I support the campaigns and efforts to stop whaling by Japanese boats; a view which most Australians seem to share. It is also one of the few issues where the federal Liberal Party is comfortable making very hardline pro-environment and anti-animal cruelty statements. Former Environment Minister Ian Campbell has just been appointed to the advisory board of the Sea Shepherd, a group usually seen as more radical in their anti-whaling approach than Greenpeace. And the new Liberal Shadow Environment Minister had criticised the new federal Labor government for not working closely enough with Greenpeace. For its part, Labor has made a point of trying to appear to be taking a strong position against the continuing whale slaughter, although as with the previous government, one can question what practical impact its statements and actions are having.
I welcome all of this public and political opposition, which surfaces every year when the whale killing occurs, but I do still wonder why it is that so many people are so readily (and rightly) outraged about whale hunting, yet don’t bat an eyelid at the daily, institutionalised cruelty and slaughter of millions of other mammals every year in our country. I am not dismissing the treatment of other creatures, such as the literally billions of chickens killed each year for food after short, painful and miserable lives, but for the purposes of this argument I am confining myself to parallels with other mammals, some of which are almost certainly also capable of feeling pain, suffering and fear, just like whales – and humans.
Whilst the method of killing whales is cruel, at least one could argue that prior to that, they had lived lives of freedom. By contrast, millions of other mammals kept in factory ‘farms’, such as pigs, cows and sheep, live all of their lives in dismal conditions where sometimes the only mercy is a relatively quick kill at the end of it all.
I accept that the majority of people have a very different view to mine on the confining and slaughter of these mammals, but I do wonder why those views shift when it comes to killing whales (or other mammals like dolphins) for food. Whilst some would say that the endangered status of many whale species is what makes the difference, I doubt many Australians would say it’s OK to slaughter whales as long as you can demonstrate it’s a sustainable ‘harvest’. It is not surprising that the Japanese government might seek to highlight the apparent inconsistency in this this attitude.
UPDATE: (16/1) Professor Peter Singer makes a similar argument in this piece in The Australian, along with a bit of history to Australia’s opposition to whaling.
The Australian Government strongly opposes whaling, yet it permits the killing of millions of kangaroos each year: a slaughter that involves a great deal of animal suffering. The same can be said of various forms of hunting in other countries, not to mention the extensive animal suffering caused by factory farms.
Whaling should stop because it brings needless suffering to social, intelligent animals capable of enjoying their lives. But against the Japanese charge of cultural bias, Western countries will have little defence until they address the needless animal suffering in their own back yards.