06/17/2010 09:23 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

A Bad Deal for the Whales

In 1982 the environmental movement achieved a stunning success. The IWC (international Whaling Commission) imposed a moratorium on commercial whaling, setting catch limits to zero. The IWC however has been dysfunctional and has not had the ability to control the limits they have set in place since countries like Norway and Iceland have refused to comply with it, Japan has gone around the moratorium by conducting so-called "scientific whaling" and aboriginal hunting has been allowed for subsistence and cultural reasons, including murdering 140 of California's own gray whales per year. Since 1986 over 41,000 whales have been slaughtered that these nations admit to. Many more have been killed and either not reported or died when their bodies were unable to be recovered. In spite of the dysfunction of the IWC this has still meant that far fewer whales have met this horrible fate than before.

Now the IWC has proposed to effectively lift the moratorium by setting catch limits on whaling and possibly allow the international trade in whale meat and whale products. The Japanese are stepping up their research into new uses for whale products. The legalized whaling would even be allowed in the Southern Ocean Sanctuary and endangered species are included in the list of those allowed to be killed. The end result of this, since the IWC does not have the ability to implement controls or enforce the quotas, will be open season on whales. The U.S. has been working on this "deal" , inappropriately named the "Proposed Consensus Decision to Improve the Conservation of Whales" for the past three years. In his campaign President Obama pledged to end whaling by the Japanese but now has broken his promise once again. This is just another example of this administration's dismal record on the environment. He has broken yet another campaign promise and put a wide variety of whale species at risk. While the U.S. has not officially stated how it will vote, the very fact that we have not taken a strong stand encourages many of the smaller nations to acquiesce to the pressures and bribes of the Japanese. Recent articles have shown that the Japanese have been paying the IWC dues of some nations, providing them with grant money, and even providing cash and call-girls to their delegates and many believe that the U.S. is actually working for the deal behind closed doors.

One must question why the U.S. would go down this path. There can be no justification for allowing the slaughter of whales. Setting aside the adverse impact on the ocean's ecosystem by removing these species, there is the moral argument that cetaceans should not be hunted because we know these are highly intelligent, biologically advanced, sentient creatures with complex communication skills and brain function rivaling our own. Whales are highly advanced mammals that feel pain and experience fear and suffering as acutely as any other mammal, including humans. Their brains are larger proportionally to their bodies than those of humans and in nature everything has evolved for a reason. They face the impacts of fishing, sound, pollution, and global warming and oil slicks, to name just a few. And now, unfortunately, there is the renewed threat of commercial and so called scientific and aboriginal whaling. Putting it bluntly, there is no painless way to kill a whale, nor should we want to kill them even if there were. Whales are attacked with harpoons that explode within them. They usually have to endure repeated strikes. After the harpoon explodes the whale is electrocuted and dragged through the water until it drowns. Sometimes the harpoons don't explode and secondary methods are used including shooting them with high-caliber rifles.

If anyone has ever traveled to San Ignacio Lagoon, to have the experience of making personal contact with a gray whale, one would understand that these magnificent creatures do not deserve this. In San Ignacio the friendly whales bring their babies over to meet you, to teach them about humans and for us to understand them, When you pet, kiss and look them in the eye and see and sense them in that way there is no way you can tolerate the barbaric practice of their slaughter.

This has been dismissed by pro-whaling forces as evidence of cultural differences. However, the American public feels deeply about the importance of and the need to protect whales and this nation should not be supporting this. Simply backing away from this issue because of perceived cultural differences is unacceptable. In the far east, tiger parts are considered aphrodisiacs but we do not condone the killing of tigers. Why should we condone the killing of whales? Our culture has made many things that were once acceptable, and in some cases still are acceptable to other cultures, illegal. To those of us who look at whales with awe and respect, killing them shows a mentality of another century and is a barbaric practice that is simply not acceptable. Our government needs to fight to protect these creatures who bring such joy to so many and not be part and parcel of helping to continue these outrageous practices. You can help by emailing the White House at and tell the President to strongly oppose this and NOW and then take the time to thank your Senators (in California that's both Boxer and Feinstein) who oppose this or ask them to sign on to a letter of opposition that is circulating in the Senate if they have not done so. The time is now or there may be no whales for our grandchildren to enjoy.