Monday, September 15, 2014

What do Japan & Vancouver Aquarium have in common? Being on the wrong side of whale-history


The future for Earth's cetaceans, we can only hope and believe, is better than the recent past in respect of hunting and aquarium captivity. The tide of informed opinion is running as strongly as the North Atlantic current, as far as those cruel activities go. The International Court of Justice ordered Japan to cease whaling in the Antarctic, and Vancouver's City Council has taken steps to prohibit VanAqua's future breeding of orcas and belugas.

What VanAqua and Japan have in common is a stubborn stiff-necked irrational backward-looking resistance to the new ways of treating our cetacean sisters and brothers. From Paul Spong of British Columbia's Orca Lab:

" Japan complied, in a manner of speaking, announcing that it would not return to the Antarctic next season. However, it immediately went about plotting counter measures aimed at resuming Antarctic Whaling at the soonest possible moment. Japan’s current plan seems to be one of fine-tuning its old rejected plan, making it more “scientific” and less blatantly commercial. It is difficult to see how Japan can accomplish this without bending or breaking the rules that govern science and fair play. Nevertheless, Japan seems bent on trying.

Meanwhile, the simple truth is that for the first time in well over 100 years, whales will not die in agony in Antarctic waters during the coming southern summer. The accompanying silence will be as profound as that which followed the cessation of hostilities in World War I. Despite the passage of time, people around the world still pause at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month each year to remember that moment in 1918 when suddenly, there was peace."
by Paul Spong
September 14, 2014

(But Paul Watson's Sea Shepherd ships are heading down to Antarctica this year anyway, just in case ...  Other bad news is that Greenland and Denmark have persuaded Commission voters to let them murder 10 more humpbacks.)

On the topic of Vancouver Aquarium's decision to appeal the Vancouver ruling against breeding captive whales, Victoria's Times Colonist (daily paper) reminds us that cetacean existence revolves around their properly "nomadic and unfettered traverse of the oceans" as "massively active creatures". "Rescuing" sick or injured ones and then breeding them so that offspring never know their true nature, freedom and heritage as whales is a massive betrayal, and dressed up as "science"is about as genuine or admirable as the Japanese "research" in Antarctica.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

No science literacy means no international peace

In a summer of horrific news from the world, especially its "middle east" regions, here is some more worrying news: science literacy is about 41%. Most kids don't learn much Science in school (why not?), and obviously most politicians don't seem to have a clue about it. An elderly retired teacher who taught Math in a local private school (and learned it at the feet of the first female graduate in Maths from Cambridge), explains that poor teaching leads to lack of interest among students, including future Education students, so that no one wants the Math classes in schools and whoever gets stuck with it never liked or understood more than the basics ... and the cycle continues.

Most likely the same sort of thing is happening with the Life Sciences, as well as with Chemistry and Physics. All those kids who love dinosaurs and outer space when young, lose their obsessions. Why? Education tilts increasingly toward "expressing yourself" (and your ethnic identity), which usually means favouring the Arts. Maybe that is why the general public doesn't support or know about the amazing trusts and organizations that do exist to wrestle with climate change, soil loss, species loss and the root cause of all our ecological devastation: human overpopulation.

The 60% who need to get educated about the sciences include policy makers who still encourage economic growth, despite the fact that they want to wring it out of a planet which is not growing and whose natural resources are shrinking. These illiterates would do well to start with Alan Weisman's latest book, Countdown, which is written in ordinary language with journalistic story-teller flair. He takes us from one horrifically overcrowded city to another: Mexico City, Karachi, Mumbai, Tehran, Beijing and the rest and explains why the 7 billion who live on Earth are already too much, and the 10 billion expected by the end of the century are a disaster.

Climate change? The main cause of that is agriculture (more than factories, power sites or transport worldwide) -- i.e.,  too many mouths to feed. He explains how the "Green Revolution" has turned into the brown revolution, and how certain cultures are trying to out-reproduce each other, to the destruction of us all plus all the other animals on the planet. Baby races and resource wars:  the stunning thing is that the solution is so obvious, so easy, so non-technological, so rational ... just stop breeding. If each couple had but one child between them, the human population would shrink as exponentially as it has destructively expanded, and Weisman takes us to the experts who explain why an aging population is also socially and economically a benefit, not a threat.

It's a grim read, but fascinating, and packed with science-based facts all copiously footnoted. Read it and weep.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Pour cold water on the use of lab animals in ALS research

There has been much talk about the imitative and mutual-challenge behavior of those who join the cold water antics fundraising for ALS research, but has anyone asked what the money raised will be used for? How many more mice will be tortured, with the extra injection of funds? To what end? No disease has yet been cured through use of animal "models" -- just a lot more hideous useless suffering introduced into the world.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Cruelty dressed up as "research" at Vancouver Aquarium has helped no whales

The cruelty of orca imprisonment at Vancouver Aquarium really is a black and white issue, although the Aquarium bosses muddle up the meaning of the word "inhumane". It's sad that the Aquarium actually wants to lawyer themselves up against the City of Vancouver and a public who cares about whale rights and needs. As for the murky language about the meaning of the word "inhumane": how peculiar that the CEO of the Aquarium says the non-breeding of whales( to birth offspring for a life of slavery) would be inhumane ... as if keeping them captive in the first place is NOT inhumane?

Here's a question for the Aquarium: what has the "research" you keep saying you need to do on captive orcas, done to help the local or transient orca populations of our region? In the 25-plus years you've been talking about your research, the fish stocks cetaceans eat have dwindled, the resident orca population has dwindled to only 81 individuals, the seas have filled with ever-more tanker traffic and underwater noise, and ever more pollution, and the whales have failed to reproduce sufficiently to replace themselves -- what has the Aquarium research actually done to reverse any of these problems?

Check out -- anti-captivity group in the Netherlands.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

An Unnecessary Evil

What could be "necessary" about the particularly unique cruelty of keeping large, social, brilliant, ocean-spanning sea mammals -- whales and dolphins -- in tiny concrete prison-pools? This hideous practice started in the 1960s as a money-maker for aquariums -- which it still is, however aquariums may dress up the practice as "science." Some Vancouver Aquarium Board members excuse this evil as "necessary". There will always be people in the marine research community willing to torture whales in order to get, keep or invent jobs for researchers ... but that does not make the captive whale industry any less unconscionable.

If this support of evil disgusts you, write to the Vancouver Aquarium:

Island Tides, the newsletter of B.C.s gulf islands, quotes a study from NOAA in the U.S. which found that noise, pollution, and shortage of food (salmon) are keeping the population of Canada's west coast Southern Resident Killer Whales from growing beyond the current 80 individuals. What has the Vancouver Aquarium -- major player in killer whale captivity since the 1960s -- ever done to help with that? Nothing. So much for "research."

And the captivity evil, noise, starvation and pollutions are not the only things west coast orcas have to struggle with. A steep increase in tanker traffic is on the cards if the oil and pipeline industries get their way (against public opinion in B.C.), and everywhere whales are dealing with the noise not only of shipping but of deep sea oil and gas exploration. The latest area where a rich array of cetacean species are threatened by oil exploration is around the Canary Islands off Spain. Force Change has a petition we can sign against this at:

Is there anywhere on Earth where economic ambition aiming to serve a ballooning population of humans does not take precedence over the existence of all other life forms? No, which is why we are in the midst of Earth's 6th great extinction event, and this one caused by us.

On the level of the individual, the imprisonment of whales is a personal cruelty personally felt by the victims. August 8th is the anniversary of the capture of the orca Lolita from among the Southern BC resident whales; information sessions and letter-signing opportunities will be held in Victoria from noon to 2 pm, downtown at Government and View streets, and in Oak Bay at the corner of Oak Bay Avenue and Foul Bay Road.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Calgary Stampede runs true to form

The date of Calgary's first agriculture fair was 1886, and in 1888 the present Exhibition lands were purchased on the Elbow River. That mean the Stampede's 130th anniversary will be in 2016 or 2018, depending on how you calculate its inception.

Victoria B.C.'s Times Colonist writes on July 9the of the 2014 Stampede:

"Horse dies in Calgary Stampede ... a 12 year old horse belonging to the team of Reg Johnstone collapsed after completing a run ..."

There's at least one every year, plus the injured, and the calves and bulls with yanked necks and twisted joints ...   Wouldn't it be great if Calgary Stampede celebrated its 130th Anniversary by deleting animal events from its roster of entertainment and agricutural shows, joining the world of modern opinion on animal welfare? Attitudes have changed since 1886; Calgary as a City should modernize its most famous event.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Law, Justice, and Whales

We assume that Canada honours its commitments regarding the CITES agreements about defending and preserving animal species at risk. We are mistaken: sadly, the present government is committed to finding loopholes that further its trading agenda.

Whales killed by Iceland despite the moratorium existing since 1986, the meat from which were rejected at ports in Finland and France, were sent as meat to Japan via Vancouver, BC, Canada. See the justification below from functionaries at Environment Canada, and Animal Lit's reply:

Dear Mr. Beale,


Thank you for your email explaining the workings of "WAAPRIITA" and the Wild Animal and Plant Trade Regulations, which was very informative. You have said that Canada does not have to honour the CITES agreement protecting endangered species, to which Canada is a signatory, if corpses of the species in question are "in Customs control" during transhipment through Canada (i.e. in the case of the whale meat shipped from Iceland to Japan via Canada, after European signatories of the CITES agreement had refused to accept it in their ports).

Leaving the bureaucratic machinations aside, I would like to reiterate my contention that Canada should not be supporting the killing of endangered animals by facilitating the safe passage of their remains through Canada by their killers. We should be honouring the spirit of the CITES agreement, rather than using narrow legalisms and loopholes that weaken both it and our own moral standing in the world.

The fact that Japan and Iceland have "entered reservations" allowing them to circumvent CITES and to profit from whale hunting, does not justify Canada's failure to protect endangered animals, nor justify its role in abetting a cruel, regressive and globally-reviled trade in whale meat.

My question to the Minister and the Prime Minister was: what side is Canada on -- the side of conservation or the side of whale-killing? Trade policies seem to indicate that the answer is killing. Do you think the public support the government in this? I believe we're talking about the difference between law and justice, and that the Canadian public has an inconvenient habit of favouring the latter.