Thursday, February 18, 2010

Gail Shea and the Horrible Slaughter of the Narwhals

The question is not, "Can they reason?" nor, "Can they talk?" but rather, "Can they suffer?" Jeremy Bentham

In November 2008, there was a very distressing story emerging from the Baffin Islands where more than 500 Narwhal whales were trapped in the ice.

But instead of bringing in an ice breaker to free them, Gail Shea's office gave the order to simply shoot them.

The reaction was immediate, not only from humane societies and animal rights groups, but from ordinary citizens, who saw this as a vile and horrendous decision.

A quick fix to a problem from a fisheries minister who had no obvious fondness for anything to do with fish, our oceans or the humane treatment of any living thing.

So in true neoconservative, Reform Party tradition, the government went into damage control, making the whole sordid affair about attacking our Inuit community.

They even went so far as to suggest that what they did was the most humane solution. Though everyone, including the United States, had suggested that icebreakers should be brought in to free the frightened mammals, Shea's office stated that the noise of the icebreaker would "stress" the whales.

Apparently having hunters shoot at them was far less stressful. As Captain Paul Watson explains with disgust:

The slaughter of these Narwhals did not need to take place. The Humane Society offered to employ Inuit to keep the breathing holes open until a Canadian government icebreaker could arrive to break them out. The Canadian government refused to dispatch an icebreaker stating that the noise of the icebreaker would "stress" the whales.

There was nothing humane about the slaughter that followed as Inuit riflemen opened fire on the frightened whales. The "stress" of an icebreaker would have been minimal compared to the horrific trauma of having family members torn apart by bullets around them. There is no humane way to shoot a whale. For the DFO to describe this slaughter as "humane" is ludicrous ...

Gail Shea fired off a letter to Sea Shepherd, who employs Paul Watson (join his Facebook fan group. He is a true Canadian hero), accusing him of attacking the Inuit people, making sure to have Leona Aglukkaq sign it. What the health minister has to do with the slaughter of whales is anyone's guess, unless this was some kind of racial profiling.
The Inuit people are closely connected to their environment and have been for centuries, and will continue to practice their great culture. Inuit strongly believe animals should be respected and should never suffer as in this case. Mr. Watson's comments demonstrate a deep ignorance of Inuit society, and seek to demonize their culture and traditions. His extreme comments discredit the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which he represents. These comments are deeply offensive to Inuit, and to all Canadians.

Of course this had nothing to do with the Inuit, who were offered a chance to hunt above their usual quota, but it didn't stop the corporate media from getting involved. 'Inuit dismayed by protests over narwhal cull', they cried; but again Mr. Watson says it best:

I said nothing hateful about Inuit culture. My criticism was for the behavior of those individuals who slaughtered 560 Narwhals when it was possible to rescue them. I maintain that the slaughter was barbaric, cruel and unnecessary. I make no apologies for that. I could not care less what race or culture these men belonged to - it was their behaviour that I condemned and I maintain that it was a viciously cruel way to execute the orders of the government of Canada.

Our clients are whales and other marine wildlife. We represent their interests and not the interests of people of any culture, of any race, of any belief. We do not discriminate on our criticisms of human culture. The defense of life, diversity and the ecological health of this planet takes precedence over any culture. I am frankly sickened by the continued use of culture to justify everything from bullfights to fox hunts, to polar bear hunting to whaling to cutting down the rainforest. My empathy is for hellish horrific pain, suffering and loss borne by the Narwhals ...

There is something quite defining when comparing the media's account of the story to that of the grieving sea captain. They don't capitalize Narwhal.


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