Thursday, April 29, 2010

1 Down, 128 Million To Go

I have said that the way to end whaling by Japan is not by attacking their whaling ships, or by hurling invectives at them from the far side of the ocean. Neither of these has worked. These actions and words are seen as an imperialistic assault upon their culture and only serve to further entrench the Japanese government's support for whaling. The only voices that pro-whaling politicians will listen to are those of the people of Japan themselves. And to that end, I am heartened to learn that one such voice has now been raised by a former employee of the Taiji dolphin hunt. She was what they call a 'dolphin trainer' and her job was to select the dolphins that would be sold to aquariums. She did this knowing that those she did not pick would be killed and butchered. Now, many years later, after seeing the film 'The Cove', she has spoken out against this barbaric annual slaughter. In her words, (translated from Japanese), "It is just a small group of hardheaded men who continue the practice of dolphin hunting with the excuse of protecting our culture". She added that, "I think it is about time that we Japanese people open our eyes to what we are doing and what the rest of the world is asking of us." Amen! Hers is only one voice out of 128 million, but it is a start. From her lips to God’s ears, and to the ears of those hardheaded men.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Why Do I Care? Why Should You?

Today, I will temporarily silence the sincere, sometimes sarcastic, and always unapologetically anthropomorphic voice of the whales and dolphins, on whose behalf I have been speaking passionately now for nearly a year, both in my book, The Tempest’s Roar, and in this blog. Today I want to address you simply as a fellow human being. Recently, I received an email from a leading figure in the ‘Save the Whales’ movement who had never heard of me but had been led to read my blog. He asked me some probing questions; why do I work so hard at this cause…what do I ultimately seek to achieve…who benefits from my writing…and, cutting to the chase, why do I care?

Why do I care? Any intelligent person might ask that same question; why should anyone care about whales and dolphins? A nation at war. A stagnant economy. Acrimonious debates at the highest levels in politics. Corruption and greed rewarded. Life savings slipping away. Homes lost. Dreams fading. Aging parents. Unsettled children. Cancer. Crime. Chaos...Believe me, I understand: life is hard. With all of the above crashing down upon us (me included), why should we care about whales and dolphins? The reason is simple, and it is not because I believe that unlike any other creature walking, crawling, flying, or swimming across the face of this earth, whales and dolphins come closest to us in intelligence, in self-awareness, in feeling, in being afraid of their enemies, in loving their families, and in understanding the meaning of death and dying. I believe all these to be true but there are many who do not.

However, there is one fact that is indisputable: life is short and we are only here once. I believe that to have lived without caring for some cause, without believing in something more important than ourselves, without lifting ourselves up above the trials and tribulations of our daily lives, without trying to make this earth a better place no matter how small our impact may be or that no one will ever know we tried, is never to have lived at all. When we are dust, and no one beyond our grandchildren remembers our names, what we have done in our lives beyond simply passing through time and space, will live forever. That is why I care. And that is why you should too, if not for whales and dolphins for something, somewhere. Do it and your life will have meaning far greater than you know. Do it because you were here.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Between the Devil and the Blood Red Sea

A small group of anti-whaling nations, including the United States, is currently attempting to broker an agreement that would limit and could potentially end whaling by Japan, Iceland, and Norway. The agreement would allow these three countries to continue whaling for another ten years. The quid pro quo is that they would agree to reduced quotas, restrictions on targeted species, and stricter monitoring, including global DNA tracking of whale products. As is always the case among your kind on matters of critical international importance, the negotiations have generated heated debate and discord as extremists on both sides of the issue are quick to criticize the work of the negotiating committee but slow to offer practical alternatives. Opponents argue that the agreement will 'open the floodgates' to the slaughter and not guarantee the end of whaling after a decade. Proponents say that it is a reasonable first step in the process of ending this barbaric practice forever. The brutal fact is that all efforts to stop whaling to-date have failed, including brave but divisive acts on the high seas, and bluster and bombast on the safe side of the shore. And as this acrimonious debate continues among nations, my kind is caught between the devil and the blood red sea.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Violence Only Begets Violence

The Japanese whaling fleet has returned home from the Southern Ocean and according to Shigetoshi Nishiwaki, head of the Japanese Institute for Cetacean Research, the fleet was only able to ‘catch’ half of its 1,000 whale ‘research’ goal. Euphemisms aside, he means they were only able to 'slaughter' and 'butcher' half the tonnage targeted for restaurants in Japan, South Korea, and elsewhere including the U.S. as occurred recently in California. Nishiwaki cited the acts of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society as the primary reason for this failure. As brave and well-intended as Sea Shepherd’s sailors may be, their actions are seen as an assault on the Japanese culture, and ironically, in saving the lives of 500 whales this season, they have further entrenched the Japanese government’s support for whaling. As such, they are hurting the very cause in which they so passionately believe. The only way to get Japan, Iceland and Norway, to stop this brutal practice is to reach out to ordinary citizens of these countries and get them to work against whaling from within their own society. As with other aspects of human society, in the case of whaling, violence only begets violence. We must ignore the tyranny of the few and instead appeal to the compassion and reason of the many.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

If Not You, Who? If Not Today, When?

Today is Cetacean Day, a day when countries around the world honor whales, dolphins, and porpoises, the intelligent and sentient beings your scientists call cetaceans. If you were not aware of this, you're not alone. Based on the limited coverage in global news media, apparently only the people of Malta and Hawaii are celebrating this event. And it will most certainly get no support in Japan, Iceland, and Norway—three countries who continue to slaughter cetaceans—other than perhaps by having the men in rubber aprons standing on decks awash in whale blood, sharpen their long knives and ring the dinner bell even more loudly.
If I seem cynical, I am. Despite the good intentions of whoever it was who decided to make April 14 a day to celebrate the beauty and majesty of my kind, this noble but little-recognized effort pales in comparison to the continuing cruel and unusual treatment that cetaceans are subjected to around the globe. And I am not just referring to the butchery cited above: I am also talking about the imprisonment of Belugas, Orcas and Bottlenose Dolphins, among others, who are confined in tiny concrete tanks where they live shortened lives of mindless boredom as the free spirit that was hard-wired into them at birth flickers and slowly dies. All in the name of entertainment, masquerading as ‘education’. Sad. So very sad.
So if you really care about my kind on this day set aside by someone somewhere to honor cetaceans, the best thing you can do is to sit down and write a letter to your government, and demand that it stops the killing and captive display of whales, dolphins, and porpoises around the globe. If not you, who? And if not today, when?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Unicorns Are Back: Let's Kill Them.

In 2004, Canada’s committee on endangered wildlife recommended listing the Narwhal as a ‘species of special concern’, and in 2008, an international study identified this spiral-tusked whale as the species most susceptible to the effects of retreating Arctic sea-ice (contrary to views that polar bears are most vulnerable). Against this ominous backdrop, six researchers from Canada, the U.S., and Greenland developed a new system for counting Narwhals, and have recently concluded that the population in Canada’s northeastern waters is higher than was originally thought. However, in an astonishing display of perverted logic, the project team led by Canadian federal Fisheries and Oceans scientist, Pierre Richard, has concluded that, “there is a large population out there, one that can probably sustain a large hunt.” What! Float that by me again: the number of these beautiful whales who gave rise to the myth of unicorns is higher than you thought so let's go kill them! I can think of several other conclusions that might be drawn from this study, but recommending the slaughter of Narwhals is not one of them. Is there no end to the hubris and blood lust of humankind? I guess not. Watch out polar bears, you may be next.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Hypocrisy in Rotterdam

It is illegal in the Netherlands to import whale meat. However, this apparently does not prevent those who profit from the slaughter of great whales to move the product of their butchery through the port of Rotterdam. It is hard to understand how the Dutch authorities can draw this distinction. This case involves seven refrigerated containers of meat from endangered Fin Whales killed by whalers in Iceland that were bound for Japan. Before the ship NYK Orion that was transporting the whale meat could depart Rotterdam harbor, activists from Greenpeace who were tipped off to this illegal cargo, chained themselves to the ship’s anchor line. However, despite their heroic efforts, it appears that the Dutch Customs office may allow the whale meat to continue on its journey. If they do, these officials will have blood on their hands: not blood from the bodies of the dead whales that once flooded the decks of the Icelandic whale ships; rather it will be blood from the whales’ souls and it can never be washed off. Let us hope that the good people of the Netherlands will not allow their government authorities to become enablers to the brutal and archaic practice of whaling. It is time for all the citizens of the world to see whaling for what it is: murder in the first degree.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Before the Last One Dies

There is a small porpoise, called the Vaquita, who lives in the clear, warm waters at the extreme northern end of the Gulf of California. It is a beautiful little creature, with a unique body shape and color pattern, a tall dorsal fin, and dark eye rings that have given it the name, ‘Panda of the Sea’. If you saw one you could not help but fall in love with it; but soon, very soon, no one will ever see a Vaquita again. There are only 100-150 left in the wild and none in captivity, where they do not do well or breed. It is the world’s most endangered marine mammal and it is vanishing before our eyes. Every year, as many as half the population of Vaquitas become entangled in gillnets and drown, and reproduction cannot keep up with this attrition rate. But it is not too late to save them from extinction. Here is how you can help:

1. Write letters to your government, or to the United Nations, in support of the Vaquita conservation efforts by Mexico’s Ministry of Environment.
2. Do not buy shrimp or fish caught in gillnets, and support fishermen who do not use gillnets.
3. Tell your friends, and all those who will listen, about their story.
4. Donate to the Vaquita Recovery Fund at,
Cetos Research Organization
c/o Cetos Atlantic/Ann Zoidis
11 Des Isle Avenue
Bar Harbor, ME 04609
And visit

Please help before the last one dies, and the light of yet another species is extinguished forever.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Time for Thanks

Today is not the time for criticism of those among your kind who persecute whales, dolphins, and porpoises. Instead, on this the eve of the holiest three days of the Christian year, and during the week-long Jewish festival of Passover, it is a time for us all to give thanks: thanks for the salvation of those who see Jesus as the son of God; thanks for the salvation of the ancient Hebrews who escaped from enslavement in Egypt; and thanks for the grace and goodness of those of you who seek to save my kind, both great and small, from extinction. Through your care, and concern, and generous contributions to 'save the whales' organizations, you bring us one step closer to the day when we can peacefully co-exist on this tiny blue marble drifting silently through space that we share. May God bless you and all men and women of good faith everywhere; and may He keep the ‘many’ safe from the evil that still lurks in the hearts of the ‘few’.