As the big IWC meeting gets underway this week, people are getting nervous about what will happen - and may not even be sure what they want to happen. The moratorium on commercial whaling was one of the great conservation successes of the 20th century. It was widely supported by all but a few - several nations even gave up whaling. But years of continued whaling and increasing contention over remaining whaling have led many people to conclude that we need to be open to a resumption in commercial whaling. It must be a mark of the singular intelligence of the human race that just a few decades after we stopped slaughtering creatures that reproduce slowly (because we had so thoroughly depleted their populations) it is decided that we are now going to manage them sustainably using catch limits decided on the basis of, oh, well, who knows? And this will lead to a reduction in whales killed, even though other countries that used to kill whales are now saying that if everybody's ok with whaling again that they want to jump in too.
It's about time we all collectively realized the truth of this argument. Humans are not calculators. There's no point in having the cognitive abilities to appreciate the wonders of nature, and at the same time pretending that killing a domesticated farm animal is the same as killing the largest animal ever known to have existed. We all know that deep down it isn't. It isn't 100% logical, and there's emotion involved, but so what? The vast majority of people aren't going to want to eat penguin meat unless the little waddlers start invading our shores and trying to peck us to death. No one's going to approve the building of a shopping complex in the Grand Canyon regardless of how many jobs it would create. Because part of having a large brain is evaluating emotional factors and practical factors when considering an issue. Even IF this new IWC plan adds back in some scientific protections for the whales, it will still be incredibly senseless to support it. The essential message will be that nothing in nature is exceptional - it's all just widgets, a resource to extract, and we just have to figure out the right way to do it.
Why protect whales? They should be preserved as befits anything else that evokes wonder; they are the mammalian equivalent of the Grand Canyon or of the giant redwoods. They are also incredibly long-lived creatures with a sophisticated social structure, closer to chimpanzees than to cattle.