Consider the Whales

In the ocean dwells a wondrous creature possessed of intelligence, moving through the deep blue serene waters with quiet grace, living in highly complex socially interdependent communities, communicating in a musical language of sounds that range beyond the lesser auditory perceptions of humanity.

The Great Whales include the largest life forms to have ever evolved on this planet, the largest and most complex brains to have ever evolved in the three and a half billion years of life on this blue watery world.

There is much that we fail to perceive when we look upon a whale with an eye prejudiced by our anthropocentric priorities.

We fail to perceive that the world of the whales is fast disappearing and may well fade completely from the living flowing fabric of our oceans.

The mighty Cachalot, the immense Blue, the incredible Humpback, the Beaked Whales, the wandering Grays, the Tropic whales and the smaller Piked whales have suffered in unimaginable agony for centuries as our cruel harpoons ripped through their bodies, shattered their organs, splintered their bones and spilled their hot blood into the cold tomb of the silent sea.

Our relentless slaughter of these gentle giants has exterminated the Atlantic Gray and the Biscayan Right, and brought most species to the brink of extinction.

And despite the immense scale of the loss, the killing continues as nations like Norway and Japan ruthlessly escalate their mindless slaughter, pursuing their helpless prey to the ends of the Earth.

In 1975, a dying whale, a Cachalot spared my life although he was suffering unspeakable agony from an exploded harpoon to the head. When I looked into his dying eye, within arm’s reach of me as I sat in a small inflatable boat, I saw a spirit in that large intelligent orb that changed my life forever.

The whale had initially attacked my boat after being struck in the head with a Soviet grenade-tipped harpoon. His body angled out of the water and towered above me preparing to bring his enormous weight down upon me. But in his solitary eye, I caught a glimpse of recognition. We had just attempted to block that deadly harpoon and I believe he knew this. With a tremendous effort, he fell back into the sea and I saw his eye disappear beneath the surface and he was no more.

It was at that moment that the full realisation of the insanity of whaling hit me. What despicable blasphemy were we as a species involved in, that we could so arrogantly take such a life, that we could so ignorantly snuff out such an intelligence, and so thoughtlessly extinguish such poetic beauty.

The whaling that we oppose today is a wilful violation of international law, a crime against nature and humanity that survives because of the political, commercial and diplomatic bullying of Japan.

This trade in whale flesh also survives because of the lack of political will of nations to stand up against Japan to uphold the rule of law. Japanese whalers make a mockery of international conservation law.

What a lonely place the oceans would be without the whales. How much more alienated we will be from nature if we exterminate these unique giants.

The truth is that if we cannot save the whales, we will not save ourselves.

* Paul Watson is founder and president of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. He is preparing to sail his ship Farley Mowat from Melbourne to Antarctica next month in an attempt to disrupt Japanese whaling

Source: Guest column in The New Zealand Herald