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Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Between the Harpoon and the Whale

Sea Shepherd. Now there’s two words that divide opinion. And just how controversial is one allowed to be on a blog?

I recently took part in Planet Whale’s Whalefest event in Brighton, UK and Sea Shepherd were there, well supported and represented. Just their presence, nestled amongst artists, writers, wildlife tour companies, musicians, film makers, scientists and armchair cetacean lovers, caused either restless discomfort or highly vocal support. And almost nothing inbetween.

The methods of direct action groups such as Sea Shepherd is something we have to get used to. But it feels as if deciding whether or not you agree with direct action presents the age old black and white conundrum: You can’t claim to be on the side of the wildlife and the oceans if you don’t agreethat saving just one whale through direct action is a good thing. But I’m convinced that black and white rarely exists on such a planet as ours.

Direct action groups have been known to denounce one another publicly, normally divided along the axis of to what extreme they are prepared to go in pursuit of their cause. The more restrained party accusing the other of crossing a line of violence and potential harm, the more active party accusing the other of passivity and being ineffectual. While this arguing is relentlessly pursued the onlooker has chance to reflect on what they really think. And when that happens, the questions spill out.

Behind the charisma of the leaders, is ego driving positional posts more intractably into the ground? After all, it must be a terrifying and motivating thought to wonder whether or not history will show you up to be the one that was wrong. What available evidence is important to me: Growing numbers of the animal of choice? Change in attitudes? How, therefore, can I tell whether it’s doing any good or not?

Although I would never condone violence I am still left undecided. Whaling is cruel and unnecessary but through the fog of claim, counterclaim, blame and cultural division, I’m struggling to see where the dice for the animals is falling. In the case of whaling, I worry that while we wait to be convinced, the inherent immovability (which I’m not sure can ever be of use) of the parties involved might ultimately drive greater attitude-forged, cultural wedges between us and those that kill whales. And that is a much more treacherous strait to navigate than the short stretch of water between the harpoon and the whale.

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