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Contemporary Art and the End of Japanese Whaling
February 20, 2007 11:42 AM   Subscribe

The Nisshin Maru is on fire. After being rammed by the Greenpeace Ship Sunrise, chased and harassed by anti-whaling activist Captain Paul Watson, and playing set to contemporary artist Matthew Barney's film Drawing Restraint 9 (which co-starred Barney's wife Bjork), the Nisshin Maru, flagship of Japan's whaling fleet has been crippled by an onboard fire fueled by whale oil, spelling a possible end to whaling in Japan.
posted by AtDuskGreg (105 comments total)

 
Haha! Have some irony motherfuckers!
posted by Mister_A at 11:48 AM on February 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


OH NOSE THINK OF ALL THE LOST SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH!
posted by grobstein at 11:49 AM on February 20, 2007


Commercial whaling was banned after the Commission agreed a moratorium in 1982, but Japan continued under the guise of scientific research.
Whatnow? What exactly was the cover story here? What could you learn from killing 950 whales in a month that you couldn't learn by killing only 100?
posted by DU at 11:51 AM on February 20, 2007


I bet it turns out a giant squid is at fault.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:54 AM on February 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


Fingers crossed; I hope it's a total loss. There is no legitimate reason for whaling. There are better, cheaper alternatives for all whale products.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 11:58 AM on February 20, 2007


Matthew Barney is married to Bjork? Is this true? Christ. I think that's the first thing to surprise me ever since I saw Cremaster 3.
posted by Plutor at 12:02 PM on February 20, 2007


...fueled by whale oil...
It just doesn't get any better than this.
posted by lekvar at 12:03 PM on February 20, 2007


I blame the USS Enterprise and her cargo of two whales and one sexy marine biologist.
posted by Spacelegoman at 12:04 PM on February 20, 2007


I sincerely hope everyone makes it out alive. Except the boat, I hope that burns long and hot.
posted by Skorgu at 12:05 PM on February 20, 2007


There are better, cheaper alternatives for all whale products

so? There are 'better', cheaper alternatives for all cattle products, too.

My moral objections to whaling is the heevy nature of the harvesting and (to a lesser extent) taking a higher mammal out of its free range.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 12:07 PM on February 20, 2007


Good riddance.

What exactly was the cover story here? What could you learn from killing 950 whales in a month that you couldn't learn by killing only 100?

"What does that whale over there taste like? What about that other one? Hmmm, maybe the next one will be slightly different?"
posted by jokeefe at 12:09 PM on February 20, 2007 [2 favorites]


What are these "better" alternatives to beef? Well, actually, I switched to ground turkey for tacos (we call them 'turkos", GEDDIT??) months ago, but that only works because the taco spice covers the Thanksgiving flavor. Tried TSP and it was awful.
posted by DU at 12:10 PM on February 20, 2007


Just to clarify; from my read of the article, it doesn't look like the fire was caused from being rammed by Greenpeace, (which is how I read the FPP.) In fact, Greenpeace's Esperanza (a former tug) has offered assistance, which has been refused.

I hope the rest of the crew is safe and I hope that boat burns to ash.

(And while I sincerely harbor no malice to the crew, I do sort of hope a few of their lifeboats were capsized by whales coming to investigate. You know, just because they kinda deserve it.)
posted by quin at 12:13 PM on February 20, 2007


If they'd have been buildling windmillls outta these whales, you hippies would've been right there with 'em, wouldn't you?
posted by Mister_A at 12:13 PM on February 20, 2007 [12 favorites]


This might bring an end *temporarily* to Japan's whale harvest, but it's certainly not going to end it forever. They'll be new, better, floating kill factories before next year.
posted by dejah420 at 12:19 PM on February 20, 2007


Mister_A, will you be my best friend forever?

I dont even know anything about you, but that was classic.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 12:19 PM on February 20, 2007


Hey, whatever happened to that crazy mofo who was captaining the Greenpeace ship designed to ram other ships? I swear I saw that on the blue some months ago.
posted by Parannoyed at 12:20 PM on February 20, 2007


Right on. Burn, motherfuckers, burn. Personally, I don't care if the crew drowns either, but I'd hate to see that oil spill in those waters.

Fucktards. Payback's a bitch.
posted by fourcheesemac at 12:28 PM on February 20, 2007


Yes, the sinking of the Nisshin Maru will spell the end of all whaling. Except for Norway, and Greenland, and a number of other countries. Also, they'll build a new whaling ship, probably with more capacity and efficiency. This is a temporary setback for whaling, and at best, a small victory for conservationists. Whaling will not end until there are no more whales or no more humans.
posted by Saydur at 12:30 PM on February 20, 2007


That's Paul Watson (mentioned in the post). According to his wikipedia page, he split with Greenpeace over tactics (how violently to confront the whaling factory ships like the Nisshin Maru). He and his ship Sea Shepherd have been discussed before on MeFi: Battle on the Hypothermic Seas and Whaling in the Antartic.
posted by AtDuskGreg at 12:33 PM on February 20, 2007


Holy flaming whalers, Batman!
posted by eriko at 12:35 PM on February 20, 2007


I don't care if the crew drowns either

I would say the customers who buy the product are more to blame than the crew, who are just working to pay the bills, mostly.
posted by rocket88 at 12:36 PM on February 20, 2007


Why wouldn't they just get another ship?

I don't exactly get all the hatred towards whaling. How is different from eating any other animal? I mean, as long as only a small number is taken, who cares? Why is eating a whale worse then eating a deer or cow?
posted by delmoi at 12:36 PM on February 20, 2007


Talk about hoist on your own petard... sheesh. Well, one less whaleboat is all right by me, as long as the crew gets off all right.
posted by zoogleplex at 12:37 PM on February 20, 2007


"How is different from eating any other animal?"

Whales are very intelligent. We don't really understand exactly how intelligent they are. They may be smarter than us, they just don't use tools.

Would you eat dolphin? Dog? Gorilla?
posted by zoogleplex at 12:40 PM on February 20, 2007


Hey! We could have used that whale oil to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil!


posted by tadellin at 12:42 PM on February 20, 2007


I blame the USS Enterprise and her cargo of two whales and one sexy marine biologist.
Not to get über-geeky here, but they carried the whales onboard a Klingon bird-of-prey.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:43 PM on February 20, 2007 [4 favorites]


I don't exactly get all the hatred towards whaling

the explosive harpoon bit seems a tad over-the-top.

Plus whales are Free Creatures on this planet, not domesticated/farmed. To my morality/rationalization, an animal that owes its life to the rancher doesn't lose much when its body is harvested for eating.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 12:44 PM on February 20, 2007


Why are the Japanese, who usually are reputed to embarass so easily, so fucking defiant on the issue of whaling? Why don't they regard their whaling as an embarassment and a shame on their country?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 12:44 PM on February 20, 2007


Why don't they regard their whaling as an embarassment and a shame on their country?

Why should they? These are people who eat fish still-a-twitching btw.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 12:45 PM on February 20, 2007


Why don't Westerners regard the eating of deer as an embarrassment and a shame on their country?
posted by dydecker at 12:46 PM on February 20, 2007


Whales are very intelligent. We don't really understand exactly how intelligent they are. They may be smarter than us, they just don't use tools.

I hate whaling as much as anyone else, but that's just a stupid stupid thing to say.

...of course, maybe this was all engineered by the whales. Maybe they spent the winter months eating extra-oily krill so that when the time came, and hundreds of them were slaughtered, the Nisshin Maru would be covered in whale-oil, ready to ignite at the first spark.

Or, maybe not.
posted by bshort at 12:48 PM on February 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


What are these "better" alternatives to beef?

I put the word 'better' in single-quotes in my original, since better depends on the person, ie. a person who is concerned with environmental footprint and cruelty to animals would consider a soy burger 'better' than In n Out, even if the former tasted off in comparison.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 12:50 PM on February 20, 2007


bshort: huh? Harvesting a wild creature with higher thoughts for food seems a bit inhumane, no?
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 12:52 PM on February 20, 2007


I don't exactly get all the hatred towards whaling. How is different from eating any other animal? I mean, as long as only a small number is taken, who cares? Why is eating a whale worse then eating a deer or cow?

Seems like over 900 a year isn't such a small number. Is it, in fact?
posted by odinsdream at 1:00 PM on February 20, 2007


We shouldn't eat them because they're smart? Pigs are reputedly smart, and oh so tasty.
posted by Keith Talent at 1:04 PM on February 20, 2007


Awesome. Awesome, awesome, awesome.

Saydur: "Yes, the sinking of the Nisshin Maru will spell the end of all whaling. Except for Norway, and Greenland, and a number of other countries. Also, they'll build a new whaling ship, probably with more capacity and efficiency. This is a temporary setback for whaling, and at best, a small victory for conservationists. Whaling will not end until there are no more whales or no more humans."

The sinking of the Nisshin Maru will end Japanese whaling for at least several years. The hope is that this will be enough to effectively kill the industry there.

Also, Norway is the only other country that comes close to Japan's slaughter. They should be the object of the same consternation.

delmwha: "I don't exactly get all the hatred towards whaling."

The reasoning's split between (a) "higher mammal with some intelligence" and (b) "somewhat endangered." Of course, those who, like me, support the wholesale slaughter of whales are split between (a) "crass consumerism sans moral fiber of any kind" and (b) "we must serve the minions of Cthulu and kill the beasts which are their enemies!"
posted by koeselitz at 1:04 PM on February 20, 2007 [2 favorites]


Why don't Westerners regard the eating of deer as an embarrassment and a shame on their country?

Because we are at war with deer. They're animals, man, fucking animals and they'll rape your mother right in front of you if you don't do something about it now.
posted by NoMich at 1:07 PM on February 20, 2007 [2 favorites]


odinsdream: "Seems like over 900 a year isn't such a small number. Is it, in fact?"

Considering that the world whale population is estimated at just under 900,000, and that Japan and Norway combined kill about 1,500 whales every year, those two countries can be said to be killing a good chunk of an already-flagging population yearly.
posted by koeselitz at 1:07 PM on February 20, 2007


Why don't they regard their whaling as an embarassment and a shame on their country?

Because whales are tasty.
posted by porpoise at 1:08 PM on February 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


I don't exactly get all the hatred towards whaling. How is different from eating any other animal? I mean, as long as only a small number is taken, who cares? Why is eating a whale worse then eating a deer or cow?

It's almost impossible not to take too many because they live so long and breed so slowly. They don't have to because they have no natural predators (other than man.)

They are also the only animal to have a bigger brain, in relation to their body, than humans. They might be more intelligent than us - not that that's too difficult.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 1:08 PM on February 20, 2007


sinking "decommissioning"
posted by koeselitz at 1:09 PM on February 20, 2007


Sounds like a ....no win situation? *arches eyebrow*


“Would you eat dolphin? Dog? Gorilla?”
I don’t devour anything I might have sex with.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:09 PM on February 20, 2007 [11 favorites]


I = the dumb, but if the tanker is on fire, and they're worried about oil leaking, isn't the oil burning up what's causing the fire? I assumed the Valdez was a huge deal because it ran aground and spilled crude all over the tundra; in this case, won't the oil (which floats) just burn up I'm assuming that still means massive air pollution but I would think that dissipates far quicker than spilling into the ocean.

Also, if the oil is whale oil, isn't that organic anyway and far less dangerous to the environment than crude petroleum?
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 1:11 PM on February 20, 2007


The Nisshin Maru is on fire.

Was on fire last Thursday. The fire is out and it hasn't sunk. Never mind everyone.
posted by cillit bang at 1:16 PM on February 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


What could you learn from killing 950 whales in a month that you couldn't learn by killing only 100?

Improved methods in canning will only come about via considerable practice.
posted by solid-one-love at 1:17 PM on February 20, 2007


They might be more intelligent than us - not that that's too difficult.

I think the argument against such a claim is that higher tool use and a complex language (yes, whales have language via song, but it doesn't approach - I feel safe assuming - the complexity of construction or the variety of vocabulary of English) both select for intelligence and push the plastic brain to develop more during youth.
posted by taliaferro at 1:20 PM on February 20, 2007


The Bjork-Barney angle was interesting, but I, for one, wish Moby had been on board.
posted by rob511 at 1:27 PM on February 20, 2007


"Why don't Westerners regard the eating of deer as an embarrassment and a shame on their country?"

Because deer are waaaay more plentiful than whales. And they taste better with peppers.
posted by drstein at 1:28 PM on February 20, 2007


Why don't Westerners regard the eating of deer as an embarrassment and a shame on their country?

Because Westerners don't embarass easily, duh.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 1:36 PM on February 20, 2007


"I hate whaling as much as anyone else, but that's just a stupid stupid thing to say."

Write me back when you finish up your doctorate in cetacean studies, mmkay?

Facetiousness aside, I'm glad you're against whaling, but really, we just don't know how intelligent they are. They act like intelligent creatures, and until very recently had the ability to communicate over extremely long distances, effectively anywhere in the ocean. We have detected all sorts of interesting patterns in their calls, but haven't been able to decipher whether it's language or not.

Hunting intelligent (and possibly sentient) species to near-extinction is rather monstrous - of course, hunting any species to near-extinction is monstrous. Doesn't seem to stop us humans, and of course we hunt ourselves too.

We've got an awfully high opinion of ourselves, that our collective actions don't support.

"Hey! We could have used that whale oil to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil!"

Heh... isn't it ironic that petroleum is what put the old-time whalers out of their core business, and pretty much saved the whales?

"I think the argument against such a claim is that higher tool use and a complex language both select for intelligence and push the plastic brain to develop more during youth."

So, you're confident that you understand the actual, underlying nature of intelligence, then? Why aren't you putting researchers in the field of cognitive studies out on their asses?

Just because a species doesn't have a technology, doesn't mean they are not as intelligent as us. Until we can truly define intelligence, we really can't make that claim.
posted by zoogleplex at 1:37 PM on February 20, 2007 [4 favorites]


I guess Bob Marley is out of a job.
posted by NationalKato at 1:45 PM on February 20, 2007


Write me back when you finish up your doctorate in cetacean studies, mmkay?

Will do. And I'll make sure to sign up for your class "How to Be a Condescending Asshole."

Just because a species doesn't have a technology, doesn't mean they are not as intelligent as us. Until we can truly define intelligence, we really can't make that claim.

Nice way to contradict yourself there. Claiming that whales are more intelligent that humans makes no sense at all, until we have some sort of handle on what intelligence really is.

The fact is, eating a whale isn't like eating a human. If you're going to make further moral judgments then you better stop eating meat as well, because you're going to have a hard time claiming that beef is ok while whale meat isn't.
posted by bshort at 1:46 PM on February 20, 2007


Everyone knows it's the mice that are the highest intelligence on the planet, with their devious tricks, pretending to run thru mazes to explore our reactions. They get away with it because they are trans-dimensional beings, and the majority of their brains/bodies doesn't exist where we can see and measure.

What I find interesting about the current whaling attitude, is how it compares to sci-fi from the 30's-50's, wherein farming large ocean roaming herds of whales for meat was going to be the salvation to man's food needs. It makes me wonder, was Arthur Clarke really that far off on the viability of the ocean to sustain the land, or have we really done that much damage to the ocean...
posted by nomisxid at 1:49 PM on February 20, 2007


Isn't it that the killing of a whale is a long, drawn out, painful and cruel ordeal for the animal? Vs quickly stunning a cow, or Ted Nugent sending his arrow with surgical precision into a deer's left ventricle?
I don't buy that whales are more intelligent than us, or even dogs or pigs or parrots -Republicans maybe- but it's the cruelty of it, and the fact that it's an unnecessary indulgence, and that these are wild things that live so long and breed so slowly.
posted by Flashman at 1:54 PM on February 20, 2007


Would you eat dolphin? Dog? Gorilla?

You'd best be answering "no".
posted by Koko at 2:00 PM on February 20, 2007 [3 favorites]


XQUZYPHYR: "I = the dumb, but if the tanker is on fire, and they're worried about oil leaking, isn't the oil burning up what's causing the fire? I assumed the Valdez was a huge deal because it ran aground and spilled crude all over the tundra; in this case, won't the oil (which floats) just burn up I'm assuming that still means massive air pollution but I would think that dissipates far quicker than spilling into the ocean... Also, if the oil is whale oil, isn't that organic anyway and far less dangerous to the environment than crude petroleum?"

from article: "Environmentalists feared that some 330,000 gallons of oil aboard the ship could leak and be carried by currents to the breeding area.

But Hiroshi Hatanaka, director general of the Institute of Cetacean Research, which is affiliated to the Japanese government, denied this, saying: 'Fears that this may turn into some environmental disaster are premature. The area in which the fire broke out is not located near the fuel holds.'"


The 330,000 gallons of oil that we're afraid might leak are fuel-oil, and are completely unrelated to the burning whale-oil. Also, I'm pretty sure it takes a long, long time for oil to burn up on the surface of the ocean; and they said that this ship was just 100 miles away from the largest penguin habitat. That's cause for concern, I think.
posted by koeselitz at 2:01 PM on February 20, 2007


From what I've been reading, Japanese mostly don't even like to eat whale anymore. It's very cheap there because people don't want it. What an incredible waste.

Deer, on the other hand, are like big rabbits. I see them around this area ALL THE TIME. In fact, I've seen them every place I've ever lived. They co-exist well with moderately developed rural areas, and there's just craploads of them.

Plus, we can COUNT deer with fair accuracy, so we can tune our hunting permits properly. That's a lot harder with whales.
posted by Malor at 2:03 PM on February 20, 2007


Eat the stupid!

Why don't Westerners regard the eating of deer as an embarrassment and a shame on their country?

Because there are lots and lots of deer. So many - with few natural predators - that culling is humane. PLUS Deer, unlike whales, can thrive fairly well adjacent to humans environments (and they are our traditional food animals).

Whales breed much more slowly and are far more susceptible to our fucking up their ecosystems. Whale populations are all very close to tipping points.

Then there is the fact that whales nearly always die a slow agonizing death as a result of whaling methods. Where as most hunters, not wanting to chase a deer down tend to bring the animals down quickly. Though not always. But most of the time.

Is that enough reasons?

I don't think it is immoral for humans to eat animals if it can b done sustainably and humanely— with minimal impact to the larger world.

I have eaten dog, monkey, alligator, rattlesnake and most other game animals (of all of them Alligator was the best). I had a chew of whale blubber once and it was just AWFUL. AWFUL! Meat eating is what us animals do. But it is unwise for animals to eat their prey into extinction.

It is immoral for us devastate our planet and it's species simply becuase we have a taste for something.
posted by tkchrist at 2:03 PM on February 20, 2007


until we have some sort of handle on what intelligence really is.

I will define it for you: intelligence is the ability to parallel park.
posted by tkchrist at 2:06 PM on February 20, 2007


What really strikes me about the stalking of these mighty flocks of whales, which once thundered across the oceans in vast numbers like a giant mob of aquatic passenger pigeons, is that the whole hunt is just so unnecessary. Is it really the case that 50% of the Japanese population will miserably starve without the precious life-saving flesh of the wily beluga? Or are the Japanese really comfortable with pushing species toward extinction just because they're tasty and because wearing whale-pelt hats is all the rage with today's disaffected youths?
posted by Midnight Creeper at 2:08 PM on February 20, 2007


"Will do. And I'll make sure to sign up for your class "How to Be a Condescending Asshole."

I don't teach that class; I've learned everything I know about that from reading posts from people on MeFi.

"Claiming that whales are more intelligent that humans makes no sense at all, until we have some sort of handle on what intelligence really is."

I don't claim they are, but nobody really knows enough about intelligence to claim they're not. Including you.

"The fact is, eating a whale isn't like eating a human. If you're going to make further moral judgments then you better stop eating meat as well, because you're going to have a hard time claiming that beef is ok while whale meat isn't."

I've actually participated in the slaughter of animals that I've eaten, which we raised for that purpose. I'm pretty comfortable with eating domesticated meat, thanks. I think cows are sweet and friendly (if stinky), but they are definitely pretty stupid.

I'm not comfortable with killing wild whales on an industrial scale for any reason.
posted by zoogleplex at 2:08 PM on February 20, 2007


cross fingers nothing leaks from the ship and pollutes the enviroment.

but who doesn't love the irony of them possibly needing Greenpace to help save them.
posted by ellipse at 2:11 PM on February 20, 2007


Would you eat dolphin? Dog? Gorilla?

Hey, gorilla may taste like pumpkin pie, but I'd never know 'cause I wouldn't eat the filthy motherfucker.

intelligence is the ability to parallel park
That rules out many people.

posted by kirkaracha at 2:26 PM on February 20, 2007


So, you're confident that you understand the actual, underlying nature of intelligence, then? Why aren't you putting researchers in the field of cognitive studies out on their asses?

Just because a species doesn't have a technology, doesn't mean they are not as intelligent as us. Until we can truly define intelligence, we really can't make that claim.


zoogleplex, clearly we disagree on some basic issues: I believe that, despite our not fully understanding brain science, we know enough that we can have this debate. So I'll try to reengage you.

The environment plays a key role in influencing plasticity according to the site I've linked to, which admittedly a) is geared to children (not being condescending, I'm just busy at work and its the best I could find), but also b) has a .edu ending. The site also says that The capacity of the brain to change with learning is plasticity. So how does the brain change...there appear to be at least two types of modifications that occur in the brain with learning:
- A change in the internal structure of the neurons, the most notable being in the area of synapses.
- An increase in the number of synapses between neurons.


It is fair to say that we live in a significantly more complex culture than whales. Humans are exposed to a vast amount of knowledge, ideas and problems through language - much more than could ever be communicated in whale song. So I feel confidant claiming that human's "grow" their brains much more than whales do - one argument for why we are more intelligent.

Claiming that because I haven't revolutionized cognitive science, I am not fit to take on this subject is silly.

I'm not comfortable with killing wild whales on an industrial scale. Agreed.
posted by taliaferro at 2:28 PM on February 20, 2007


Why don't Westerners regard the eating of deer as an embarrassment and a shame on their country?.

You've obviously never had venison stew, hey.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 2:29 PM on February 20, 2007


zoogleplex - you may enjoy this article on whale brains. It's really cool, and it also shows that humans and whales share a certain type of high-level neuron called the spindle neuron. But, if you've googled "whale brains," you probably found it already.

(like stewed venison, googled whale brain is delicious)
posted by taliaferro at 2:45 PM on February 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


Well, here's hoping that if she sinks, the crew will be able to float to safety on the whale carcasses.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:48 PM on February 20, 2007


Why don't Westerners regard the eating of deer as an embarrassment and a shame on their country?

a) because whales don't run in front of your car on the highway

b) because as any michigan farmer will tell you, they're just glorified rats with hooves

c) because putting a whale's antlers in front of your house will cause the roof to cave in

d) it keeps ted nugent busy enough that he doesn't run for office

e) because even a vegetarian lifestyle involves the killing of wildlife to clear the land so get over yourselves
posted by pyramid termite at 3:07 PM on February 20, 2007


Would you eat dolphin? Dog? Gorilla?

I'd chew off my own arm for a shot at a gorilla steak.
posted by solid-one-love at 3:20 PM on February 20, 2007


...dolphin? Dog? Gorilla?

I'm so hungry I could eat a horse! However, I would try to find alternatives to eating horses into extinction, were that an issue, so that horses may be enjoyed for eons to come.

The pygmies want justice, too.
posted by taosbat at 3:43 PM on February 20, 2007


"It is fair to say that we live in a significantly more complex culture than whales. Humans are exposed to a vast amount of knowledge, ideas and problems through language - much more than could ever be communicated in whale song. So I feel confidant claiming that human's "grow" their brains much more than whales do - one argument for why we are more intelligent."

Okay, that makes sense in many ways. Our environment is a lot more complex than a whale's, so there are far more stimuli that would force our brains to learn and grow. Seems a good way to consider the difference between us.

However, I'll bounce back with this: do whales exhibit intelligence along the lines of human children? They have substantial problem-solving skills and the ability to create new, non-instinctive actions when challenged to do so, according to everything I'm seeing when Googling - that spindle neuron article is great, btw, thanks. If whales are as smart as our own children, whom we clearly define as "intelligent," then killing and eating them is a horrible crime, wouldn't you say?

"Claiming that because I haven't revolutionized cognitive science, I am not fit to take on this subject is silly."

You're right, and I retract my previous flip attempt at humor. (I'm not really good at that sort of thing...)

"I'd chew off my own arm for a shot at a gorilla steak."

Oh, that's rather good, that. :)
posted by zoogleplex at 3:44 PM on February 20, 2007


intelligence is the ability to parallel park
That rules out many people.


Exactly.
posted by tkchrist at 3:46 PM on February 20, 2007


Would you eat dolphin? Dog? Gorilla?

I've eaten dog here in Korea. Once. It's not great, but many people swear by it here, mostly for the mythical health-giving properties it is believed by the weak-minded to imbue. Much the same reason whale is eaten in Japan (and in Korea, of course), once suspects. There's a wide array of these Magical Foods in which Chinese, Korean and Japanese folks place great stock, not just for penis-stiffening.

These are people who eat fish still-a-twitching btw.

I do this regularly, with gusto. The cruelty is simply delicious.

But yeah, leaving the goddamn whales alone would be a good thing.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:02 PM on February 20, 2007


Whales are endangered. Even the species that aren't on the brink of extinction are threatened. Can't humans leave one damn thing alone, before they destroy it totally?

Whales are a symbol, maybe. Fine. OK. It's symbolic. Nations do symbolic things all the time. And holding out the right to mechanically harvest the last few specimens of a highly intelligent, wild species is a big "fuck you" to the rest of the civilized world.

Fuck you, too, Japan. And Norway. I make an exception for indigenous whalers, who take small numbers and who have lived in harmony with whales for centuries before mechanized whaling. It isn't because I think whales are cuter or more special than deer that I oppose whaling commercially by mechanized fleets.

We are killing the oceans, rapidly, remorselessly, and very, very foolishly. We will pay a greater price than the whales, eventually, because there's more of us to die. Cannot human beings decide that some one thing is sacred as a symbol of the earth's importance to all of us? It would be a start. Everyone -- almost everyone -- agrees about whales, around the world, except people who make money killing them and hide behind the defense of "culture." Disembowling yourself after military defeat or political shame is Japanese "culture" too. I don't see it practiced very much these days.

Leave the whales in peace, or don't be surprised if some of us cheer when you die trying to kill them. That's just nature, too.
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:24 PM on February 20, 2007


Is it really the case that 50% of the Japanese population will miserably starve without the precious life-saving flesh of the wily beluga?

What other options do they have after the great cube-shaped melon famine of 2002?
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 4:29 PM on February 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


Human expansion pushes predators of animals like deer out of their natural range. While deer can coexist with humans even (or perhaps especially, due to strict urban hunting laws) in city parks, animals like wolves and coyotes can't; without predators to cull the herds, deer populations explode. Every winter, thousands of deer in North America starve, and many wind up in narrow channels of forest left between subdivisions by developers looking to raise property values by preserving local parkland. Of course, more people and more homes means more roads, and more starving deer are driven by hunger into densely populated areas, where they freeze in the headlights of oncoming cars and die, sometimes taking humans with them.

Civil authorities in many suburbs in North America sponsor hunts with high limits at odd times of year, in and around populated areas, in an effort to cull the herds and limit accidental death and starvation.

Of course, at the root of the problem is the human urge for space. If more of us were willing to live stacked atop one another in high-rises and not in sprawling subdivisions with scenic views, fewer deer would have to die, and we'd encourage biodiversity by leaving the hunting range to predators.

But even if we stopped building houses, farmers and ranchers would encroach just the same, killing predators to protect their herds and flocks. It's a bad situation that can't get much better.

The only people out there helping deer are the ones who are shooting them. It's the builders and the homeowners and the cattle ranchers and the soybean farmers (who grow your cruelty-free burgers) who are killing all the deer, and a few humans along with. Hunters make your roads safer, and hunters keep deer from starving (it's particularly tough for young deer to survive their first winter during a population crisis. Hunters generally take older animals, leaving more food for young to survive on).

That's not the situation with whales, who have a much smaller population and birthrate, a different set of natural predators, and some genuine endangerment of both their lives as species and their habitat. They also have different competitors for food, and since many species of whale can range over vast expanses of ocean annually, regional food shortages have a different effect.

Also, whale meat tastes like shit unless you grew up eating nothing but, and if so, you're likely to be engaging in low-impact traditional methods of whaling (getting lucky, basically, and finding a whale every once in a long while, feeding fifty people for a winter off of one carcass). And now that whale oil isn't a commodity, there's even less reason.

Mechanized whale hunting is a slight twist on the Wildean quip about unspeakables and inedibles. There's no good reason to kill them, and whale carcasses are relatively worthless. The only way to make it at all feasible is through heavy government subsidies, but to what end?

Deer meat tastes good, though, and deer hunting (at least in North America) is good for deer and people alike.
posted by breezeway at 4:36 PM on February 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


And holding out the right to mechanically harvest the last few specimens of a highly intelligent, wild species is a big "fuck you" to the rest of the civilized world.

But what if they're not endangered? If they are endangered, fine, ban it, but I'm pretty sure I read that certain species of whales are out there in large numbers - I think it's perfectly fine to kill and eat those.
posted by dydecker at 4:49 PM on February 20, 2007


We are killing the oceans, rapidly, remorselessly, and very, very foolishly.

Sure. But the same thing applies to fish too. Nobody is saying we should stop eating fish. Only eat them at sustainable levels. Common sense dictates the same thing should apply to whales.
posted by dydecker at 4:51 PM on February 20, 2007


Write me back when you finish up your doctorate in cetacean studies, mmkay?

This got me excited because I thought you were another person with a Ph.D. in marine biology, but apparently not.


Sure. But the same thing applies to fish too. Nobody is saying we should stop eating fish. Only eat them at sustainable levels.

Those sustainable levels are getting more and more difficult to attain, sadly.
posted by nekton at 5:03 PM on February 20, 2007


In honor of this thread, I am gonna go to the whale restaurant nearby in Shibuya for lunch.
posted by nightchrome at 5:46 PM on February 20, 2007


I recommend the Chicken Surprise.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:08 PM on February 20, 2007


Sure. But the same thing applies to fish too. Nobody is saying we should stop eating fish. Only eat them at sustainable levels. Common sense dictates the same thing should apply to whales.

When we say whales, we are usually referring to the great whales- the blue, right, fin, sei, minke, humpback and sperm whales. All are endangered. Most great whales only calve once every 2-4 years, and they only have one calf. That's if everything goes well. Given that their populations are already low, they simply don't breed fast enough to sustainably harvest. We've shown that we can decimate some groundfish species, like cod, in a hundred years. And they probably numbered in the hundreds of millions.

Aboriginal whaling is one thing, but modern factory fishing would destroy the whales in short order.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 6:15 PM on February 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


Those kujira croquettes might seem real nice on your plate and in your belly, but dude, history shows again and again how nature points out the folly of men.
posted by breezeway at 6:16 PM on February 20, 2007


posted by tkchrist I will define it for you: intelligence is the ability to parallel park.

Whales may be gentle, peaceful creatures, but they're the most infuriatingly slow drivers. Every time there's a huge line at the toll booth, it's always a whale, trying to pay with krill.
posted by fandango_matt at 6:25 PM on February 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


Holy Crap. I've never seen this much concentrated irony in a story before.
A whaling ship is on fire, caused by whale oil. Ha ha!
Greenpeace may have to rescue the crew. Ha ha!
If the ship sinks, the ensuing fuel oil spill may do untold damage to a large penguin habitat. D'oh!
posted by graventy at 7:29 PM on February 20, 2007


I was at dinner last Saturday with the Japanese family and there happened to be whale on the menu. My mother in law and her sister were teasing me and saying they were going to order it. Which of course they didn't as in the 6 years I've known them they have never eaten it. So once again the conversation comes around about why I won't try it - and my answer is basically if you have ever been sitting at the beach and seen a whale just drop by, you understand how magnificent they are. The sight always takes my breath away.

My husband and brother in law won't touch it - neither of them likes it at all. In fact I don't know any Japanese person under 50 who does. I think that this whaling business is based on a bunch of old men who just refuse to abandon it out of principle, because the meat is not popular. Also there are Japanese conservation groups here trying to stop it as well.

Conversely - the J family thinks Australians are barbaric for eating kangaroo, because they think they are cute.
posted by gomichild at 8:30 PM on February 20, 2007


In fact I don't know any Japanese person under 50 who does. I think that this whaling business almost everything inexplicably stupid and retrograde in Asia as everywhere else is based on a bunch of old men who just refuse to abandon it out of principle, because the meat is cronyism, corruption and archaic grudges and fixations are not popular.

There, fixed that for you. I agree with your specific example, too, of course.

And: kangaroos are not only cute but quite delicious when prepared correctly.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:52 PM on February 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


Plenty of animals that we eat are cute, at the very least when they are babies.

Kangaroo is not exactly standard on aussie tables (still treated as a bit of a curiosity or delicacy, partly becoz it is not unlike venison & people are not accustomed to it).

It probably should be though - their feet do not fuck up the topsoil & cause hellish erosion the way that the more conventional grazing animals like cows & sheep do. Plus, there are fucktons of kangaroos around. In fact, they are a pest in many places, and need to be culled.

If your Japanese friends use cuteness as the criterion for eating, I challenge them to become vego, or stick to crickets, cockroaches & spiders, like many of our southeast Asian friends.

Personally, I find jellyfish the cutest of all creatures.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:52 PM on February 20, 2007


Moby-Dinner.
posted by goetter at 10:34 PM on February 20, 2007


The Japanese have a point about whaling being a traditional part of their culture. A lot of the anti-whaling attitudes can be attributed to sentimentalism. We eat beef. Why not whale?

Many coastal communities in Japan practiced artisanal whaling, and this tradition died in the 1970s with the whaling moratorium. A lot of people - not just old ones - resent this turn of events, and want to preserve whaling.

A guy who's my own age (30s) made a point of ordering and eating whale when we went out to the pub. He also made a point of offering it to me. I made a point of refusing.

You can buy whale at any supermarket in Japan - it's usually dolphin rich in essential heavy metals like mercury - and you can eat whale jerky as a snack while watching baseball.

More power to 'em.

But what the Japanese don't want to understand is that the whaling tradition they identify with was small scale. No one realizes that the whaling that goes on today is industrial in scale, and will quickly rid the ocean of whales if resumed. And the debate is so emotional (and, most recently, violent) that the Japanese will just adopt a "fuck 'em all" attitude. They will rid the world's oceans of whales just like they demolished bluefin tuna stocks.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:44 PM on February 20, 2007


They might be more intelligent than us

What do you consider intelligence? Are whales polluting their ecosystem at a rate that will make them extinct? I don't consider humans very intelligent at all. Intelligence to me is an equal blend of knowledge, wisdom and foresight. Most humans that are considered intelligent in this world are people who combine knowledge and the ability to profit off of that knowledge. Consequences be damned.
posted by any major dude at 7:24 AM on February 21, 2007


Are whales polluting their ecosystem at a rate that will make them extinct?

Lots of relatively unintelligent animals fail to do so. That doesn't make them smart. It makes their genes smart/well adapted. In fact, one might consider intelligence the ability to ignore one's genetic programming, for good or ill.

Just to clarify; from my read of the article, it doesn't look like the fire was caused from being rammed by Greenpeace

As I patiently explained to many while in their employ, Greenpeace does not ram ships. Watson/the Sea Shephards do, and mere details like "former Greenpeacer" tend to get lost in the shuffle. Greenpeace claims that they were, in fact, hit by the Nisshu. The only conclusive claim I've seen of the opposite is the linked page of the ICR. From the wiki:

Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR, 日本鯨類研究所 Nippon Geirui Kenkyūsho) is a Japanese privately owned, non-profit institution. It grew out of the Whale Research Institute (founded 1947) which in turn was an off-shoot of Nakabe Scientific Research Centre (founded 1941). The Whales Research Institute obtained its scientific data from commercial whaling. ICR was established in response to the 1986 IWC moratorium on all commercial whaling. It has absorbed ships, crew and equipments of a whaling company which now look after the sale of whale meat from the institute. It is often claimed to be a front for the commercial whaling industry by whaling critics. It is funded by ex-whaling organisations and the Japanese government.
posted by dreamsign at 8:21 AM on February 21, 2007


Seriously, 92 comments and no one bats an eye at "Greenpeace rammed"?
posted by dreamsign at 8:22 AM on February 21, 2007


Dreamsign wrote:

Lots of relatively unintelligent animals fail to do so. That doesn't make them smart. It makes their genes smart/well adapted.

I was not making a point about whale intelligence but human ignorance. We seem to be the only species on earth that is destroying our own life support system.

In fact, one might consider intelligence the ability to ignore one's genetic programming, for good or ill.

the fact that one is here is by and large a testament to good genetic programming. Of course that is becoming less of a fact thanks to fertility drugs/pharmaceuticals and safety precautions. The world used to be a place where only the strong survived and it's rapidly deteriorating into a place where only the wealthy will survive.
posted by any major dude at 8:55 AM on February 21, 2007


Mister_A writes "If they'd have been buildling windmillls outta these whales, you hippies would've been right there with 'em, wouldn't you?"

Lots of old machines specify whale oils as lubricants, it can be quite the challenge coming up with substitutes.
posted by Mitheral at 9:24 AM on February 21, 2007


Lots of old machines specify whale oils as lubricants, it can be quite the challenge coming up with substitutes.

Can't they be domesticated, and milked of their oil, like cows?
posted by Danf at 10:11 AM on February 21, 2007


Can't they be domesticated, and milked of their oil, like cows?

How about catch-and-release liposuction?
posted by casarkos at 11:48 AM on February 21, 2007


zoogleplex (I said, hoping he would be around to read this) how's this: I agree that whales have the potential for human-level intelligence. As to whale hunting...I'm not a big fan of it, and certainly not for endangered and threatened species. And your argument makes sense - if they are so smart and therefore have a developed sense of self, then we have a moral obligation not to hunt and kill them. On the other hand, they are part of the natural world, and predation is part of the natural world. So I do support whaling by cultures that practiced it pre-Industrial Revolution. But what if they go a-whaling with post-IR technology (as, it appears, is the case with Japan)? Agh, my head spins with the nuance.

Well, it seems nearly every whale species is under threat except the gray whale, which is apparently thriving in the N.E. Pacific. So to some extent other arguments for hunting are moot.

Cheers!
posted by taliaferro at 3:01 PM on February 21, 2007


“Can't they be domesticated, and milked of their oil, like cows?”

Yo ho, yo ho! A pirate’s life for me!

Yeah, we can’t get over killing each other/ourselves. We’re going to do whales the favor? Not that we shouldn’t of course. But what’s interesting is how plugged in we can be to what’s not real. I mean, many people would rather watch t.v. than watch their child take it’s first steps. Same thing with this kind of thing. People can rarely differentiate what’s real and what isn’t. Or rather - between reality and artifice. Whaling, the products, the way we use them - are subject to agreed upon conventions which form a type of machine that processes real things for us. Technology merely increases the efficiency of that machine.
Somewhere, some jerko refuses to allow reality to force him to change the artifice. Might be laziness, might be greed or it might be fear (tough to turn one’s hand to other things). But it is what can be changed - whether it should be or not. What cannot be changed is the reality. Whales, and their situation, are the reality. Whales will not change. So we must change our artifice, because we can. Or kill them all. It’s as simple as that.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:10 PM on February 21, 2007


taliaferro, I'm still peeking via the magic of My Comments...

I'm not against Inuit and other aboriginal whaling, in principle; I'm just against industrial-style whaling using modern tech.

When I say "in principle," I mean if they're hunting in traditional ways, or at least taking only the amount of animals that they would have for their actual needs if they're using more modern hardware. There might be some gray area there if some Inuit head out to sea in a 40-foot powered boat with a modern steel harpoon launcher, y'know?

Kinda like how I think guys who hunt deer with a bow (even if it's a compound) are really in the true "hunter's spirit," while the majority of guys I know of who hunt deer with rifles are "ambushers," hiding somewhere or climbing a tree and waiting for a deer to come close enough to shoot (I'm including close friends in that judgment, I've said it to their faces). Bowhunters rarely have that option with deer. And for the record, I'm pro-deer-hunting, it's necessary to manage the herds properly since we wiped out the wolves and cougars.

Whales are different, and they're disappearing. We should take better care of them.
posted by zoogleplex at 5:24 PM on February 21, 2007


We should take better care of them.

They would appreciate that.
posted by homunculus at 7:16 PM on February 21, 2007


Just because a species doesn't have a technology, doesn't mean they are not as intelligent as us. Until we can truly define intelligence, we really can't make that claim.

The question isn't how intelligent they are, but how intelligent they are relative to us and also to other animals that they eat. All the other things attributed to whales and arguments that they shouldn't be hunted apply to other animals as well. Pigs are smart, deer are free. So why should they be hunted or eaten? Buffalo are endangered and eaten (in fact, their status as a food product is an attempt to create an economic incentive to their continued existence)
posted by delmoi at 9:21 AM on February 26, 2007


Deadly Sonar: The U.S. Navy Bears Down on Whales -- and the Scientists who Study Them.
posted by homunculus at 5:46 PM on March 4, 2007


The Secret Language of Whales Revealed
posted by homunculus at 1:43 PM on March 8, 2007


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