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Whaling Right or Wrong?

Here is an email I received in response to one of my essays.

Whaling: Right or Wrong? : anonymous : : 2008-04-25

Hello. I stumbled across your website when researching the Makah people and traditions for a project. Now, don’t think I am here to bash you or insult your intelligence, merely for a friendly and intelligent debate, which is something I rarely get. Having done somewhat thorough research on the Makah people and their tradition of whaling I would like to tell you what I have discovered and get your take on it all. As with most Native American tribes, they have had their traditions drastically altered after encountering the Europeans. After being decimated by influenza, small pox and other new viruses and bacteria exposed to them, many of their traditional ways were lost.

You seem to concede that whaling is wrong, but that because the Makah have had such bad breaks they should be permitted to do evil things the rest of us are not. By that logic, they should also be permitted to molest children, torture kittens, take methamphetamines etc. We all know that people who have been abused either physically or sexually tend to abuse others. However, that does not mean we should do nothing to stop the cycle of abuse. Committing evil deeds like sacrificing whales won’t do the Makah a lick of good. On the contrary, it will engender deep hatred for them all over the world. The suffering of the Makah, which can be traced back to incredible injustices on their ancestors, cries out for social intervention, not something utterly irrelevant and counter-productive like sacrificing a whale.

However, whaling was something they were able to carry on and they did so proudly as it is a tradition dating back for more than 2000 years and is considered a rite of passage almost amongst the men and it is thought amongst many of the tribal members that it will help fix some of the problems.

All the native bands in BC have renounced whaling. The Aztecs have renounced virgin sacrifice. The Americans have renounced slavery. The Makah people are not subsistence whalers. They dropped that tradition long ago. Reviving it was a hare-brained excuse for slaughter, very similar to what motivates young Americans to head off to Iraq to wantonly kill. The religious excuse was exposed as utterly bogus when the Makah drunkenly danced on the whale’s corpse. This was not even an attempt to recreate ancient rites, as they claimed. The modern Makah used motorboats and explosive weapons. The whale was no more hunted than a cow is hunted at a slaughterhouse. The hunt was not only pointless and brutal, it was dishonest from start to finish. The Makah brought dishonour on all aboriginal peoples with their duplicitous conduct. It was in reality an excuse for a drunken party.

Whales are a higher form of life than humans. It is considerably more wrong to kill one than to kill a child. I know this because I have spent time with them studying them with computers. I can’t expect you to accept that because you have no first hand experience. To you, a whale is just a giant aquatic cow. To me, what you are suggesting is even goofier than a bunch of drunken Aztecs thinking it would be lark to throw 10 kids into a volcano. It doesn’t matter who does it, Makah, Norwegian, Japanese, Russian… It does not matter what anyone’s ancient traditions were. Killing a whale was always wrong and it still is wrong, just as throwing kids into a volcano was always wrong or slavery was always wrong and is still wrong. You surely would not permit the Makah to revive child sacrifice so that they could enjoy a rite of passage, so damned if I will allow them to commit an even more heinous act for such a trivial purpose.

Whaling: Right or Wrong? rejoinder : anonymous : : 2008-04-26

Interesting response. Though I never said I thought of them as big dumb sea cows and I certainly do not.

You don’t consider whales equal to humans in essential worth. I doubt you even rate them as highly as puppies because you would likely disapprove of the Makah harpooning puppies.

It is not their intelligence I question but their superiority to humans. So, if they are as intelligent as you say, why has this not come out yet?

Nearly all of the research is done by the military and they keep everything secret as a matter of course. However, it has come out, a little, in dribbles. Consider the discovered that every humpback whale composes and performs a complex 9 minute song every year and that each year there is a basic theme that all the whales each compose variations on. Very few humans could do that. We have known since the beginning of time that whales’ brains are much larger than ours. These large brains are not needed to control their large bodies. Consider that dinosaurs were able to control even larger bodies with brains the size of a walnut. We have done research that shows dolphins have faster reaction times and better memory that we have. Yet another answer is hidden in Dalton Trumbo’s movie Johnny Got His Gun.

However, piles of facts are almost useless to make my point. What I say goes against consensus, so you will never trust me. So what you must do is swim with some dolphins, even if for just a few minutes. They will do something, a difficult-to-describe thing, that will convince you that you are in the presence of extraordary beings. My guess is they directly stimulate parts of your brain with sonar. Until you do this, it will be like trying to explain what sex is like to a virgin. Very few people have had the privilege I have to work with Dr. John Cunningham Lilly on research with interspecies communication with cetacea. I have seen all kinds of things that have never been reported in the literature.

An ant his no idea of how intelligent you are. It is just too stupid to begin to comprehend something as complex as you. We humans are too dumb to notice how complex the cetacea are. We judge them purely by how similar to ourselves they are. It would be like an ant dismissing humans as useless weaklings because humans can’t heft their body weight in food. Further, we humans are such a conceited species, that we will tell ourselves the most ridiculous lies to maintain the fiction we are the God’s favoured species in the entire universe and the only species that matters. I find it amazing how many people are so sure they know all there is to know about cetacea, when they have never even touched one. Someone claiming to know all about dogs or horses, without ever having touched one, would be dismissed as a loon.

Nobody I know has heard this theory. Most of us had heard about dolphin’s intelligence, but not whales.

Dolphins are simply small whales. Orcas are intermediate sized. The larger the whale, the larger the brain. Large brains are very delicate, like Jello. They need the massive bulk of a whale to provide the inertia to protect them from sheer forces. Only large marine mammals can protect a giant brain from shock.

Now the problem here is still judging other cultures, for me at least. I have been educated in college through psychology, anthropology and geography that the best thing we can do is simply observe because changing someone’s traditions or what have you (which for the makah it does go back 2000 years as evidence by fossils found and aside from the period between the 1920s and 1999 has been going consistently) can truly result in problems we cannot comprehend. For instance, had the Makah continued to whale during that 70 year period, maybe they wouldn’t be in as bad of shape as they are now, there is no way we could.

I don’t see how sacrificing whales would have helped the Makah any more than sacrificing children. That is magical nutty thinking. Scapegoats are an obsolete and thoroughly insane idea. Even if the killing of a whale would save the lives of 30 people, I still would say no. But, killing the whale did not save anyone; it did bugger all to help the Makah. All it did was generate world-wide hatred for them. Instead of solicting help with their many social problems, people will tend to say to themselves, Let those savages rot in hell. Damned if I twill lift a finger to help them. The pro-slaugher Makah gave the finger to the entire world, telling everyone to bugger off and mind their own business. (Some Makah elders opposed this youthful foolishness.) They can’t expect to get away with such barbarism and selfishness without negative consequences. I put the whales above by own life when I did my suicide protest that ended me in hospital. Maybe had I died it would have sunk in on the Makah that some people, (people knew a lot more about cetacea that they) consider what they are doing extremely wrong. There was no advantage to the whale sacrifice, with the disadvantage of stirring up intense hatred, so sacrificing a whale was still a stupid thing to do, even if I am 100% wrong and whales are no brighter than cucumbers.

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