Monday, May 28, 2007

Whales and Other Animals, Including Humans

some odds and ends piling up on my hard disk…

Animal Rights: The shifting Line between Us and Them

Here's a story about pig-hunting dogs. I quote:

"The wild boar has a reputation of being a highly intelligent animal that becomes very skilled at hiding and deceiving its adversary. [Joshua Kuata, owner of the world's only pg dog training school says, 'He has the reputation down my way of being the Houdini of the forest, so to hunt him down effectively requires a dog with equal cunning, skill and courage.'"

Indeed, scientists who study animal behavior will tell you that pigs are as smart as, if not smarter than, dogs.

Pigs are cuter too. At least we seem to think so, if popular cartoon renditions of pigs are anything to go by. Contrast this with dogs, which run the whole gamut of humanity from beautiful hero to ugly villain, romantic lead to slapstick comedian. But not as food.

Behind this is the singular talent of the dog to insinuate itself into our lives and lure us into projecting our human existence on them. Dog, the anthropomorph has become "one of us", at least in the West. Why did the pig never make that leap? It must have been too attractive as a food source; we had to keep it as "one of them".

The line between "us" and "them" shifts over time and varies widely between cultures.

Dead Whales Talking

BERLIN, Germany (AP) -- Greenpeace activists laid the carcasses of 17 small whales and dolphins in front of the landmark Brandenburg Gate.

Some of the animals died after getting trapped in fish nets, while others showed the scars of being hit by ships' propellers, the activists said.
The gruesome collection, kept in a trough of ice under the hot sun, represented the number of whales and dolphins that die every half-hour or so through human impact, protest organizers said.

In a year, 300,000 whales and dolphins drown in fishing nets, "and it is impossible to calculate how many more fall victim to pollution, ship strikes, the impacts of sonar or climate change," Greenpeace marine biologist Stefanie Werner said.

A purposely edited excerpt, it was "part of a dramatic protest against commercial whaling". "The demonstration Monday was designed to urge countries to resist increasing pressure for a resumption of commercial whaling." So, a reminder that 300,000 whales and dolphins are killed each year by fishing nets alone serves to make a point about commercial whaling.

New Zealand Wants Payback.

This AP wire by way of TIME and this one from Australian Associated Press by way of Yahoo (click on the AAP icon at your peril if you are using Firefox) stick more or less to the circumstances surrounding this week's International Whaling Commission's (IWC) annual meeting in Alaska.

According to the report, New Zealand formally requested Japan to suspend its hunt of 50 humpback whales in return for their assistance during the fire on Japan's whaling vessel in February. My knowledge of the laws and age-old customs of the sea says that this is the kind of demand you only make towards hostile states and privateers.

BBC Continues Its Journey into Place the White Man Fears to Tread.

Meanwhile, Richard Black, the BBC environmental correspondent continues his exploration of alternative takes on whaling through science , ethnology, and gastronomy.

This last story, needless to say, is a reminder that the line between "us" and "them" shifts over time and varies widely between cultures.

Yes, I am aware that Katsutoshi Matsuoka, the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, killed himself. No, I do not understand why he did it either.

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