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Makah Whale Sacrifice

The horse-faced mage above is a Hayagriva. Such a statue was given by a Buddhist monk to The Sea Shepherd Society. The Dalai Lama later explained explained to Captain Paul Watson the meaning of the gift: Hayagriva is the compassionate aspect of Buddhist wrath. In other words, you do not wish to cause injury but sometimes when people refuse to become enlightened, you must frighten them into seeing the light. Intimidation without hurting. It is sometimes the only way.
Thank thee oh Lord. Thou hast done it all.
~ Svend Foyn (1809 1894 age:85) on his invention the exploding whaling harpoon.


SeaShepherd The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is Paul Watson’s group who is fighting the Washington State Makah Indians who have revived their ancient religious rites of whale sacrifice, only now using high power boats and high power weapons to kill four to five whales a year. They initially asserted the point of the exercise was not money or food, but to improve their self esteem and tribal unity.
The crux of the debate is Are whales highly intelligent? The Makah and their supporters claim whales are like giant stupid cows useful only for meat. Entertaining the notion that they are intelligent would be romantic soft-headed foolishness. They refuse to even discuss it.

Some protesters (myself included) claim whales are highly intelligent, quoting the works of cetacean researchers or personal experience. When I say whales are highly intelligent, I don’t mean they are on par with pigs. I mean they are likely equal or superior to man. My protest makes no sense without understanding why I believe whales are intelligent.Please read my essay on why I think so.

If the protesters are right, the Makah hunters are worse than murderers. If the Makah are right, the protest is a tempest in a teapot.

In any case, the hunt has been banned as of 2000-06-10. Hurray!!! Though the bastards are try to revive it in 2015.

Whale Intelligence

How can killing a gray whale, with a brain six times larger than a human’s, make them feel good about themselves? See Dr. John Cunningham Lilly’s discussion of brain weight versus body weight to get some idea of what this means about possible whale intellectual superiority to humans.

In 1979, I worked with researcher Dr. Lilly at Marineworld investigating dolphin intelligence and their ability to communicate with humans using ultrasonic whistles. I discovered dolphins have a sense of humour. They play practical jokes. They tease. They poke fun by exaggerated mimicry. They practice motor skills diligently. They experiment. They love novelty. They have a way of being with you with total intelligent attention. If you ask them, they will create acrobatics never seen before. If you are disrespectful, they will throw the fish back at you. They get impatient when tasks are too easy. Dolphins process sound ten times faster than humans. They jitter at you to hurry up your communications. Dolphins are not animals in the usual sense. Dolphins have brains larger than humans and whales have considerably larger brains than dolphins.

Whales too are not animals in the same sense that deer, seals and cows are animals. Culling twenty humans would not in any way endanger the species. Yet we don’t do it because we respect humans as intelligent beings. For the same reason we should not kill whales even when the species is not endangered. We ought not to eat whales for the same reason we ought not to eat humans.

Most people who have had no experience communicating with dolphins or whales think they are about as intelligent as giant tuna fish. To them, my assertion they are probably more intelligent that man sounds crazy. Consider the possibility that there is a 1% probability that I am right. Should not even those odds persuade you to avoid risking destroying a being superior to yourself, especially when there is almost no benefit in doing so? Consider also that I have worked studying dolphin intelligence and human/dolphin communication using computers and Fast Fourier analysis. My opinion might be a tad more informed than yours. I have written an essay on cetacean intelligence. Perhaps you would be interested in reading Paul Watson on cetacean intelligence and why killing whales is murder to round out what Dr. Lilly and I say.

A tyrannosaurus rex had a brain the size of a walnut. It managed to run its huge body, balancing on two legs, a task whales do not have to do. Whales thus do not need a large brain just to move their large bodies. Further, whale sharks (which are fish not whales) have tiny brains and whale-sized bodies. Whale have huge brains, much bigger than ours. Why? Evolutionists will tell you large brains are extremely expensive from an energy point of view. Animals don’t have them unless they use them.

Alcoholic Dreams

The Makah appeared on BCTV and CHEK TV many times in the spring of 1999. Every time they floated yet a new justification for the hunt. They started claiming it was essentially a religious rite to revive the old spiritual ways. Then it was then a means to improve self esteem, cure alcoholism and drug addiction. To me, this sounds as off the wall as trying to cure alcoholism by covering themselves in dog feces, but they presented this justification seriously.

The Makah only succeeded in having environmentalists from all over the planet and even some tribal elders spit on them. So much for unity. If they really need to hunt to feel like real men, how about hunting deer or seals with hand-made bows? Reviving whale sacrifice sounds like a scheme hatched in a beerhall. It makes even less sense than reviving the Aztec rites of human sacrifice. That was an aboriginal right too.

White people not that long ago hunted the Makah for sport. Should that right too be revived in the name of tradition, self esteem and unity? Surely not.

If the Makah are having esteem problems because of rampant alcoholism and drug addiction, it would make more sense to attack the alcoholism and drug addiction directly rather than trying something so off the wall as killing whales.

True Colours

The Makah have said they will stop the whale hunt if environmentalists pay them $350 million American dollars in ransom. Yet their representative on CHEK TV had the gall to say it was not about money because they had refused a $12 million offer. The representative went on to claim the protesters were not serious — just in it for the money, — a case of projection if there ever was one. The Makah don’t believe the protesters are serious about considering whales intelligent beings, so they ascribe inaccurate motives to the protesters.


Many people, including Greenpeace, have defended the Makah’s right to behave in a traditional manner. Since the Makah have negotiated a treaty right to kill whales, Makah supporters consider racism the true motive for interfering with the hunt. Supporters refuse to consider the possibility that whales are highly intelligent and hence ought not to be killed or eaten. Further, they refuse to believe that protesters consider whales highly intelligent. Finally, they refuse to extend the privileges of man to whales, no matter how intelligent whales are. Racism is the motive for a minority of the protesters, but certainly does not apply to most of them.

The people who accuse me of racism would likely have little trouble understanding my oppposition had the Makah instead decided to revive ancient rites of human sacrifice and cannibalism. Morally, though not legally, sacrificing and eating whales is a far more serious crime. Whales are a superior species to humans. It is as if they murdered and ate the Dalai Lama. Those who consider whales giant cows are, of course, baffled at the intensity of my opposition and can only explain it to themselves in terms of racism.

If there were a seal hunt instead of a whale hunt, many protesters, myself included, would support the Makah. The key issue is Are whales highly intelligent?. If they are, killing them is equivalent to murder and eating them is equivalent to cannibalism. If not, this protest is so much silliness.

Consider some traditional rights that man has given up: human sacrifice, slavery, beating animals, cannibalism and treating women as second class citizens. Africa is currently in the process of giving up the ancient tradition of female genital mutilation (excision of the clitoris and labia minora without anaesthesia or antisepsis). Even though it is irrational, cruel and dangerous, many tribes feel they would lose their identity if they stopped. There is nothing sacred about tradition per se no matter how attached people are to it.

When I was a child I read a short story called The Lottery by Shirley Jackson about a village that developed a tradition of holding a lottery each year. The winner was stoned to death. Even though nobody liked stoning or being stoned, they could not break the tradition. The Makah are creating a new tradition that is bringing infamy and eventually violence back on them.

Consider that Indonesians once had the right to head hunt fellow humans, Canadians had the right to kill gay people and keep slaves. Americans had the right to beat their horses to death or to lynch black people. North Africans to this day have the right to kidnap little girls and rip out their genitals often killing them in the process. In India, children are forced into arranged marriages. Just because it is a tradition does not necessarily make it right. We are much smarter and more compassionate now than we used to be. If we used tradition as our only yardstick we would still be stoning adulterers and executing people who ate shellfish.

What About the Norwegians and Japanese?

Supporters claim it is hypocritical to protest the Makah hunt while paying less attention to the Norwegians and Japanese who kill even more whales. Supporters berate opponents for racist motives in opposing whale killing.

Supporters conveniently forget that the Makah are Americans subject to American law where the Norwegians and Japanese are not. Protesting the Norwegians and Japanese is mainly symbolic. In contrast, protesting the Makah may influence American lawmakers to ban whale slaughter by all Americans, thus ending the Makah hunt. Further, you can’t very well complain about the actions of foreigners until you have cleaned up your act at home.

Canadians are especially interested in this hunt because gray whales migrate through Canadian waters each year. The whales can, in some sense, be considered Canadian.

There are others killing the whales, but more indirectly, by polluting their feeding grounds with oil spills or by competing for krill. These sorts of activities, though more devastating, are much harder to protest. They are too indirect for the newsbite.

Personal Sacrifice

Love, whether sexual, parental, or fraternal, is essentially sacrificial and prompts a man to give his life for his friends.
~ George Santayana (1863-12-16 1952-09-26 age:88)
Somebody complained about to the police about this section of the website. On 1999-05-25 two Burnaby police officers arrived at my door and took me to the Burnaby hospital for psychiatric assessment. There they pronounced me sane and released me. However, they insisted I remove this section of my web page. Suffice it to say that, as a protest of the Makah whale sacrifice, on 1999-05-17 I stopped taking the AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) medications that keep me alive. In 2000-03-01, I came close to death with interminable nausea and then friends talked me out of my suicide protest and started taking them again on 2000-04-25. I saw that my protest would have no effect. I was more use to the whales alive than dead, even if I would forever be teased for chickening out. New experimental drugs restored me to reasonable health in three weeks.

Personal Connection

Captain Paul Watson

Paul Watson, founder of the Sea Shepherd Society and I stayed in the same frat house in our university days. In 1985 he invited me to come with him on a trip to Africa to help with the Ethiopian famine. I was too chicken. That was one of the biggest mistakes of my life. He will be remembered as one of the greatest heroes of this century.

Sea Mammal Oil For Rheumatism

The Makah claim they need the oils from sea mammals to help them with rheumatism — much the same sort of argument that the Chinese poachers use to justify killing bears for their gall bladders. Let them kill seals or buy seal meat from Newfoundland. Whale flesh tends to concentrate pollutants in the waters. Dead belugas have to be treated as toxic waste since they concentrate so many heavy metals and PCBs (Polychlorinated Biphenylses). After the whale had been slaughtered and the Makah gorged on the raw flesh, they claimed they needed the whale for food. They explained Surely it was better that a whale die than a Makah starve. However, the Makah looked exceedingly well padded. They needed not more fatty blubber in their diets, but less alcohol and more exercise.

Warrior Whales?

KillTheWhalesEvery day the Makah make up some new excuse for killing the whales. On 1999-05-15, they said Whales and Makah are warriors; if you were a whale would you not prefer to be killed warrior to warrior rather than dying of starvation? To start, the whales are unarmed; the hunters have speed boats, harpoons and assault rifles — hardly a fair fight. Next, whales are peaceful creatures. They have come to trust man and will come right up to the whale watching boats to let people touch them. They don’t kill humans. They are clearly not warriors. Killing a whale is as manly an act as killing a friendly puppy or a lion chained in a cage. By Makah logic we should send the Makah to Africa to slaughter the malnourished humans on an errand of mercy. A Makah hunter is a like a cannibal who sees only long pig when he meets a fellow human being.

A few days after the hunt, seeing that the warrior excuse was not flying, the Makah floated another idea. The female whale offered herself noting she came right up to the Makah boat. The Makah conveniently forgot that whales are used to approaching whale watching vessels to let people touch them. The Makah betrayed that trust with treachery.

International Whaling Commission & The Law

The hunt is a violation of International Whaling Commission agreements. What is the point of international law if there is no body to enforce the law? Until there is, I believe there is a strong case for vigilante justice. Because of the Nuremberg principles, international law should take precedence over national law.
Uncle Sam What is even more shameful is the United States federal government aided the Makah in scoffing international law with $7 million in subsidies for their whale hunt.

The US Federal government by allowing this violation of international agreements will open the door to renewed whaling by traditional Japanese and Icelandic whalers. There is so little to gain and so much to loose.

Ironically on 1999-05-16, the Coast Guard charged one of the protesters under the Marine Mammal Protection Act for getting too close to a whale when he tried to scare it off. It is legal to kill a whale, but not to save it. Try to save a whale and you get slapped with a $50,000 fine and a jail term. Promise to kill one and you get a $7 million grant. Most Americans don’t want whales killed. What is wrong with this picture?

The treaty arrangement the Makah have allows them to hunt whales only if Americans in general are allowed to hunt them. A simple bill prohibiting whale killing generally would stop the hunt. American politicians have the power to end the hunt tomorrow.

Glimmer of Sanity

Canada will not permit the Makah to chase whales into Canadian waters David Anderson, the Canadian fisheries minister, announced.

Boycott Washington State

DontLetTheMakahKillUs  A boycott of the Neah Bay Makah alone probably would not be effective since they don’t make many products for export. However, one directed at all the products of Washington State might. This would provide leverage for powerful commercial interests inside Washington state to put pressure on the state government to find some way to stop the hunt. This tactic is similar to that used by labour unions and in trade disputes between the USA and Canada.

Products you can boycott include:

In addition you need to boycott all Japanese and Norwegian goods since these countries each kill thousands of whales each year.

Paul Watson

I met Paul Watson when I was going to university. He was a shy quiet boy. He matured into the most swashbuckling character of the 20th century, fearlessly defending the whales with direct action.

I quote from his book,  Ocean Warrior: My Battle to End The Illegal Slaughter on the High Seas in his open letter to the people of Iceland after he had sunk two Icelandic whaling ships and caused $8 million damage to a whaling station.

I would like to address the people of Iceland as an ambassador. I do not represent any form of human government. I am speaking to you on behalf of the Cetacean nation.

I am representing whalekind in an effort to reach a state of coexistence with humankind.

My credentials in this regard are simple. I am a human who has swum with, communicated with, studied and respected the great whales al of my life. I have repeatedly risked my life and freedom to protect and conserve the whales. My love for the whales is such that I would not choose to live upon this planet without them.

I have touched and I have been touched by the whales. I have been with them at the moment of their birth when they have taken their first breath. I have been with them in death. I have felt their hot blood on their skin as the life ebbed slowly away after the horrendous shattering impact of the grenade harpoon. Once on the rolling Pacific swells I comforted a dying child whale, a young sperm killed illegally by a Soviet whaler. I felt its last breath against my face and closed one of its large eyes, but not before seeing my own reflection in that eye and the despair reflected back to me from my own eyes. I knew then, as I know now, that the survival of whales is the most important objective of my life.
~ Captain Paul Watson (1950-12-02 age:67)

An Icelandic man chastised Watson for sinking the whaling ships. Watson retorted We sank those ships for the whales. Not for you and not for any other goddam human being on the surface of the earth.

The Crab Thrower

The waves washed crabs up onto the beach where they perished in the hot sun. A black boy ran along the beach picking up the crabs, tossing them back into the water. A man said, Why do you bother? There are millions of crabs. You can barely make a dint. The boy replied It matters to this crab! as he tossed yet another.


Governments protect whale murderers. They prevent interference with the killings and even legitimate protests. The Canadian police arrested me for my non-violent Gandhian protest on this website and insisted I erase all mention of it. This suppression of dissent will eventually backfire. Many people believe that torturing and killing a whale is an even more serious misdeed than torturing and killing a child. Terrorism is coming into fashion globally and it is only a matter of time before it is used at the service of ecology. It would be Hammurabian justice if whale torturers had done to them precisely what they had done to the whales. To prevent that sort of escalation of violence, governments should stop interfering with those peacefully protesting the Makah whale sacfricices.


I often get angry emails accusing me of racism. In their view it is racist to oppose killing whales. It is racist to condemn native Americans who kill whales. I have no complaint with indigeneous people in general, just the Makah who participate in the whale sacrifice. I am quite baffled how anyone could think this after reading my essays and my passionate defense of cetacea. My motives for opposing the whale sacrifice have nothing to do with racism. Here is you you can tell:


Why were the Mahah and I at such loggerheads? The Makah were victims of racism since the 1800s. They saw any attempt by a white person, namely me, telling them what to do as motivated by racism. The Makah had a tradition thousandes of years long of hosting great feasts where people would come from all over the north west. To them, I was like some nut telling people they should no longer serve turkey at Thanksgiving. From their point of view, obviously, I simply wanted to disrupt their feast and make them miserable. They would have none of my assurance that serving seal, bison, deer, caribou etc. would be perfectly acceptable to me, just no dolphins or whales.

The Makah figured they were experts on whales and had nothing new to learn about them. After all, they had hunted them back into the mists of time. However, none of them had done what I had done, study them scientifically, communicate with them with computers and swim and play with them. They had no appeciation of cetacean neuroanatomy. They flatly refused to conside the possibility they had been butchering creatures more intelligent than they were all these years. Why should they believe me since popular wisdom had it that whales were just giant sea cows?

The native people of BC have a quite different attitude. They fight to protect the whales. They even believe one of their chiefs recently reincarnated as an orca, a step up in status.

Why the difference? I thought the problem was in the economic deprivation of the Makah and its attendant ills of alcoholism and drug addiction. They resorted to a desperate ancient belief that causing suffering to a scapegoat will bring abundance to you. Such a resort to ancient barbarity is sign of their desperation. It is akin to white folk resorting to black magic and devil worship for material gain when they feel they have no other option.

However, now I think that religious argument was just an ingenuous legalistic ruse, a way to get constitutional protection for the hunt. The purpose of the hunt was not religion or blood lust, but status and fun. It was a big party with free giant water pig for the main course. The Makah see their whale sacrifice as no more remarkable or wicked than killing a wild boar. I, of course, see it as morally equivalent to roasting alive a bus full of children.

My Arrest

Before the Makah sacrificed the first whale, I was arrested in my home in Burnaby BC for protesting the Makah fast with a fast. (I never step foot on the Makah territory.) I had announced it on my website. I said that I would continue to death if they went ahead with the killing. I persuaded the police I had a right to such a fast, and after a few hours they let me go, miles away from my home to walk back. They told me that I was under no circumstances to talk about my fast (of both food and HIV (Human Immuno-deficiency Virus) drugs) any more, either in person or on the web site. I am now breaking my silence. To my horror and surprise, the Makah went ahead with their first sacrifice and danced drunkenly on the corpse. I was honour bound to keep my promise and fast to death. I was hospitalised. I was close to death. My family convinced me that since almost no one knew of my fast and since I was not a famous person, no one would hear about or care. It would be better to get well and tilt again to put an end to the hunt. I was too weak to resist them and they did have a certain logic. Then I was given an HIV drug called Abacavir, which it turned out I was severely allergic too. That just about finished me off. Fasts that get results need major publicity and celebrity. Mine had almost none. Very gradually, I regained my health.
dvd cover recommend DVD⇒Eco-Pirate: The Story of Paul Watsonto dvd home
byTrish Dolman [director]
I met Paul Watson, back in 1968, when he was shy and thin. He started his seal and whale protests a few years later. In 1985 he asked me to come on a voyage with him, but I was too timid. He is on my planetary heroes page. There is no more heroic figure in the 20th century. His life reads like a James Bond novel. This documentary covers his entire life from babyhood to the present day. His friends talk candidly about him. Paul explains why he has done some of the things he has done. He accomplished more by his 25th birthday than most people accomplish in a dozen lifetimes. When there are people illegally butchering whales, why should you tie your hands behind your back and insist everything you do conform to Harper’s anti-envirnomental laws and be totally non-violent? We are in the midst of a war for environmental survival. The Sea Shepherd flies a pirate flag and it goes after pirate whaling ships that masqueade as Japanese whaling research vessels. Whales are superior being to humans, especially phony Japanese research scientists. It does my heart good to see the slime bag ships rammed. Most people have no dedication to the whales. They see them only in how they are useful to humanity. That it why Paul’s detractors totally misunderstand him. I think I know how he feels. I did my own Gandhian fast to the point of death to protest the Makah whale sacrifice and he is a lot braver than I am.
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A woman was making a roast. She cut off the ends and discarded them. Her husband was watching and asked why she did that. She said, that’s the way mother always did it. She then phoned her mom to ask why she cut the ends off. Mom explained that she had only a very small pan and otherwise the roast would not fit. There was nothing the matter with the ends — no reason at all to discard them. She reminds me of the Makah, blindly aping their ancestors.
~ Roedy (1948-02-04 age:70)


This debate is highly polarised. Those opposed to the Makah believe whales to be intelligent creatures. Those siding with the Makah see whales as giant cows — sources of meat but possessing little intelligence. The Makah supporters see the detractors as shrill and emotional, as if they were getting upset over killing cows. They consider it hypocritical to eat a cow and to try to protect a whale. They simply refuse to accept that opponents see whales as highly intelligent. They mistakenly ascribe the rage to racism.

Whales at first glance don’t look very bright. They move slowly. They spend most of their lives just swimming about and feeding. Then again, Einstein spent most of his time staring at the ceiling. You really have to spend time with them or study up on them and their smaller cousins the dolphins to realise how bright they are. To win this debate, we must persuade the Makah they are killing creatures perhaps more intelligent than themselves. Otherwise, their arguments make perfect sense. Truth should prevail because those who have had most contact with whales and done the most studying are opposed to the Makah hunt. Unfortunately there are millions of ignorant people who have had no contact with dolphins and whales who are cheering on the hunt as if it were a Roman gladatorial spectacle.

If there is reasonable doubt about cetacean intelligence, I would think it prudent to err on the side of avoiding murder. There is little gain in killing a whale.

The Makah held a potlatch. They invited people from as far away as Tanzania to feast on whale flesh. They had quite a party, singing traditional songs. Too bad they just don’t get it. They could party like that just as well without killing a whale. I am very pessimistic these people will ever get it. They want to be blind.

I want to encourage the Makah to offer whale-watching tours from genuine native canoes. The Makah should make far more more money that way than from killing a few whales, especially considering the spin-offs for the local businesses. The current fuss gives them a perfect chance to pitch the idea to the entire world on the global media without spending a cent. They might even continue to harpoon the whales, using a blunt harpoon with a miniature camcorder mounted on it.

I feel like a missionary trying to convince cannibals to give up their favourite delicacy. In their value system there is absolutely nothing wrong with eating fellow humans. They have always done it. The meat is indescribably delicious and optimally nutritious. Where do you start?

In 2001-07 the American congress passed a law allowing the Makah to sacrifice or kill whales as they please. We have to fight this all over again.

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