Thursday, June 23, 2005

Whaling arguments

CBC's The Nature of Things tonight ran Part One of Whale Mission, a two-part documentary on whales and whaling. Much attention focused on a meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), and the attempt by whaling nations to expand the allowable killing of whales. The delegate from Japan was a particularly slick and disingenuous man, who defended that country's continued whaling as necessary for "scientific research". The argument goes: In order to conserve whales, we need to study them scientifically. In order to study them scientifically, we need to kill a lot of them. And since regulations require that the whales killed not be wasted, we have to sell whale meat to the Japanese public. Right.

Japan uses foreign-aid incentives to get some very poor nations to join the IWC and vote with Japan in favour of whaling. European countries that favour whaling include Iceland, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, and, of all places, Switzerland. The documentary interviewed a Norwegian apologist for whaling who trotted out the refrain about how we all must take life in order to live, and then compared eating whales to eating beef. The argument here is: Whatever we must do in order to live is morally justified. To live we must kill. Therefore killing, whether it's killing whales or killing cows, is morally justified. (He might have added that, according to his logic, so is killing soybean plants or killing human beings morally justified. I wonder why he didn't mention those implications of his argument.) For more on whaling, see here and here.

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