Monday, October 23, 2006

Whale fishing

Wherein food is food?

With recent reports that Iceland will resume whale fishing, let's go back to May, 2006 and read the Outside magazine article, Bloody Business. Author, Philip Armour, spent time on a whaling ship and provides an interesting report on the culture and history of whaling.

I'm not quite sure how I feel about whale hunting. I guess I'd prefer it not be done, but I have no problem with the typical pets — cats, dogs, horses — ending up on the dinner plate. Once you've made your peace (he said in the second person) with being a meat-eater, the line of what's proper and verboten can get a little fuzzy. I like what William Saletan wrote in 2002:
Strip out Bardot's silly arrogance and her Korean colleagues' sentimentality, and their philosophy boils down to this: The value of an animal depends on how you treat it. If you befriend it, it's a friend. If you raise it for food, it's food. This relativism is more dangerous than the absolutism of vegetarians or even of thoughtful carnivores. You can abstain from meat because you believe that the mental capacity of animals is too close to that of humans. You can eat meat because you believe that it isn't. Either way, you're using a fixed standard. But if you refuse to eat only the meat of "companion" animals—chewing bacon, for example, while telling Koreans that they can't stew Dalmatians—you're saying that the morality of killing depends on habit or even whim.

More recent examples of this sentimentality and relativism are evident in the attacks against foie gras. Legislators intent on shutting down foie gras farms not only ignore the fact that these farms are routinely noted for the clean and healthful environments provided to the ducks, they then see no reason to literally clean up the poultry industry. Like most of politics, it's easy sensationalism over actual substance.

But back to the whales. Norway seems to provide a different scenario than Japan — who seem happy to kill and eat everything at one time. Norway has, and has had, a food problem. Not much grows there and it's expensive to import food. Short of making everyone move to where the food is, and with increasing arguments to eat local, I'd say Norway has as much of a right to eat whale as anyone.

Quote from Bloody Business:
After my two weeks aboard Sofie, I would speak with Jann Engstad, a 50-year-old sea-kayaking guide from the Lofoten Islands hamlet of Kabelvåg. Engstad is an ardent environmentalist, but he's in favor of the minke hunt. He points out that, in Norway's far north, you've got to eat what's available.

"Since I'm not a millionaire, I can't afford being a vegetarian during our winter and spring," he says. "I have 33 pounds of top-quality whale meat in my freezer—along with 66 pounds of local carrots—stored for the coming winter." Engstad says his relatives in Oslo have just one complaint about whaling: There isn't enough meat in stores, and it's too expensive.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

i love eatin wales:)

4/07/2008 09:53:00 AM  

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