Wednesday, November 3, 2010
I 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. It is to question the rhetoric 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!"
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… People in favor of killing whales are so primitive that they must have a Neanderthal-like look… He's probably referring to the 'stupidity' of these primitive people. Funny comparison, perhaps, but if this had been said about Afro-Americans, for instance - jokingly or not - one could rightly accuse this man of being a rabid racist.
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."
This is a statement, which should be followed by a more detailed explanation, because it raises more questions than it answers. The main questions might, for example, be: If not every animal is evolved for the sole purpose of being killed or exploited by man, which animals are? And why is it that these animals are more suitable for exploitation than others? And why is it that others are not? Clearly, in this man's view, the whales are not... but why? I guess he is trying to explain that 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."
This shows that this man has attached himself emotionally to animals as a whole, but 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 he forgets to mention that many of these intelligent whales he allegedly wants 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?
This man is of course entitled to 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. Furthermore, 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 everyday, 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 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 torturous and holocaust-like than killing and hunting free animals in the wild has ever been. But anyway...
I wonder why he expects the human race to have evolved significantly in such a short span, which 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 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 - emotionally. But what makes him believe that he himself and his allies are any 'better'? 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 angry 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 that 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! He’ can’t think much of apes, since he compares these atrocious human beings to apes.
But when it comes to ethics or moral standards, are we humans, basically, really so 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 to believe that whales are almost humanlike – at least when it comes to intelligence – and therefore better than any 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 them to stop killing other creatures? Maybe we should suggest that it would be a good idea for them to become vegetarians… 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 stupid? 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?
If we should follow this man’s logic – and fulfill them, 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, which 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.
The problem is always that the self-righteous are too self-righteous to notice their 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 more firmly 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, many forums on the net. Many are far more hateful and aggressive. And weirdly, other people admire the viewpoint this man and others 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 better persons than others.
He doesn't like the fact that people kill animals for food – or not for any reason. It gives him the impression that he must love nature and animals more 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 the activists really believe they them selves are 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 is not just black and white. The man I've cited above obviously lives in an almost childlike universe, 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 his allies have become so alienated to the true nature in themselves – which includes both good and bad, as it does for everyone living on earth – that they seem to have lost any sense of reality.
It's only when man is incapable of seeing and acknowledging the bad in himself that he is truly capable of committing evil things. It's eerie that he and many others 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 is 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 (read: 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.
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 traditional way of providing food - a sustainable tradition, which has been taking place 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, which, consequently, 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 causes great concern for the health of the animals and those who eat them. But are the Faroese to blame for that?
Regardless of that discussion, the obvious self-righteousness and lack of doubt expressed in this, 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 a confrontational, unconstructive way? Which is why I don't get the rhetoric of extreme anti-whaling activists...
Posted by Elin Brimheim Heinesen at Wednesday, November 03, 2010