Here is an email I received in response to one of my essays on animal rights. My responses are marked with a ∇ and green type.
Greenpeace’s whaling campaign focuses on commercial whaling. Greenpeace does not actively oppose subsistence hunting by indigenous people. Currently coastal whaling is practised by aboriginal people in Canada, Greenland, Alaska, the Caribbean, the Philippines and Indonesia. However, in keeping with our opposition to commercial whaling, Greenpeace has informed the Makah that if any commercial element is confirmed to be connected with their planned hunt, Greenpeace will change its position of non-opposition to their hunt to active opposition.
Since the Makah have not hunted whales in a century, I fail to see how their hunt constitutes subsistence especially when they themselves claimed the hunt was primarily a religious rite to boost the flagging spirts of the Makah.
Greenpeace views the hunt by the Makah as an additional stress to grey whale populations. However, this is far less significant than habitat degradation: increasing levels of persistent organic pollutants, continued and future off-shore oil drilling and related spills and operations, vessel traffic, and construction of desalinization plants in their calving lagoons.
Granted the hunt is easier to protest than these insidious destroyers of whale habitat, and you properly should focus on where the most harm is being done.
While Greenpeace does not support the killing of whales anywhere our campaign is focused against commercial whaling. This is because Greenpeace firmly believes that commercial whaling, and not subsistence hunting by indigenous peoples, is what caused the near-extinction of seven of the eight great whale species prior to the onset of the International Whaling Commission’s (IWC (International Whaling Commission) ’s) moratorium on commercial whaling.
My objection to the hunt has nothing to do with extinction. I claim it is morally wrong to kill a creature more intelligent than a human. I protest on the same grounds that I protest the slaughter of humans, even though humans are not an endangered species.
Consistent with that belief, Greenpeace actively opposes commercial whaling, under whatever name, worldwide. Norway’s defiant commercial whaling and Japan’s scientific whaling are currently the primary focus of Greenpeace’s active opposition. Our opposition extends to so-called scientific whaling as much of the product of this lethal research is sold commercially. At this time, Japan and Norway continue to push for higher quotas and the resumption of widespread high seas industrial whaling. In 1998, Japan and Norway killed 1161 whales between them. Greenpeace will be attending the 1999 IWC meeting to oppose these moves.
For more than two decades, Greenpeace has led the global struggle to protect whales, through public education, lobbying governments, participation in annual meetings of the IWC, and placing ourselves bodily between whales and commercial whale hunters on the high seas. Our non-violent efforts have garnered the support of millions of people around the world, who have helped to pressure governments into creating crucial protections for whales. These protections include the global moratorium on commercial whaling, and the creation in 1994 of a whale sanctuary in the Southern Ocean which covers 12 million square miles of ocean.
Along with our whale campaign, our campaigns to protect the forests from clearcutting, the oceans from pollution and overfishing, and the atmosphere from climate change, combine to ensure the whales have a clean and healthy environment to live and prosper. Protecting the whales from activities which most threatens their existence is the rôle we see for Greenpeace.
In my gay lib days, I was disheartened to see that the various groups were far more interested in fighting each other than in dealing with our common cause. Though I disagree with you on this the need to protest the Makah hunt, I can understand your position, and I wish you the best in your campaigns. We are both fighting for the same end, just disagreeing on optimal tactics. I have been a Greenpeace supporter since the Amchitka protest days.
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