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Whale War!

January 7, 2010


This video shows the latest escalation in the whale war. A Japanese whaling boat rammed a super-fancy speed boat driven by animal rights activists. This escalation in the long-running conflict has drawn a lot of attention today–it’s all over the Australian news (e.g. here). Revkin just posted two videos. The one above from the perspective of the Japanese.

This one shows pretty clearly that the collision was an intentional move by the Japanese:

Whale meat is apparently delicious enough not only to kill these animals, but to risk serious harm or worse to humans as well.

Or, according to the Japanese, whale meat is scientifically interesting enough to possibly kill a few humans. They claim they are killing the whales for scientific research, but nobody believes them.

My question is, why is it necessary and in any way redemptive to use science as a shield for this activity?

Other controversies involving the use of animals in science usually involve a trade-off between supposed benefits for humans (through medical discoveries or identification of health hazards), and cruelty toward other living beings. What possible trade-off could the Japanese be offering in this context?

Another question: why science, and not some appeal to cultural tradition, such as that used by indigenous groups in Alaska? Is science somehow more legitimate regardless of its purpose?

I can’t imagine these tactics on the part of activists are really helping. This kind of aggression starts looking to me like an affront to Japanese sovereignty, which is not the kind of thing that gets any nation to back down.

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