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Nov 03 2010

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Why I Fail To See The Purpose Of Typical Anti Whaling Rhetoric

17B1D4C8-0555-40D1-8398-DE5DE2120FC8_4_5005_cI have in former blog posts tried to explain the Faroese tradition of pilot whaling. Let me state right away: The main purpose of this blog post is not to defend pilot whaling as such. It is not to prove anyone neither right nor wrong. It is only to question the rhetorics of extreme anti-whaling activists.

I’d like to give you an example of a claim, very typical for many anti-whaling activists. This is part of an argument I read in a debate forum about whaling:

“Well, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that lowbrow, knuckledraggers like you exist and are being vocal about your “right” to slaughter marine mammals. I suppose it never occurred to you that every creature on this planet did not evolve for the sole purpose of being killed or exploited by man.  It truly amazes me that anyone would even consider killing anything as magnificent as a whale, or any other creature for that matter. You would think, or at least hope, that mankind would have evolved beyond the Neanderthal urge to bash everything it sees over the head and drag it back to the cave. Apparently, and you are a testament to this, that is not the case. I guess those of us who are more enlightened and actually give a damn about the other creatures we share this planet with can only hope that your primitive, ape-like kind will soon reach the extinction that is long overdue and leave the rest of Earth’s inhabitants alone!”

What’s up with the Neanderthals?
It’s obvious that this man (could be a woman, but lets’ say it’s a man) feels very strongly about this issue. He starts by saying:
“Well, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that lowbrow, knuckledraggers like you exist and are being vocal about your “right” to slaughter marine mammals.”

I get it… He thinks people in favor of killing whales are so primitive that they must have a Neanderthal-like look… hmmm. He’s obviously referring to the ‘stupidity’ of an extinct human race. Funny comparison, perhaps, but who knows, if Neanderthals really were stupid or not. Anyway, if this had been said about any humans living today, for instance – jokingly or not – one could rightly accuse this man of being a rabid racist.

Are all meat-eaters lowbrow knuckledraggers?
He goes on claiming that people who do not think like him, might not think at all – or as he puts it himself:
“I suppose it never occurred to you that every creature on this planet did not evolve for the sole purpose of being killed or exploited by man.”

No, not solely for that purpose. But it is very common in nature that animals kill other animals, because that’s how they survive. But man must not kill other animals for food? What exactly makes us humans an exception? In reality, most people regard themselves as omnivores. Many people, especially in earth’s peripheral areas in the high north, for example, do not have the luxury to be able to choose eating only vegetables. Whether we like it or not, to meet the demand for meat some animals are, in fact, born and raised for the sole purpose of being killed and exploited by man – for some people it is highly neccessary for them to be able to survive. I wonder if this man thinks all these meat-eaters are ‘low-brow knucledraggers’ too…

Perhaps not for this man, but at least for most meat-eating people it seems more “acceptable” that some animals can be killed and exploited by man. Some of these meat-eating people are against killing of whales, just like this man is, even though they eat meat themselves. One could rightly accuse them of being hypocrites. I wonder why these people think that some animals have the right to be exempt from killing and exploitation, more so than other animals. What makes specific animals more suitable for exploitation than others?

Okay for whales to kill, but not for humans to do the same?
But clearly, in this man’s view, killing and exploitation of animals is a no go, especially not whales… I guess he is trying to explain why in the next sentence:
“It truly amazes me that anyone would even consider killing anything as magnificent as a whale, or any other creature for that matter.”

Okay, this man wants to spare all animals. This probably proves he is vegan. It is obvious, in all circumstances, that he is emotionally attached to animals – especially to whales. To him whales are a symbol of something ‘magnificent’, almost sacred, which – in his view obviously – has the right to be untouched by man. As sympathetic as this might seem, it is not a rational claim. It is based on emotions and belief.

Many whaling activists claim that whales are so highly developed and so intelligent that they might even be superior to humans in intelligence. But they seem to forget that many of these intelligent whales they want to protect are meat-eaters themselves, and thus kill other creatures – sometimes including humans. I guess we have no other option than to accept that fact. But why is it okay for highly super-developed animals like whales to kill other animals, if it’s not okay for humans?

Man has never been crueler to animals than now
This man is of course entitled to feel what he feels and believe what he likes, but then he goes on:
“You would think, or at least hope, that mankind would have evolved beyond the Neanderthal urge to bash everything it sees over the head and drag it back to the cave.”

To me this is a peculiar claim, because mankind has probably never in history killed more animals than it does today. I’m not saying it is right. But I fail to see any logic in this argument, because ancient food providing methods were probably much more humane than today’s highly evolved modern industrial ways of providing food, which include mass breeding of domestic animals. In comparison with the cruelty, revealed in slaughterhouses all over the world, where massacres occur every day, hunting of wild animals seems almost insignificant, unrelated and irrelevant – at least when we talk about sustainable hunting of not endangered species.

Note, that I do not in any way endorse neither mass-killings in slaughterhouses nor killings of endangered species, but I really can’t see why sustainable hunting should be much worse than the industrial way of mass-killing animals, which to me seems much more holocaust-like than killing and hunting free animals in the wild has ever been. But anyway…

I wonder why this man expects the human race to have evolved significantly in such a short span, which a 100.000 years – yes, even a million years is in the big perspective. Just because we’ve developed very fast in a technological sense the last 200-300 years, it doesn’t mean that basic human nature as such has changed much since the time of the Neanderthals, who, by the way, were extinct 30.000 years ago. We’re not even related to them, since we’re a whole other different human species called Homo Sapiens.

Anyway, as he rightly states: “Apparently, and you are a testament to this, that is not the case.” This is true. We have not evolved much.

This claim is terrifying, when you think about it
But what makes him believe that he himself and his allies are any ‘better’ than others? As he then goes on to state:
“I guess those of us who are more enlightened and actually give a damn about the other creatures we share this planet with can only hope that your primitive, ape-like kind will soon reach the extinction that is long overdue and leave the rest of Earth’s inhabitants alone!”

Take a good look at this sentence. This man is obviously so self-righteous that he’s lost sense of what he really is saying. The first thing you notice is, that this man holds himself and his allies in such high esteem, that he assumes he and they are “more enlightened” and, thus, the only ones who care about this planet and about those who inhabit it – while others who disagree with his views about animal killings are labeled as “ape-like” – i.e. lesser evolved – and should not be allowed even to exist! How does he imagine these ape-like people can be eradicated? And by the way, he can’t think much of apes, since he compares these atrocious human beings to apes.

Who’s on the moral high ground – and why?
But really, when it comes to ethics or moral standards, are humans – the modern man – basically, that different from animals, aside from our technological advancement? Does history prove that we have evolved much beyond other species in that field? Just to mention an obvious example. Is intelligence any guarantee of higher moral standards?

My point is: Isn’t it self-exalting megalomania beyond any rationale to believe that humans are any better than animals? And what is this belief really about: that whales are almost humanlike – at least when it comes to intelligence – and therefore somehow “better” and more magnificent than other animals?

What about the intelligent animals that happen to ‘think’ that it is okay to kill other animals? Should they be wiped out too? Do whales never attack other creatures – including human beings? How can we convince the animals to stop killing other creatures? Maybe we should suggest to them that it would be a good idea for them to become vegans…  Joking aside. Whales are mostly kind creatures like many other creatures, but do whales have moral standards that exceed moral standards of other creatures – including humans?

Why do some people think that whales are superior to other animals? What about all the ‘stupid’ animals? Is it okay to kill them just because they are less intelligent? And why would we want to rank animals like that? Or humans for that matter… How would we do that? I mean: Which criteria would we have to use?

The hate, revealed in the quotes, is disturbing
If we should follow this man’s logic – and follow through with it, it could have disastrous consequences… So what is this really about? I don’t say that this man is wrong in everything he believes, but what really is disturbing to me is, that he obviously hates people who happen to disagree with him, so much so, that he wishes to wipe them all off the face of the earth!

Let me quote our anti-whaling activist again:
“(We) …  can only hope that your primitive, ape-like kind will soon reach the extinction that is long overdue and leave the rest of Earth’s inhabitants alone.”

It runs shivers down my spine when I hear such claims because they remind me – in an eerie, familiar way – of what a certain person, who rose to great power for a while in the past century, consistently claimed year after year until he made enough people believe in him and all hell of World War II broke loose. This man was also known for having a quite sentimental love for children and animals.

The hatred, which is revealed in this last sentence, is not in any way consistent with this man’s claim that he loves all creatures on this planet. After all, some obviously don’t qualify to fall into the category of those worthy of this man’s love…. The inconsistencies in this man’s claims are so obvious. But still, he fails to see the inconsistencies himself.

How to become a fanatic
The problem is always that the self-righteous are too self-righteous to notice their own self-righteousness…. What exposes their self-righteousness, though, is their firm conviction, which almost always is based on emotion and beliefs rather than on facts.

I couldn’t say if this is true for this man, but ignorance and insecurity does often turn people into irrational fanatics. The more insecure you are, the more you need to hold firmly on to something to believe in… And the firmer you hold on to something you believe in, the more you attach yourself emotionally to your beliefs – so much so that you’re unable to accept anything that contradicts your belief. And thus you become: a fanatic.

This man is far from alone. Claims like his are seen in many more or less cult-like forums and ecco-chambers on the Internet. Many of these are far more hateful and aggressive. And weirdly, other people admire the viewpoint this man and other anti-whaling activists express. They encourage it and think these activists are heroes, because they stand up for the poor whales’ rights. Which confirms to this man and his allies in the extreme wings of the anti-whaling movement that they really ARE more ‘highly evolved’ and have better morals than others.

A child-like world-view
He doesn’t like the fact that people kill animals for food – or not for any reason. This gives him the impression that he must love nature and animals more so than other people, who happen to think that humans need to kill animals for food, as they’ve done for millions and millions of years. It’s easy for an anti-whaling activist to jump to such conclusions about themselves. Those, who aren’t as opposed to the killing of animals as this man is, are – in this man’s view – emotionally handicapped, and therefore they’re labeled inhumane primitive ‘knuckledraggers’.

As a result of the fact that these activists really believe they themselves are more evolved and more ‘humane’ than others, they think they have the right to tell others – the primitive monstrous people – how to behave.

But this seems to be extremely naïve and reveals very little understanding of the fact, that life for most people is not just black and white. The quotes above reveal an almost childlike world-view, where good and bad is split up. He seems – just like a child – to be so convinced that he represents all that is good in this universe, while all bad things are being projected onto other human beings who do not share his beliefs. He even dreams of an Utopia where he can be freed from all evil – including the bad, bad whalers.

This clearly shows that he and like-minded people, who make similar claims have become so alienated to the true nature in themselves – which in fact includes both good and bad, as it does for everyone living on this earth – that they seem to have lost any sense of reality.

The route to pure evil
History has shown that it is only when man is incapable of seeing and acknowledging the bad in himself, that he is truly capable of committing evil things. When man lives in the delusion that he is in his full right to act in any way he wants for the ‘good cause’, he gives himself an excuse to commit atrocities. It’s eerie that many fail to see this.

I can’t see how this man’s belief is any different from other religious beliefs – and as we know: fanatic religious beliefs are perhaps the most dangerous phenomena on earth. Religious beliefs have lead to wars that killed more people than any other phenomena – including natural disasters – in mankind’s known history, because people really believed that their cause was SO right and unquestionable – and SO important that it gave them the right to rise above others and, in the name of God (or “good”), actually kill other people. Believing in one’s own pure goodness is to take the direct route to pure evil…! 9/11 is just one example in a very long row. History shows – again and again – what self-righteousness can lead to.

A way of providing food
One can of course discuss back and forth, whether pilot whaling has a significant or severe impact on the pilot whale population or not – or whether it is right or wrong what a few whalers in the Faroe Islands, for instance, do to a small number of a not endangered whale species as part of a a long-lasting way of providing food – a sustainable tradition, which has been taking place on these islands for more than a thousand years, perhaps even longer.

In fact it is not much different from the Indian tradition of killing buffalos on the American prairie in the old days – a hunting method, which had been done sustainably for thousands of years before guns and rifles where introduced by the white man. Consequently, this lead to the extinction of almost the whole buffalo population, which you hardly can blame the Indians for. The pilot whale population is not so unlucky yet, though the increasing levels of methyl mercury and PCB in whales are cause for great concern for the health of the animals and those who eat them. But are the Faroese to blame for that?

The anti-whaling rhetorics only increase divisiveness
Regardless of that discussion, the obvious self-righteousness and lack of humble self-doubt expressed in these, quite typical anti-whaling activist’s arguments cited above, is what disturbs me the most, because such rhetoric does not solve any problems – it just increases the gap between the two sides, entrenches rigid positions, and creates frustrations and even hatred.

If one really is concerned about the whales and wants to reach actual results in favor of the whales, why on earth would one choose to express oneself in such an unwelcoming, confrontational, unconstructive way, which only repels the people one thinks are a threat to the whales and for sure won’t in convince them to change their ways in any way?

Which is why I don’t get the rhetoric of extreme anti-whaling activists…

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