Endangered species

Stephen Franks has a unique, but misguided, take on the the Japanese whaling issue in today’s Dom Post (off line).

In his opinion piece he suggests we should not upset the Japanese over their whale slaughter because they might have a go at us over sheep:

We are lathered in moral indignation about whaling. Yet as a nation we live off the proceeds of slaughtering up to 40 million cuddly young animals a year. Japanese think lambs are impossibly cute.

His argument seems to be based on the fear that our opposition to whaling will come back to bite us.

The world was relieved when Japan renounced aggression 60 years ago. New Zealand should not be reminding the Japanese why they might again want a capacity to make distant enemies tremble.

Even if our silly insults are unlikely to have that effect, Japan has many more subtle levers. They could make us beg for spare parts for our cars and computers and all the other things we love but no longer know how to make.

Franks, as usual, has missed the point. New Zealand has a huge industry in farming sheep. As we all know sheep are generally bred for either their wool or their meat. They are not an endangered animal.

Whales, on the otherhand, are. They are wild creatures that once roamed the seas in huge numbers until humankind decided they made a nifty source of lamp oil. Now many species are on the verge of extinction.

As a more enlightened generation, we now have an obligation to undo some of the damage done. And if that includes standing up to another country and risking trade agreements, well so be it. Our children and grandchildren will thank us for it when whales again become a common sight off our coast.

Quite frankly I am a little surprised at Mr Franks’ view. Given the outcome of the last election he should have some degree of empathy with endangered species.

13 Comments Posted

  1. You are right. He completely missed the point. How can you compare sheep to endangered whales? It’s beyond me.

  2. Personally I can see the hypocrisy in people caring about whales but not about the animals they themselves choose to eat. But a big difference is that sheep are easy to count – but we’ll never know exactly how many of a particular whale species (or any fish species) there are. The last of its kind will be served up to an oblivious consumer before we realise it. If I was a meat-eating person, I’d be eating land-based animals but avoiding fish just because of that.

  3. In reply to CutFoldGlue, whale meat is no more a luxury item than any other meat, and in fact at 3000 yen per kilo is in fact cheaper than a lot of other meat you will find in Tokyo markets.

    And as for false pretences; have you ever read or heard any industry representative from the egg or pork industry tell you the truth about the suffering inherent in the system of battery cages, sow crates and battery hens? How many egg cartons have “caged hens” written on them, in the same way “free range” is written on the more welfare friendly ones?

    Factory farmers and their industry bodies lie through their teeth, and spend millions of dollars on lobbying and advertising to get consumers to believe their lies. The statement “we are committed to animal welfare”, must do down as one of the quintessential lies of all time, comparable to “the cheque is in the mail”, and “I will still respect you in the morning”.

  4. btw..this thread has been picked up by technorati…..under the vegan tag…

    good to get the word out..eh..?


  5. but how about some discussion of the environmental damage of animal agriculture, compared with the relatively benign plant-based diet?

    how about discussion of the the impacts of both of these things. You never seen topsoil blowing away from a field ploughed annually for grain/ spuds/ etc? Relatively benign my bottom; Australian farmers would do better for their soils to farm kangaroo than they do farming wheat, for example.

    Plant cropping is not inherently low impact; if you compare particular models of cropping of a particular plant species with another particular model of raising particular animal species for food, then you’ll be able to show what you are suggesting easy as. It’s just that that is not a particularly robust way to treat evidence…

    If you can get a hold of a copy, a good book for discussion of the impacts of modern agriculture has a name which kinda gets across what the author is stabbing at:

    So Shall We Reap: How Everyone Who Is Liable to Be Born in the Next Ten Thousand Years Could Eat Very Well Indeed; and Why, in Practice, Our Immediate Descendants Are Likely to Be in Serious Trouble

    Colin Tudge, 2003.

    Probably closest to the permacultural school of thought than any other. He does argue that animals are an integral part of the efficient nutrient cycling necessary for agriculture to be sustainable. Eating some of them (or their products) is part of their inclusion, but not necessarily the main, or even an essential one.

  6. hi…”..ellipsis loving” upper-case disdaining one here…

    some info for the piscarians..(those reliant on fish consumption..often a step on the road..eh..?)..out there..

    “….the fact is that all the toxins in our waterways—including mercury, lead, pcb’s, and even flame-retardant chemicals—become concentrated in the flesh of fish, and humans who eat these fish can suffer from health problems ranging from memory loss and poor coordination to infertility and organ damage….?

    oh yum..!

    (makes you want to go and drop a line in the mighty waikato..eh..?..or any other of the huge numbers of our polluted waterways/harbours..yum..eh..?

    ….and then there are the shellfish that filter all this crap..that humans then eat…go figure..eh..?..)

    the above quote is from a story at whoar where i link to a major (mainstream..not vegan weekly..:) investigation into the health implications for consumers of fish….(..i mean…how do you know where they have been/heve been caught/harvested from..?….ew..!…eh..?..)


  7. phil, our ellipsis loving friend, did you read frogs post?

    Now frankly, I like my meat, and the ‘morals’ of killing animals for our consumption is (in my mind) a bit of a non-issue… but:

    1. if your activities endanger the very existance of a species,
    2. against the wishes of the rest of the world (who have a say here),
    3. under false pretences,
    4. for a non-essential luxury good,

    i will struggle to side with Mr Franks out of fear of blackmail.

  8. ah yes, the reek of cultural hypocrisy. the animals’ suffering is undeniable, whether they’re being harpooned in antarctic waters or knifed in oamaru ‘freezing works’.
    but how about some discussion of the environmental damage of animal agriculture, compared with the relatively benign plant-based diet?

  9. “Quite frankly I am a little surprised at Mr Franks’ view.”

    Quite frankly, I don’t believe you 🙂

    I’m also pretty confident that you know there are species of Whale that are not endangered by any stretch of the imagination.

    I thought (or I don’t) that you’d be trumpetting Franks’ support for protectionism (thinking we need local car/computer manufacturing businesses)…

  10. yeah..i’m with franks on this one….(ex-act mp or not…c’mon katie..you aren’t that shallow/one-eyed..surely..?..)..

    don’t you try to evaluate ideas/opinions on their merits alone..?…surely…?

    and that your final paragraph is just a nasty personal unsubstantiated sneer against the messanger..with no reflection on the message on your part..only reflects badly on you…not him…

    and totally devalues all that came before…even more..

    and as kiore says..the hypocrisy around this issue is nearly blinding….

    chowing down on baby sheep…raising /eating/farming animals in the most horrendous conditions…all the while deriding the japanese for harvesting whales….?

    surely you carnivores can see that..?….that hypocrisy on your part..”oh..look at those terrible pictures of the whale bleeding..those terrible japanese..”

    hey..stick your head inside your local factory-farm/slaughterhouse sometime…if you want kill-porn….

    .hypocrisy so blindingly apparent it’s almost got fucken flashing lights and a siren…..for crissakes…

    how deep can your denial be..?


  11. And then again, this could easily be explained by the fact that Franks is an Alien, without any normal human sense of humour or conscience (hey, he was an Act MP, ’nuff said…) so his ability to work out that Japanese whaling is another form of cultural imperialism is stunted by his lack of common humanity. They don’t like lamb because they’ve never really become culturally conditioned to it – the USA took huge efforts to get McDonalds into Tokyo, Kobe beef having been the default standard for meat-eaters before that time, which explains why fish is so huge in their diet. Vegans, stop reading here!

    Given the choice, I’d semi-starve for a year then have a meal of Kobe beef (the animals are massaged daily, to produce intensely marbled muscle tissue, which is very tender and delicious, so I’ve heard) rather than eat Japanese McDo’s on a regular basis!

    I suspect a small dose of “missing the publicity of being an MP” is at work here too – when I lived in Karori, the locals were regularly assaulted with mailbox drops of his prose, most of it of dubious intellectual or literary content, so must have been a slow day in the newsroom when this piece passed the Dompost’s editors……

  12. I don’t know much about whale numbers, but it does seem as if the jury is still out on whether they are an endangered species or not. But what is a complete no-brainer, is regardless of whether the species are endangered, individual whales are certainly endangered by the whaler’s activities. My own opposition to whaling centres on the pain and suffering of these intelligent, sensitive animals, and it makes no difference to me whether they are endangered or not.

    The Japanese have churned out one lame excuse after another, but the one argument of theirs that does stick is hypocrisy. New Zealanders, Australians, Americans and others opposing the whaling treat farm animals with hideous cruelty, probably more cruelty than the Japanese treat the whales.

    From US slaughterehouses there are regular reports of animals being scalded, skinned or dismembered alive, and I am not naive enough or anti-American enough to believe that New Zealand slaughterhouses, which have the same high throughput and pressure to make money, are any better. Live sheep shipments, pigs in sow crates and hens in batteries, make the Japanese harpoonists seem gentle by comparison.

    This is not to excuse the whalers, but merely to state that Stephen Franks (by the way an opponant of factory farming) does have a point, and our protest would be more effective if we put our own house in order first.

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