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Should the left oppose whaling?

While this article has some interesting and worthwhile points in it, in retrospect it is too superficial and one-sided to now represent my views. JP 9 December 2013.

There is nothing about whales that means humanity shouldn’t eat them.

Indeed the International Whaling Commission recognises this by allowing aboriginal subsistence whaling.

On the other hand Paul Watson from the Sea Shepherd does not accept the right of indigenous peoples to continue their traditional whale killing practices. He has physically prevented indigenous groups from undertaking kills.

His anti-whaling colonialism is an extension of the white man’s ‘civilising’ burden – handing down from on high to the lower castes their new enlightenment, often through force. This is nothing but cultural imperialism.

It is not a position the Left can support. It would be like supporting the Northern Territory invasion.

The Antarctic minke whale is not under threat of extinction from Japanese whaling. The International Whaling Commission reports that in 1989 there were 781,000 Antarctic Minke whales. They are conducting further research for current figures.

The Japanese this year will take 935. This will have no impact on the survival of the species.

Acidification and commercial overfishing are both threats to the ecosystem. Restricted whaling isn’t.

What then drives opposition to whaling?

Much of it is humanitarian. Killing another intelligent being in conditions which inflict pain is repugnant to many people. Pigs, cattle and sheep are sentient beings as well, and their deaths are painful, but they too end up on the dinner plates of many around the world.

At the moment the continued existence of humanity depends on the ongoing exploitation of animals. Under capitalism that exploitation can be cruel.

It is possible that a democratic and planned society could decide to move away from all animal products. But socialism is for the future.

Today people eat animals to live. As long as the minke whale is not in danger of becoming extinct, then there appears to me no reason not to harvest some of its stock for human consumption.

From the Australian Government’s point of view its opposition to whaling appears to be linked to our imperialist claims to the Australian Antarctic Territory rather than any concern for the sustainability of the minke.

And of course the Government thinks it is popular to oppose whaling (which it is), but this too presents a problem for them. Once again Rudd has promised the world but so far has delivered only the toilet door key.

Only 4 countries recognise our Antarctic claims. Unsurprisingly each also claims part of Antarctica.

According to the Australian Antarctic Division website the ‘Australian Antarctic Territory covers nearly 5.9 million square kilometres, about 42% of Antarctica and nearly 80% of the total area of Australia itself.’

In addition Australia claims that ‘the Australian Antarctic territorial waters extend 200 nautical miles out to sea from the Australian Antarctic territory.’

Japanese whalers operate in these waters. The Australian Government uses diplomatic means to try to stop this because it is not yet prepared to physically enforce its imperialist claims to Antarctica and its waters. Diplomacy is imperialism without guns.

The Rudd Government’s anti-whaling stance is but a pawn in Australia’s claims to Antarctica. No one on the left should support this imperialist adventure under the guise of defending whales.

For Australian imperialism whales are the WMDs of the water.

Then there is the politics of the shepherds of the sea and warriors of the water.

Apart from physically preventing indigenous people from traditional killings (in cahoots with the far right in one case) and supporting Australian imperialism, their politics are essentially elitist and dogmatic. There is one truth and that is that killing even one whale is evil and the Sea Shepherd will do anything to prevent that.

Well not quite anything. Their activity does not extend to agitating among Japanese or Australian workers as workers, in particular those in the ports and on the boats. They have contempt for workers.

Their approach involves substituting themselves for the mass of people. This is reformism on a grand scale. Leave it to us; we know better than you; we’ll solve the situation by harassing, attacking and even sinking boats.

Obviously they have support – you can’t buy $2m boats like the Ady Gil without lots of support, and some of it comes from ordinary working people.

But this elitism and substitutionism is an example of the broader thinking of an educated petit bourgeoisie which has coalesced around animal rights issues, groups whose views (while perhaps appealing to a middle class retiree like me) take no account of the real lives under capitalism of their working class supporters.

Indeed rather than seeing the problem as the way production is organised they see it ultimately as one of consumption. If humans didn’t eat whales, eat meat, wear fur [put in the appropriate concern du jour] the world would be set right.

Socialists reject this elitist world view. The real issue is human wage slavery. The way animals are treated flows from that basic foundation of society.

Without the liberation of humanity through the action of the working class there can be no ‘liberation’ in any form for animals, including whales.

The left opposes colonialism, imperialism and reformism. We cannot support the anti-working class opponents of whaling.

Readers might also like to read Stop work to stop the bosses’ war on the environment and The failure of Copenhagen: the success of environmental imperialism.

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Comments

Comment from Ben Courtice
Time January 10, 2010 at 7:18 pm

http://bccwords.blogspot.com/2010/01/sea-shepherd-heroics-racism-and.html
Their protest tactics are elitist, and I share your concern that whaling of non-endangered species is not necessarily unsustainable. More to the point, I think it’s a bit like saving the fluffy cute things (well, cute not fluffy in whales’ case) but not caring about the whole ecosystem. Can’t say I care for factory fishing ships for any species though (and regardless of their national flag). The world has to move away from the terrible overfishing that is destroying marine ecosystems. Whaling is just one very small part of that system, whether or not it is individually sustainable or justifiable.

Comment from David Jackmanson
Time January 10, 2010 at 7:35 pm

Agree with the broad thrust of what you say here (get prepared to be called an evil right-winger, by the way).

However I’m not sure the Australian Goverment’s opposition to whaling is a Machiavellian manoeuvre in support of its claims in Antarctica. My guess is that it’s more a thoroughly opportunistic position based on the calculation that whaling is opposed by the vast majority of people in Australia.

If the Government really intended to assert its claims on the Australian Antarctic Territory and the waters around it, surely there would be far more surveillance of the whalers in preparation for a serious legal challenge? Even though most international courts are toothless tigers, the Government could be doing a lot more to put propaganda pressure on the Japanese if they really wished to exploit this issue?

Pingback from Does being anti-whaling mean you’re an imperialist? at STRANGE TIMES
Time January 10, 2010 at 7:49 pm

[…] Trotskiyist blogger John Passant thinks so. In an article published today on his blog, “Should the left oppose whaling?“, he argues “There is nothing about whales that means humanity shouldn’t eat […]

Comment from John
Time January 10, 2010 at 7:59 pm

Thanks Ben and David. The ecosystem and overfishing argument is an important one Ben, more important than the whaling one. But we as a nation are focused on whales. And I think the Government opposes whaling for both the fact it is popular to do so and it serves their territorial ambitions. I’ve added a sentence to reflect that and the problem it presents for do nothing Labor.

Yeah, I’ll be rubbished as a right winger. oh well.

Not sure David that I was calling all those who oppose whaling imperialists. I was pointing out some possible Government thinking.

As to the territory and waters, the Government knows it has little chance of success in arguing a case in the international forums including law courts. So it aims to stop whaling by other means (eg through teh IWC) to de facto prevent incursions into its ‘sovereign territory’.

Pingback from En Passant » Should the left oppose whaling? | antarcticas
Time January 10, 2010 at 9:33 pm

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Time January 11, 2010 at 12:30 am

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This post was mentioned on Reddit by Passy: The left opposes colonialism, imperialism and reformism. We cannot support the anti-working class opponents of whaling.

Pingback from En Passant » Should the left oppose whaling? | australianews
Time January 11, 2010 at 6:55 am

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Comment from Sebastiano
Time January 11, 2010 at 8:32 am

“At the moment the continued existence of humanity depends on the ongoing exploitation of animals.”

This statement is simply false. There is absolutely no need to exploit , kill and eat animals in order to support the human species.
In fact, there is overwhelming evidence to the contrary:
1. The animal exploitation industry takes resources away from the part of the world that does not have enough food. Turning entire countries into monocultural grounds for animal feed generates starvation in less developed countries.
The economy of producing meat proteins using enormous amounts of vegetable proteins, water, oil and other resources, is obviously an affordable practice for rich countries, but a disaster for most of humanity.
2. It is now demonstrated that factory farming is the number one source of greenhouse gases. That this might be essential for the “continued existence of humanity” is in fact a contradiction in terms.
3. Factory farming has eradicated local farming, and it is common knowledge that a few multinational corporations almost completely control the production, distribution and use of seeds worldwide. Once again, the same companies who are responsible for factory farming are mostly responsible for world starvation.

I would like to add that ignoring animal suffering, and in fact being oblivious to animal rights, is certainly inappropriate for anyone claiming to be on the left. In fact, an ever expanding moral circle, including beings of all races, all sexes, all sexual orientations, and ultimately all species is definitely more consistent with a left wing view of moral justice and equality.

Last but not least, how could it be appropriate for anyone claiming to be on the left to support the killing of whales at enormous expense by a fleet coming form the other side of the world (at enormous cost to the environment, too), to pack and resell one of the most expensive meats ever: currently, according to whalers sources, it retails on average for $64 a pound. When are you going to write about the essential human right to eat caviar?

Comment from Ben Courtice
Time January 11, 2010 at 12:49 pm

I think the big question, relating to the big ecological issue, is: do Sea Shepherd really advance understanding and support for the crisis of marine ecosystems, and solutions to said crisis? A secondary question is whether they actively support, cynically turn a blind eye to, or are simply not to blame for the racist support they receive. I’m undecided on either question but interested to hear opinions. And I think the point about caviar was a good one….

Comment from Ben Courtice
Time January 11, 2010 at 12:51 pm

PS good article about Sea Shepherd’s attitude to native American whalers here http://ncseonline.org/NAE/cases/makah/m6.html

Comment from nicolas
Time January 11, 2010 at 4:12 pm

hi there

in relation to the TPG case, i just wanna say something here.

forget about the permanent establishment here. i dont think they ve got any in australia.

so assuming that they dont have any permanent establishment, if i were the tax advisor for TPG, i woulda already told them, it wouldnt do any bad to us regardles of if the sale proceeds are going to be considered as capital or income.

if it is capital, fine as the shares in the australian company (which holds all the Myer shares) are not any taxable australian property, TPG wouldnt be taxed on it.

if it is income, since Netherlands has a double tax agreement with Australia, the netherlands company (which sold the shares in the australian company which in turn holds the Myer shares) wouldnt be taxable in australia either.

my perspective on this is, the tax advisor for TPG didnt expect the application of tax avoidance to this transaction. or if they did, this would be the reason why they transferred the sale proceeds straightaway after the transaction.

just my thoughts…..nicolas ho

Comment from Emerson
Time January 11, 2010 at 8:42 pm

Just read your article John. I think you need to separate the issues a bit more. Your critique of organizations like Sea Shepherd (or GreenPeace for that matter) as having an elitist and substitutionist strategy to changing the world is spot on. Direct Action, or Direct-Debit “Activism”? And then there is the history of conservationist organizations providing a racist “green-cover” for stripping away indigenous land rights, which Sea Shepherd falls into with its opposition to traditional whale killings. But you have to separate the general (and working class) opposition to animal cruelty with the organizations like Sea Shepherd that focus that opposition. It’s similar to working class support of charity or aid ngos (which are just as elitist and substitutionist). Socialists don’t condemn workers for giving money to third world ngo’s, even though charity is ultimately a dead-end solution to getting rid of poverty (or in this case animal cruelty).

Comment from John
Time January 11, 2010 at 10:20 pm

Sebastiano, you argue for what could be. I am discussing what is. So let me put a question to you. How do the actions of a concerned few on the high seas actually advance your agenda one iota. It doesn’t.
A second point. If animal suffering improves human life, then if there are no alternatives I support it. Certainly I support the 2 billion starving and the malnourished their right to food here and now and I am not going to impose my views on them if they want to and must eat meat to survive.

Comment from Sebastiano
Time January 12, 2010 at 3:45 am

John, you wrote a piece with the aim of demonstrating that a true adherence to Left ideals means one cannot support anti-whalers. I set out to show that your supposedly logical approach to the subject fails.

It is false that animal suffering improves human life, and there are infinite alternatives. In fact, as it is amply demonstrated, it is the very persistence in exploiting animals that directly causes infinite suffering among humans, depriving them of food, destroying the environment, and ultimately causing most damage to those who cannot choose, and cannot defend themselves. Whose side are you on, the poor and starving, or the food multinationals? Please, say it clearly. I am on the side of the poor and weak in the world, therefore I oppose animal exploitation, because it causes and increases human suffering. If you do not understand why animal suffering does not improve human life and it is not necessary, and if you don’t know how many better alternatives there are, I’m available to explain it to you in detail whenever you want.

The answer to your question should also be evident to a self-professing Leftist. I suggest you go back and re-read “What is to be Done?”, Lenin’s important pamphlet on the role of vanguards, and professional activism. Those ideas were as valid at the beginning of the XX Century as they are now.
In today’s world, not only is it important to bring issues to the attention of the media through direct action, but it is also important to show that a small group of determined people are capable to oppose major injustices and make a difference. Do you want to tell me that you oppose any kind of demonstration, rebellion, direct action or reaction, unless it is organized officially by a trade union and involves at least one million people?

In the situation you are describing, you have an imperialistic nation, who funds a greedy company to slaughter innocent sea creatures (including some at risk of extinction) with public money, to provide an absurdly expensive meat to very selected few. Opposing them, a mostly working-class group of activists who put their lives on the line to oppose an illegal activity, to bring the futility and injustice of this slaughter to the eyes of the world, while protecting the environment. How could you ever side with the whalers, and claim this is the leftist thing to do?

The caviar and whale meat/animal exploiting/world starving/multinational/imperialistic Left on one side, and the direct action/environment-protecting/anti-animal-abuse/pro-vegetarian/anti-whaling Left on the other. I have no doubt where I stand. Proud, and on the true Left, with the anti-whalers.

Comment from John
Time January 12, 2010 at 8:14 am

Sebastiano, for me the main enemy is at home. That means for me Australian bosses.

For Japanese workers it is their bosses.

I agree in general terms with your sentiments by the way about the impacts of the current mode of food production for profit.

I just don’t see the activity on the seas as the way to change the world.

The agency of change for the left must be the working class, that class with the social and economic power to completely and democratically overturn the way society is run.

I don’t see any evidence of those opposing whaling by attacking Japanese boats having any orientation to workers as workers. In fact they see workers as part of the problem.

Let’s assume that whaling ends. The very issues you talk about are still there.

I am not supporting whaling – I am opposing anti-whalers.

Your simplistic ‘which side are you on’ analysis leads to trouble. Sea Shepherd has denied indigenous people their rights to their culture and tradition. It has sided with the right-wing Republicans to do so. I don’t think that’s an appropriate side for the Left.

Sea Shepherd are just reformists with a boat who at best challenge one minor part of the exploitative system and do so from an essentially elitist ideology.

Here in Australia there is a deep vein of racism, and fear of the Japanese is part of that. Currently the conservative Opposition is criticising the Rudd Labor government seemingly from a position to the left of Labor.

Their leader wants to send an Australian customs ship to the area. This is driven by two things – to reinforce Australian imperialism and as a dog whistle to anti-Japanese racism.

Comment from John
Time January 12, 2010 at 8:33 am

Emerson, I thought I made that distinction with my comments about the basic human decency driving much opposition to whaling. Obviously I didn’t make it clear enough.

The real question is to how to tap into that decency. I am pretty sure my article is for most a complete failure at doing that.

Comment from Sebastiano
Time January 12, 2010 at 9:05 am

John, I understand what you’re saying, but you have to be careful when making inaccurate broad statements such as the ones you made in your article.
First you say that exploiting animals is necessary for the survival of the human species, and then you say that you agree with my views on food production in general terms? Please, make up your mind. It cannot be both ways.
I believe your mistake is thinking that the contradiction is as easy to define as it used to be: the struggle of the workers against the owners of the means of production. That is simplistic.
It’s not so easy anymore. The contradiction is much more intricate and varied, and assumes much more complex shapes. Your oppression may not always take the shape of an employer, but it might be the destruction of the environment depriving your children of their future. It takes the shape of violent oppression of those who are not your neighbors, but suffer needlessly anyway.
Your goals must look beyond the resolution of the contradiction on a small, local level. The main contradiction today is between those who want to exploit the planet – disregarding the rights of those who inhabit it (humans and animals), aiming recklessly towards its destruction -, and those who try to defend it, for the common good.
When, by siding against the anti-whalers, you condone the actions of the capitalist planet destroyers – be it whalers today or nuclear power plant construction companies or entire armies tomorrow – you are in fact taking the side of your enemy.
You cannot underestimate the role of “the individual as a direct and conscious actor” [Che] in the process of building a new world. When you disparage the vanguard as “elitist”, you are simply supporting their enemies, the capitalist whaling industry this time. When you assume that indigenous people are by definition morally right or superior, you lose sight of the fact that they may represent the reactionary force in a conflict.
I believe it is necessary to expand our moral views. I guess we share, since you mention indigenous populations, the point of view that our moral sphere must include those beyond our geographical borders. I hope we also share the point of view that our moral sphere must expand beyond our lifetime, to the future, taking into consideration the rights of those who will come after us. The third, fundamental dimension of expansion of our moral views must be towards those outside the artificial species barrier. When we include all sentient beings into our moral sphere, only then can we claim to be moral.
The struggle then becomes very clear, also because you always see the two sides invariably on their respective barricades: those who ruthlessly exploit others (humans or animals) for profit, who destroy our planet, who show no mercy towards their own or other species, who disregard everybody’s rights but their own, who deliberately plan to deprive our children of their future; on the opposite end, those who, under different shapes and forms, fight against this enemy, through anti-whaling actions, striking in a factory, opposing the construction of nuclear power plants, marching against the war, fighting for their civil rights, but also – very importantly – protecting the rights of those who cannot defend themselves.
When you defend the whales, you’re siding with the weak, exploited, threatened side of the planet. When you attack the anti-whalers, you’re siding with the exploiters, the destroyers of the planet, the weapon industry and your stated enemy, because they are one and the same.
My analysis is anything but simplistic: we are at war. Whose side are you on?

Comment from Ben Courtice
Time January 12, 2010 at 10:09 am

“The real question is to how to tap into that decency. I am pretty sure my article is for most a complete failure at doing that.” Which is why I wrote my article with some sympathy to the actions of Sea Shepherd. Peeling away the racism of some of their supporters and the elitism of their actions and fundraising I think you still find – as Sebastiano partially explains – a group that is trying to make a difference to the corporate assault on marine ecosystems. Their focus on whales and sharks — easily identifiable large species — fits with easy fundraising.
It’s a bit like the conservationists who pick on a cute fluffy quoll or whatever to save from extinction but don’t extend their campaign to the whole ecosystem that animal lives in. And given that some whales are no longer endangered, perhaps even that analogy is stretched now.
I’m not a vegetarian but blind freddy can see that land and sea based meat industries are unsustainable in present form…

Comment from Jill S
Time January 12, 2010 at 3:06 pm

John, I really enjoy your writing and am always chuffed when I see one of your articles reprinted in The Age. More power to you. 🙂

However, I have to say that I think this article is a bit silly and an example of a particular kind of unfortunate intervention that the far left occasionally makes into environment debates. I say this as someone on the far left who believes that environmental issues are only going to become more important and sooner or later, the left is going to have to engage with them on a more profound basis than this.

Firstly, your facts are selective and this undermines the credibility of this article from the start.

You write:
“The Antarctic minke whale is not under threat of extinction from Japanese whaling. The International Whaling Commission reports that in 1989 there were 781,000 Antarctic Minke whales. They are conducting further research for current figures.”

It’s true that the IWC previously reported that there were 781,000 but this figure was found to be inflated and was withdrawn back in the early 1990s. The only people who quote it now are the Japanese government – and five minutes of research on the net should have alerted you to this. There is now a suggestion that there might be 50% less whales than the previous figure, although there’s some debate around survey methods and so forth which takes me a bit out of my depth! But the general consensus is that we don’t know exactly how many Minke whales there are (it’s considered Data Deficient on the IUCN red list) but we suspect that there are a lot less than previously thought.

But on to the substance of your article. You imply that the Left can’t oppose commercial whaling because to do so would negate the right of indigenous peoples to continue their traditional whale killing practices. This is simply not true. Paul Watson from the Sea Shepherd may not make a distinction – he’s more of a single issue campaigner, after all – but lots of other people do! Aboriginal people have engaged in sustainable fishing practices for thousands of years which caused very little negative impact on the environment. So from an environmental standpoint, there’s really no comparison between this and commercial whaling which brought numerous species to the brink of extinction and continues to be problematic today.

Secondly, you write:
“At the moment the continued existence of humanity depends on the ongoing exploitation of animals. Under capitalism that exploitation can be cruel.”

This is true but it doesn’t mean we have to support all practices or cruelty and exploitation. According to your logic, we could never critique anything. In fact, there are a lot of cruel and exploitative practices under capitalism which have nothing to do with supporting humanity or feeding the hungry, and which are just about business taking short cuts and not caring about the effect on the world. It is our responsibility to criticise these.

My general approach would be quite different from yours. Each successive mode of production (from the development of the first surplus societies based on domestication of crops and animals) has increased the exploitation of the natural environment and animals. In this sense, human progress is built upon the exploitation of the natural world. However, capitalism is a unique mode of production in that while it has taken the exploitation of the natural world to new extremes, it’s the first MOP which actually creates the possibility that we could begin to think of how we could REDUCE our impact on the world. This was simply not an option in previous MOPs.

Of course, under capitalism this doesn’t happen because of the rampant desire of capital to extract profit without thinking of long term consequences.
It’s the role of Marxists to (1) argue for the redistribution of resources, based on need rather than profit, to feed, clothe and raise the living standard of the world but (2) to use our scientific and technological knowledge to produce ways to reduce our negative impact of the natural world around us.

That’s the general approach. Now the specific.

You write:
“Acidification and commercial overfishing are both threats to the ecosystem. Restricted whaling isn’t.”

This is too simplistic. Today’s marine ecosystems are under immense pressures in all directions – climate change, over fishing, pollution etc. In this context, the ability of animal species or ecosystems to recover is profoundly affected. In addition, whales, as mammals need to be treated quite differently from other marine species such as fish. Unlike fish, whales breed extremely slowly, giving birth to one baby at the time and taking years to raise it. Again this makes is extremely hard for reduced populations to recover. There is simply not enough scientific knowledge yet to know the exact impact of whaling but we can expect that it won’t be positive.

As far as I’m concerned, the Left should oppose whaling. After this, of course, you can establish a more nuanced position. We should, of course, criticise any racist attacks on Japanese whaling (of which there are certainly some though they are not the majority). We should also point out the many terrible Australian contributions to the devastation of the environment. This is not hard, given we have the fifth highest rate of land clearing in the world. This is, of course, much more damaging to the environment than Japanese whaling. But it’s not an either/or situation. We can oppose both, making sure that our most vocal opposition is to our own government. And this is where I think you give a pretty unfair characterisation of opponents of whaling and underestimate the ability of most people to hold quite nuanced positions. I would bet that most Australian opponents of whaling also regularly criticise the Australian government on environmental issues.

You write:
“The Rudd Government’s anti-whaling stance is but a pawn in Australia’s claims to Antarctica. No one on the left should support this imperialist adventure under the guise of defending whales. For Australian imperialism whales are the WMDs of the water.”

Of course we should point out (and oppose) the Australian government’s territorial ambitions. But you’re the first person I’ve heard suggest that the Rudd government is a serious opponent of whaling!

I don’t support Australia’s attempt to claim Antarctic waters as its own. But this is not a prerequisite of opposing whaling. There’s a fairly broad consensus that there should be a Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary surrounding Antarctica AND that Antarctica (including the waters around it) should not be exploited by individual nations. I have no problem in supporting this – in fact, supporting this brings you in to opposition with Australia’s attempt to claim the territory as their own.

I agree with you that, particularly in Australia, we have to be vigilant about pointing out racism and there’s room for sharp attacks on nationalism or racism behind opposition to whaling. There’s certainly room for criticisms of the politics and tactics of those chasing the Japanese fleet around. But in any case this should have been done from the context of a strong support for protecting the environment. Not to do so in the current period just puts us in the wrong camp.

OK, sorry for the long rant. Gotta get back to work now. 🙂 But I do reckon you should rethink this article.

Comment from John
Time January 12, 2010 at 5:25 pm

Thanks Jill, I appreciate your comments.

I don’t see how preventing whaling is protecting the environment. The evidence seems to indicate whaling of some varieties can be done sustainably. If it is unsustainable then I oppose it.

But I haven’t seen any evidence that is the case for Antarctic minke whales.

I’d have to check but my memory is that the scientific evidence from its own committee presented at the IWC kept on getting rejected because of the political opposition of leading non-whaling countries.

I think there is another issue here that gets mixed in – what ‘we’ should and shouldn’t eat.

We can talk all we want about what can be (I do it all the time on my blog) but also have to understand the situation as it is today. Put simply we depend for our existence on the death of animals.

The logic of banning whaling (at least the way some supporters argue it) is the logic of banning abattoirs.

While I personally agree with not eating meat, it seems to me this abattoir position (nd the anti-whaling position) is profoundly anti-working class and elitist.

Moralism is never an adequate basis for politics as the sea shepherd’s rejection of indigenous rights attests.

The problem I have is that people conflate stopping whale killing with saving the environment.

I fail to see the connection. In fact I think there is a good argument that it is a distraction from building a mass movement against climate change and for the earth. you don’t have to get involved. just pay your money and the brave people on the boats will do it for you.

Clearly there is an environmental crisis rapidly unfolding and I agree with John Bellamy Foster that it is an existential crisis.

Indeed articles on my site make that very point and argue for a mass movement prepared to take civil disobedience to make the bosses’ system unworkable until the powers that be move quickly on climate change, or we replace them. ‘Stop work to stop their war on the environment’ is one example.

As to the characterisation of those who oppose whaling, I take the point. I tried obviously inadequately to indicate the driver for opposition to whaling for many was human decency and the protection of other species and the prevention of pain.

But the leadership of that movement seems to me to be the likes of the Sea Shepherd and it is perfectly legitimate to criticise that leadership, as an expression of the movement that gives its life, and the politics that underpin the leadership and the movement more generally.
As to imperialism, I am not suggesting Rudd labor is serious about protecting whales. It is serious about protecting its claimed Antarctic territory and waters and currying support from the majority of Australians who are opposed to whaling.

opposing whaling is a strategy for doing both but it will be unsuccessful because Japan is calling Rudd’s bluff. He’s got nothing.

I am reminded of third airport runway protestors in Britain asking James Hansen to support their actions. to their shock and bewilderment he refused. It wasn’t the main fight. Whaling seems to me to be the same.