Posts Tagged ‘whales’

Western Pacific Gray Whale

January 18, 2011 Leave a comment

There are only around 130 of them left. Imagine if there were only 65 members of the opposite sex left in your species. Not a very deep genetic pool. I don’t think this bodes well for the western Pacific gray whale. Good luck friends. Sorry about the fishing nets, oil drilling, all that noise, and oh yeah- the folks from my side of the water that tried to species-cide you.


Cove Filmmakers Still Hustlin’

March 10, 2010 Leave a comment

The Hump. NY Times photo by Monica Almeida

Japan is not the only place you’ll find whale meat on the table. Apparently there are some sushi zealots in LA who just have to try it, even if it is explicitly illegal here in the U.S. A recent undercover video sting of an elaborate $600 meal at The Hump, a Santa Monica sushi restaurant, found that a course of Sei whale can be served to the most adventurous sushi-philes. The vegan undercover operatives were in town for the Oscars, where their investigative partners would be collecting a statue for Best Documentary.

Director Louie Psihoyos and the makers of The Cove are hard at work on another marine-mammal oriented documentary. Based on this NY Times article, it looks like they will be taking a look at modern whaling, which really excites me. I am surprised to hear that there are such ridiculous ignorant people in the states, but then again, it is LA. Sushi is so hot right now.

Radiolab: Animal Minds

March 2, 2010 Leave a comment

photo by The Marine Mammal Center

The Animal Minds episode of Radiolab explores what we often wonder about our pets and other animals: what are they thinking? Jad and Robert get into discussions about dog guilt, anthropomorphizing, and the most amazing story about a whale caught in a web of crabtraps. It’s an excellent hour of radio, and I definitely recommend checking it out. Considering the mind of an animal is a good thought experiment.

We often think animals may have thoughts and feelings similar to our own. This concept usually advances the pursuit of animal rights, as it helps us relate to them and thus show compassion. However, making comparisons between animal and human minds can also impede compassion towards animals. I say this because it is unfair to animals to make that comparison. Scientists really know so little about the brains of animals, let alone humans. When we try to think about whether an animal is as smart as a human, we too often look at the problem in the context of human intelligence: Do they use tools? Do they communicate with each other? And when we find that they are not very human-like, we tend to classify them as somehow sub-human. This tendency is what feeds the widespread belief that animals do not deserve the same rights as people. Thinking this way justifies zoos, validates factory farms, funds animal testing, distorts our own sense of morality.

 Consider the humpback whale. The evolution of a whale’s brain happened in a way that has been advantageous to its species’ survival, while the long process that led up to the (seemingly) exceptional human brain occurred under vastly different circumstances. Realizing this, we must acknowledge that our brains are not necessarily that special in the animal kingdom. Yes, our brains have given us the ability to create, imagine, dream, love, and all that, but that does not make the human brain superior, except by our own biased standards of what intelligence means. Who knows what a whale brain can do? They are incredibly complex creatures that we know very little about. Maybe a humpback freed of its entanglement by a friendly group of human divers is showing gratitude when it nuzzles them afterward, or maybe it is doing something we just cannot yet understand. That behavior is something though, I gotta say.

Ban Japan

February 25, 2010 2 comments

Big Fish. AP photo

That’s it. I’ve had it up to here with Japan. And I’m going to do something about it. I have decided to stop buying Japanese products of any sort until their government decides to stop whaling, respect conservationist fishing guidelines, and show some respect to the international community who are getting increasingly fed up with their arrogance.

This may sound misguided and possibly xenophobic, but it seems rational to me. As long as this country’s government decides to openly reject pleas from other countries to stop treating our oceans and seas like their own god-given playground, I will avoid their national products like the plague. Luckily, I’m not into anime and I don’t play video games anymore. But this means I will probably never buy a Toyota again (I currently own a ’94 Corolla), and it has nothing to do with unintended acceleration. No more cell phones made in Japan; luckily Blackberry (Canada), Samsung (Korea), Nokia (Finland), and several others are still game. Let’s see, what else to avoid… Here’s a list:

Nintendo, Honda, Sony, Hitachi, Panasonic, Toshiba, Fujifilm, Mitsubishi, Sanyo, A Bathing Ape, Bridgestone, Canon, Capcom, Isuzu, Kenwood, Kyocera, Konami, Mazda, Nissan, Olympus, Sanrio, Sega, Seiko, Shimano, Square Enix, Subaru, Suzuki, TDK, Toshiba, Yamaha

Some of those might hurt someday, but mostly I think I can easily live without those companies. This also means I may have to give up on a lifelong dream of someday visiting Tokyo, and possibly some things I have not thought about yet. But just like going vegan, this feels right.

I know, these companies have nothing to do with whaling, overfishing, capturing dolphins for captivity or slaughter, or any of that (other than making the fishing equipment perhaps), so why punish them? Hear me out. This is something I can do. I can consciously avoid Japanese products, and be vocal about it, as a way to economically punish a sophisticated modern nation which has repeatedly shown itself to be arrogant and completely disrespectful of non-human life. Every time a new story pops up about Japan accusing Sea Shepherd of endangering their poor “scientist” whalers, or Japan says they will ignore a ban on the Bluefin tuna trade, or Japan says that we Westerners are threatening their culture and way of life, I see how they just do not give a shit. Not only that, it seems they think the rest of the world are a bunch of idiots. If you saw The Cove, you may remember footage of Japan’s delegate to the International Whaling Commission telling the other delegates about how whales are supposedly depleting fish stocks (it couldn’t be humans!), and how they have reduced the “time-to-death” in their “scientific” whaling “research” (according to them). He says these ridiculous things with a straight face to people who understand and oppose whaling. It’s a slap in the face.

So. I don’t feel I am being xenophobic in declaring that I will not buy Japanese products. I feel the Japanese are the villains in all of this. They see their cultural values as being above everybody else’s, and seem willing to stick to those values at the risk of fishing endangered species to extinction, brutally killing as many majestic whales as possible, and pissing off conservationists. Their approach to foreign policy in regards to these matters is basically: “Screw you. I do what I want.”

So, other than going vegan and saying no to Japanese products, what can you do to try to get Japan to take it down a notch? I would recommend:

  • Do not visit Sea World or aquariums that keep dolphins or whales in captivity. Most captive dolphins are caught on the shores of Japan, and by supporting that captivity you would be justifying the horrific dolphin slaughter in Taiji. If you love ocean life, do not support their capture and exploitation. I believe aquariums also perpetuate the widespread delusion that animals are below us, and that we have the right to exploit them however we want.
  • Support the Sea Shepherd Conservationist Society. They are on the front lines of the war against Japanese whaling. Maybe their tactics seem juvenile and ineffective at times, but they are bringing this issue to light, and risking their lives to spare every whale life they can.
  • Put this widget on your Facebook and write a letter. See The Cove. Support filmmaking that exposes those who try to hide.
  • Tell your friends about overfishing and how Bluefin tuna may soon be added to the endangered species list. *Whaa-whaaaa…. Debbie Downer*- I know, but people gotta learn somehow.

South Park: Whale Whores

January 20, 2010 Leave a comment

Sea Shepherd, the anti-whaling activist group which has been the subject of books and the Animal Planet series Whale Wars, have finally hit the big time: they were the subject of an episode of South Park. Captain Paul Watson and the crew were joined by Stan, who helped make the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society more effective than ever! Check out the episode here. Here’s a teaser:

Beware vegan pirate ships.

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This is Still Happening

November 21, 2009 Leave a comment

AFP/HO/File photo

Modern whaling: why I lost all respect for Japan. I used to be a fan, really. Nintendo, crazy style, a feisty football team- Japan seemed like a cool country to a teenager. But now I realize they are the world’s worst offenders when it comes to overfishing and the ridiculous slaughter of whales. Yes, this is still happening.

Godspeed and good luck to the Steve Irwin and its crew this year.