Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Freedom He Will Never Know

The Shedd Aquarium in Chicago announced this week that beginning at noon this Sunday, visitors will be allowed to see the male Beluga Whale that was born at the aquarium in December. While the people operating this aquarium are undoubtedly well meaning, the harsh reality is that this baby will spend his life in a confined indoor tank. He will never know the clear cold waters of Hudson Bay, or the Arctic Ocean, or the Russian White Sea where others of his kind are free to swim to the horizon and beyond. He will never experience what it is like to frolic beneath the ice, or chase squid, or forage the seabed for crabs. He will never feel the sun on his back, or spyhop to watch seabirds soar and swoop high above wind-swept waves, or feel the surge and swell of the seas in a wild winter storm. And, like others of his kind who are enslaved in aquariums around the world, he will die long before his time, never knowing what it was like to be free. An unbiased observer among your kind might ask, Why? Why do we doom this baby and others like him to abbreviated lives of inestimable boredom and unknowable sadness? And the shameful answer will be, we do it for our pleasure and entertainment.

Monday, January 25, 2010

My Fiftieth Posting

If I may be permitted to take a time out on my regular commentary about the world of whales and dolphins, this marks my fiftieth posting since I began writing Whale and Dolphin Talk last summer. On behalf of Apollo, I am honored to report that readership has been steadily increasing over the last six months, and during the past thirty days alone, two hundred and eighteen people from twenty-one countries around the globe have read my blog (of which fifty-two were returning visitors). This is gratifying since my topic does not rise to the same level of general interest as blogs about a Brit who recites Shakespeare in his sleep, or one from Hollywood that tracks what the preferred implant sizes are at plastic surgery clinics this season, or another that counts how many different ways there are to make mac and cheese. However, if you prefer a more altruistic topic and are passionate about whales and dolphins, I humbly ask that you tell your friends about my blog. The only way we will ever prevail in our efforts to save whalekind from the brutality of the few, and the apathy of the many, is to reach out and touch the hearts and minds of good people everywhere. Thank you. See you on the other side of the thin blue line that separates Apollo’s world from ours.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Greenpeace Gets It Right

Over the past two years, Greenpeace has not sent a ship down to the Southern Ocean to interfere with Japanese whaling ships. Instead, they have redirected their efforts to informing the Japanese people about the annual whale slaughter being carried out with the support of their government. According to a study commissioned by Greenpeace, less than 1 in 10 of the Japanese people is aware of whaling and only 1 in 20 eats whale meat. Given these remarkably low figures, it is clear that the best way to stop whaling is to bring the unspeakable acts of the whaling fleet to the attention of the general population. The Japanese Institute for Cetacean Research, which is the organization that perpetrates this butchery under the guise of research, has attempted to cast anti-whaling efforts as an attack on the Japanese nation and its culture. Ironically, the misguided bravery of anti-whaling activists who still sail in harm’s way on the high seas, and the angry invectives hurled at the Japanese people by well-meaning but uninformed foreigners only serve to reinforce this campaign. Heightened public interest and concern will only be achieved by appealing to both the hearts and minds of the Japanese people. And so we say, Good for you, Greenpeace. Good for you!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Close Encounters of the Best Kind

In stark contrast to the tragic occurrence in South Africa last week in which a man was devoured by an enormous Great White Shark, there is news from New Zealand of another incident involving a human and an ocean dweller, but in this case it was the human who was doing the attacking. According to the Department of Conservation, a woman paddler took a whack with her oar at MOKO, a Bottlenose Dolphin in the Bay of Plenty (Plenty of what? Dolphins not sharks I hope). Apparently MOKO was being rather boisterous and would not allow the woman to return to shore. As much as I do not like the idea of a fellow dolphin being whacked on the head, I can understand the woman's frustration; sometimes my kind does get carried away with play. But know this, if in those same waters a Great White Shark had suddenly appeared, you can be sure that MOKO would have been a far better defense for the woman against the shark than her oar. I hope she realizes this. Whales and dolphins provide close encounters of the best kind, even though only a few among you humans know it and most of you do not care.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Close Encounters of the Worst Kind

Let us turn away, at least for a moment, from the on-going whaling tragedy in the Southern Ocean to another tragedy that deserves your attention. This is the recent fatal attack on a swimmer near Cape Town by a Great White Shark described as being "dinosaur huge". Similar attacks in Australia have prompted government plans to seek out and destroy these 'rogue' sharks. Even though it may surprise you for me to say this, given my dislike for these mindless eating machines, I do not think such action is justified. We are all part of nature, and nature can be unkind. Moreover, you cannot kill them all. While showboating divers on television fool around with White Sharks 3 to 4 meters in length and get away with it, there are others out there that are much larger and far more dangerous. I am not talking only about the big sisters that return to the Farallones every September that can reach 5 meters in length. I am referring to monsters 6 meters and up, like the one who devoured that hapless human near Cape Town. The sad reality is that every time one of your kind goes into the water off South Africa, South Australia or Northern California, they are risking a close encounter of the worst kind. So be warned, unlike Orcas, the killers among my kind, Great White Sharks will eat you if you give them the opportunity. If you do not want to risk it, swim in a pool.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

It Would Only Be Fair

Recently, in response to my on-going attempts to convince your kind that whales and dolphins are intelligent and sentient beings who deserve to live free from persecution, enslavement, and murder, a man in Australia said he would believe this when he saw one of my kind write a book, compose a song, or appear on a reality show. I will concede that at least the first two require a certain minimum level of intelligence but I also submit that brainpower can manifest itself in many different ways, and what one intelligent species does in its own environment is not necessarily an appropriate measure for another. Let us suppose for argument's sake, that somewhere in the vastness of space, there is a race of beings with sufficient intelligence, knowledge and capability to enable them to visit the earth(setting aside why they would even bother). Using the same logic of my Aussie friend, since these space invaders were obviously capable of inter-galactic travel and you humans are not, it would be perfectly acceptable then for them to attack, enslave, or eat you. Would this make mankind any less intelligent? I think not. Oh, and by the way, if/when that happens, it would only be fair that the Aussie be first in line.

Monday, January 11, 2010

All They Will Hear Is Silence.

The renowned American abolitionist, William Lloyd Garrison once said,

“With reasonable men I will reason; with humane men I will
plead; but to tyrants I will give no quarter, nor waste
arguments where they will certainly be lost.”

He was speaking about slavery, a practice that few in the world today would endorse or tolerate. Arguably, the continuing persecution and slaughter of whales and dolphins by Japan, Norway, and Iceland does not rise to that same level of inhumanity. However, the fact remains that in the far off waters of the Antarctic, men of different races and cultures are at this very moment leveling charges and counter-charges against each other. And while a state of tyranny reigns, any hope that reason and humanity will prevail drifts away on the frigid, wind-swept seas. In the meantime, thousands of sentient and intelligent beings who have done nothing to deserve their horrific fate will continue to die. Perhaps one day, when all the whales and dolphins are gone from the seas, the children of these three countries will look at their parents and ask, Why. And all they will hear is silence.

Friday, January 8, 2010

To The Good And Decent People Of Japan

This week, in the waters of Antarctica, a Japanese whaling ship, the Shonan Maru, rammed the Ady Gil, a smaller boat operated by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. The Ady Gil was cut in half but thankfully, no one was killed on either vessel. However, the likelihood of a human being dying grows with each hour that these whale hunts continue. Your government, through its Fisheries Agency, claims that the hunts are done in the name of research, but the truth is that the meat from the thousands of whales that are killed each year ends up in the fish markets of your country, and it is consumed by you. Quite apart from the danger this presents to you and your children due to the potentially deadly levels of mercury in the meat, there is another reason to stop this killing, which is that it is wrong. Unlike cattle, chickens, or tuna, whales are a sentient and intelligent species and for all practical purposes they are not a renewable resource; once they are gone from the oceans we will never see their kind again. In the name of all that is good and decent, please, please, demand that your government stops the whaling. Now is the time, humanity is the reason, and you are the only people on this planet who can put an end to this brutal and archaic practice forever.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

No Sins Save Gluttony

Jonathan Leake, in the Sunday Times, reports that scientists have recently declared dolphins as “the world’s second most intelligent creatures after humans.” Quite apart from the obvious evaluator bias, I am delighted that some among your kind finally recognize that whales and dolphins possess a level of intelligence, social skills, and self-awareness significantly higher than three-year-old children and chimpanzees—two groups to whom my kind has been erroneously compared in the past. Now I have nothing against children or chimps but please, a baby dolphin mere seconds after birth demonstrates cognitive, verbal, and motor skills far beyond those of either group, not to mention being able to echo-locate a shrimp at a thousand yards. Try that the next time you take your little one (or pet ape) to the seashore. Unfortunately, this declaration has apparently incensed some morons among your kind who have expressed their outrage in the blogosphere, at least to the degree that their monosyllabic minds and propensity for vulgarity allow. Whatever. Whether these buffoons like it or not, dolphins are equally as intelligent as humans are, and we are far less likely to exhibit the Seven Deadly Sins of wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony—with the possible exception of gluttony, as might be the case whenever a school of fat, juicy anchovies is present.

Monday, January 4, 2010

What a Fin-tastic Start to the New Year!

Hello there. I am back. I hope that your holidays were safe and satisfying. As we start our journey together into the next decade, I am thrilled to report wonderful news out of Southern California. According to CBS News Correspondent Sandra Hughes, sightings of great whales in Santa Monica Bay have increased dramatically in recent weeks; including Fin, Blue, and Humpback Whales. Scientists among your kind are not sure why (go figure) but regardless of the reason, it is great news nonetheless. Now let us hope that the Japanese whaling fleet does not pull a Pearl Harbor sequel, and sail into US territorial waters with murder on their minds to begin slaughtering these magnificent cousins of mine. In the highly unlikely event that these mindless, cold-blooded killers tried that, I trust that the US Navy, with whom my kind has not always gotten along, would come to our rescue. Nothing would give whales and dolphins greater satisfaction than to see Japanese whaleboats rotting on the sea floor.