. Commercial whaling could force the species to become extinct and lost forever; causing a chain of events that would affect our society. Become involved in the battle to save the lives of innocent whales by offering a contribution at the Sea Shepherd Website.
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Shapiro, Michael. "Sea Shepherd's Paul Watson." Earth Island Journal. Earth
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