Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Why Save the Whales and Not Tuna?

OK, I said that I would continue with the money discussion, but this seemed a little more interesting for the moment.  I'll get back to money later.

My wife often watches the show "Whale Wars".  If you haven't seen it, it is a reality show about a ship called the "Sea Shepherd" on which activists try to stop Japanese whalers from killing whales.  It's quite intense at times and it is easy to get emotionally involved quickly.

Now I like animals and think they should all be treated kindly.  I even lean towards being a vegetarian and I can easily understand the reasoning of the activists wanting to save the whales.  The whales are in fact beautiful animals that seem to be on the higher end of the intelligence spectrum.  But I have to wonder then, if I can sympathize with the activists in wanting to save the whales, why wouldn't I think it was wrong to kill a tuna?

Don't misunderstand me, I'm not actually saying it is right or wrong to kill a whale, or right or wrong to kill a tuna, I'm just pointing out that there seems to be a big inconsistency in protecting one and not the other.

Whales are definitely more intelligent than a tuna.  So does that mean that if something is intelligent we should fight for it but if it's stupid then it's OK to kill it?  That seems to be the way we operate.

I came to two conclusions, one about myself and one about people in general.

For people in general, it seems that if an animal can communicate or appeal on an emotional level, then a large number of people will respond to this emotional connection and fight for it.  But animals that cannot appeal emotionally to humans are ignored.  So it's basically a popularity contest.  If you're a likable animal like a whale, dolphin or seal then activists will fight for you, if you're ugly or can't communicate happiness or pain in a way that humans would understand then you're on your own.

Now for myself, I have to admit.  Something inside of me wants to agree with the activists.  Something inside tells me that this killing of these creatures is wrong.  Yet at the same time, I cannot come up with a good reason why I don't feel the same about the tilapia that I ate last week except for the fact that I am human like everyone else and seem to operate with the same emotions as most of the public in general.

As a Christian, I struggle with this also.  My instincts would tell me that killing animals is wrong, yet Christ ate fish and in the New Testament St Paul is given a vision in which he is told that it is OK to kill and eat.  I'm still not sure how to reconcile this particular fact yet.  There's a whole lot more to that which I will talk about another time.

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