I’ve tended to stay out of the ‘cetacean wars’ over the years because of the politics, emotions and vested interests involved, but I find it hard to ignore any longer. I’ve been wanting to write this little essay for some time, and given that we are doing a great job of buggering up the greater biodiversity future of this country, I think the time is right.
For years, Australia has been a champion of the anti-whaling movement, both in terms of its self-righteous, loud-mouth condemnation of whaling nations in its role as global ocean policeman at the International Whaling Commission, and its multi-million dollar financial investment in cetacean research. While this considered in isolation is without doubt a laudable objective (i.e., we certainly shouldn’t be hunting these magnificent marine megafauna), it is one of the greatest environmental wool-pulling-over-the-eyes, look-at-the-silly-monkey political sideshows ever devised.
“Why, Corey, that is a particularly Philistine view of the issues, don’t you think?”, I can metaphysically hear you state. However, do not confound the morality with the politics; I’m certainly focussing on the latter.
The simple fact is that being so vocally anti-whaling, Australian politicians can win easy green votes while doing nothing much at all about the other, real environmental crises unfolding right beneath the noses of their constituents. And easy it is – even the most hard-core, right-wing plutocrat would probably not (publicly) denigrate a government for standing up for the whales. In other words, it’s not a controversial environmental issue. So a little emboldened brinkmanship on the international stage, bolstered by some over-the-top, sensationalist media coverage, and you have a guaranteed recipe to garner faux environmental kudos.
It is a case of brilliant politicking, and absolute deviousness.
I probably needn’t remind people that Australia was most gung-ho about commercial whaling up to 1979, so our relatively recent-found zeal for preventing whaling is a little hypocritical, to say the least. Combine that hypocrisy with our currently proud stance in support of Aboriginal killing of turtles, dugongs and various other native species, as well as the non-Aboriginal lust for dead sharks, and you have at least to question the motivation.
The hypocrisy doesn’t end there, as I’m sure most readers of CB.com can appreciate. Australia exports hundreds of millions of tonnes of coal around the world each year, and we have one of the highest per-capita greenhouse gas emission rates in the world. We are superlative water-wasters (ironic for a country mostly comprised of deserts), have the world’s highest mammal extinction rate, and an historical addiction to deforestation that rivals the devastation of the Amazon. We are systematically eroding our national protected areas, and have elected a government working hard to destroy any hint of remaining environmental protection left in the country. The list goes on.
So the next time you get excited and back-slappy about Australia’s ‘hard’ stance against commercial whaling, maybe you should look under your nose first and avoid falling for the silly monkey trick.