5 reasons to respect the life of whales

At a time when the debate about the need to hunt whales for scientific purposes (or, for that matter, for any purpose) has re-established itself, I thought it would be convenient to bring to you a series of biological, ecological and ethical concepts about nature. unique and special nature of whales that makes their commercial hunting something condemnable from every point of view.

The ideas that follow have been extracted from the article "Beyond whale species survival peaceful coexistence and mutual enrichment as a basis for human-cetacean relations", written by R. Barstow and published in Mammal Review in 1990.

Barstow questions whether it is morally acceptable to kill whales and harvest them like any other renewable natural resource just to obtain a commercial return, even assuming that this activity can be regulated to maintain it in the long term.

He maintains that the arguments against their slaughter should no longer be based on preventing the extinction of species, but rather the reasoning should be different.

Just as there is currently a globally accepted ethic that no species of whale should be hunted to extinction, perhaps in the future this ethical principle will be replaced by another that is simply not hunting them.

In the attempt to establish the rational and moral bases on which the future management of cetaceans and the total abandonment of their hunting should be based, Barstow proposes five categories that make whales special and unique animals.

First, whales are biologically special.

Among other things, they include the largest animals that have ever existed, such as the blue whale. The brain of sperm whales is larger than that of any other animal and weighs four or five times more than that of humans.

Humpback whales are the creators of the longest and most complex songs developed by any non-human animal. The cerebral cortex of tonins and other odontocetes exceeds in degree of complexity of their gyri that of humans and all other animal groups.

These and other characteristics, Barstow argues, make cetaceans biologically special animals.

Second, whales are ecologically special.

Whales have evolved as marine mammals for about 25 million years, long before the appearance of man and his intrusion into ocean ecosystems. Cetaceans are at the top of vast ocean food chains.

Due to their size, their wide distribution in all seas, and a wide variety of feeding strategies, cetaceans affect the ocean in a special way and with a global impact. Although much is still unknown about them, it is clear that they have a unique role in these ecosystems.

Third, whales are culturally special to humans.

Live cetaceans have an almost incredible capacity to enrich the lives of the people with whom they come into peaceful contact. They exert a unique universal attraction on the human spirit. They are incomparable generators of amazement and admiration.

There is a mystique around it that inspires a sense of wonder and
happiness in people of all races and nationalities, something that no other animal group has come to match with such magnitude. Cetaceans exert such fascination on people that they have become powerful tools for the education of people of all ages.

Furthermore, they seem to have a special affinity for human beings. Despite their menacing size and strength, and despite centuries of being victims of human predation, whales in the wild prove time and time again to be exceptionally tolerant of human proximity, not only tolerating but actually They often deliberately initiate positive interactions with people.

Fourth, whales are politically special

Their living space, unlike that of terrestrial animals, is not delineated by clearly defined national boundaries. Its territories belong to a large extent to the globality of nations: they are the seas of the world that do not belong to any particular nation, constituting a particularly global resource. Thus, whales are under international control and since they are not legally a resource of any country, no nation can claim the moral right to kill them.

Decisions about the exploitation or protection of whales must logically and legally be made through an international organization such as the International Whaling Commission, and in this too whales are unique.

Lastly, whales are symbolically special.

More than any other form of non-human life, whales have come to symbolize concern for the environment. At least in Western society, the protection of whales has become a source of inspiration to preserve the interrelationships of all life forms on this planet. There is widespread support for not hunting whales because they are such a special symbol of sharing the planet.

All of these rational considerations should be enough to ban whaling. However, Barstow maintains that perhaps in the future the strongest bases for ending this slaughter will come from the most irrational base: the universal emotional response that whales generate in human beings who are not involved in the slaughter business.

Beyond the survival of the species, thanks to everything we know about whales, and given people's feelings towards whales, their special and unique characteristics deserve a new moral and ethical paradigm in the global world that protects them. definitely from commercial exploitation.

Finally, Barstow asks: Shouldn't peaceful coexistence and mutual enrichment be the goal of future human-whale relationships in the modern world?

By Mariano Sironi. Whale Conservation Institute

Review: Collaboration by Tania Fernández Pino for EcoPortal