Ric O’Barry has packed his suitcase, bound for Japan in an effort to stem the decision of now more theaters in Japan, not to show his Academy-award winning film “The Cove”.
Japanese nationalism is carrying the day, demanding that other members of the international community have no say in Japan’s national diet.
The fact is that the majority of Japanese people don’t eat dolphin meat. Nevertheless, the dolphin slaughter in Tajii continues as a matter of cultural pride, patriarchal principles and the available fish supply. The retirement of Japanese bureaucrats also enters the politics of dolphin slaughter in Japan.
Simply stated, men rule. There is no place in Japan’s culture for female principles — not that America is much more advanced in our philosophy. We make show dogs of dolphins while Japan kills them. Are we morally superior because the slaughter of dolphins is prohibited in America? You tell me.
As Anne of Carversvile prepares to engage in the dolphin debate in a major way, we must examine Japan’s insistence that it has a nationalistic “right” to slaughter these creatures through the prism of history.
Human Progress and Economic Pragmatism
One can’t even consider the history of dolphin-killing without confronting the quickly-forgotten reality that American supremacy was built on the killing of whales.
Whales were the fuel that made America great, the most important economic power in the world, a forgotten reality that I confronted recently watching the rehashing of America’s whaling pedigree.
Writing about Ahab and “Moby Dick” as a university woman, my focus was on the questions of sin, the morality of killing majestic creatures and individual redemption, rather than the economic realities that America’s DNA is built on the backs of dead whales.
Lucky for America and the world’s supply of whales, oil was discovered. I’m not proud to say that our economic ambitions would have rendered whales extinct, had oil not saves the species. Like the Japanese, killing whales was part of our DNA, our manifest destiny as a world superpower.
Our sense of entitlement to bathe in the blood of whales in pursuit of our own economic advancement is no different than the men of Taiji.
From writing about “Moby Dick” and whale hunting, I moved on in my university studies to writing about the emerging patriarchy, women’s subjugation, and fifth-century BC Greece, where killing dolphins was a capital offense, punishable by death.
Dolphins in Ancient Greece
In ancient Greece, dolphins were seen as messengers for the gods. And while there was no knowledge of the fact that dolphins have lived on Planet Earth for 38-50 million years by current estimates, the mammals were revered and awarded ‘person’ status.
The clues to dolphins as ‘female’ are prolific in Greek and Roman art, and also in earlier Minoan artifacts. PBS ‘Frontline” reports in “A whale of a business: man & marine mammals : dolphins in ancient mythology”:
In many sculptures from the East, the dolphin is associated with Atargatis, the mother goddess, goddess of vegetation, nourisher of life and receiver of the dead who would be born again. In later myths, particularly in Roman literature, and again in art and statuary, it is the dolphin that carries souls to the ‘Islands of the Blest’, and around the Black Sea images of dolphins have been found in the hands of the dead, presumably to ensure their safe passage to the afterlife. Taken together these references seem to point to a deeper association with the processes of life, death and rebirth, perhaps linked to the dolphin’s ability to pass between the air-breathing, living world of humans and the suffocating, terrifying world beneath the waves, which for the Greek sailors could easily be identified with the kingdom of the dead. Whatever the exact symbolism, it is clear that the dolphin is intimately involved with the fundamentals of human existence.
Feminine Principles: Socrates, Plato and Aristotle
While female principles were in decline in relation to the rise of the patriarchy and private property, their influence hadn’t been totally extinguished as they would be under monotheism, and especially in the rise of Christianity which was heavily influenced by Aristotle.
The women of Sophocles’ Theban Plays are very strong. Antigone challenges not only royal power of Creon, the ruler, but his masculine power as well ,by speaking against his policy that violates divine traditions.
In Book 5 of Plato’s Republic, Socrates suggests that women are potentially capable of becoming guardians or fulfilling the role of philosopher-rulers of the state just like men. In sharing views that went against the grain of Athenian society, it can be argued that Plato — who believed that an elite was better able to govern than the multitude — embraced the ideas of women as heads of state.
Most significantly, both Socrates and Plato argued that women’s physicality was not a sign of any inferior nature. Aristotle disagreed completely, and it’s Aristotle that became the foundation of much of Western thought.
In Aristotle we find the argument that women are not only subhuman creatures, but incapable of true virtue as men are. Aristotle did believe that men should honor their wives and be faithful to them. He rejected totally the freedom of the women of Sparta, believing in a nuclear family and a wife that must be happy for an idealized life.
‘The Dolphin is not afraid of a human being as something strange to it, but comes to meet vessels at sea and sports and gambols round them even when under full sail’
Ironically, Aristotle was the first scientist to study cetaceans, not only observing them but working with fishermen to create an artificial notch in the dorsal fin of a dolphin caught in a web, before releasing it. As a result, Aristotle determined that a bottlenose dolphin could live for 25-30 years.
Aristotle’s philosophy was eagerly embraced by early Jews, so much so that many believed Aristotle was a Jew or was heavily influenced by his own readings of Judaic texts.
Without romanticizing the centuries preceding the dawn of Christianity for women or for nature, it seems that Judaism, Christianity and Aristotle emerged in a coalition of thought that celebrated man’s rational nature while condemning women’s emotional, irrational and natural state of being.
Simultaneously, in moving to embrace a single God, there was little room for feminine principles, and that includes dolphins.
After all, man — the superior creature — was dominant not only over women, but over nature.
In the Judeo-Christian tradition, nature is the result of an orderly, hierarchical succession, where man is created separate from the land, seas, flora, and fauna. He is the boss, according to Genesis:
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed, to you it shall be for meat. And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to everything that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so. via Boston College
Creation was now a sequence of God’s decisions, a rebirth of facts and events that reflected a new pecking order. The reality that dolphins existed long before humans no longer gave them rights to person-status, or a shared coexistence with men.
At this moment dolphins and whales, all cetaceans and all animals — along with women — were under man’s dominion, because they enjoyed lesser status — being lesser creatures than man — the new god in town.
With the development of Judeo-Christian thought comes the conceptual divorce of people from nature, as well as the treatment of nature as an object to be exploited in the service of people.
Two thousand years later, the fishermen of Taiji continue to assert this right of dominion over nature, just as American water parks convince us all that dolphins are really smiling in life and death. Being infinitely good-natured, dolphins exist to entertain us or feed our stomachs.
Eating our cotton candy, we’re disconnected from the realities of dolphin life. Man’s dominion over nature is God’s work, and God does not make mistakes.
Even Aristotle — keen as he was to write down every little observation — would agree that ours is a tidy argument, given what we now know about dolphins.
A recent article Why Japan Must Kill Whales caught my eye. It was written before this week’s resignation of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s government.
The negative Japanese reaction to Western cultural imperialism — presumably an outgrowth of WWII — highly motivates the nationalists.
The budget of the whaling program is small: only $86 million, of which only $17 million is paid for by the government in cash or zero-interest loans, according to freelance journalist, Junko Sakuma. The rest comes from meat sales and exports to international aquariums in the business of buying dolphins.
Whaling experts say the real reason the ministry wants to keep the program alive is to secure cushy retirement jobs for ministry officials, a common practice that is widely criticized. A study last year by the Democratic Party showed that the Institute of Cetacean Research, a ministry-controlled agency that oversees the research whaling program, reserves jobs for at least five former ministry officials, including one earning an annual salary of more than $130,000. Kyodo Senpaku, a government-owned company that operates the whaling fleet, hires another one. via CDNN
The facts suggest that the business of killing dolphins provides a cozy retirement for Japanese bureaucrats. How a small number wields such enormous power remains confusing.
Can Man Kill Anything He Wants and For Any Reason?
A key question for Biblical scholars is whether or not God gave man the right to kill and enslave dolphins no matter how smart they are. Brain scans in hand, growing numbers of people are wondering if we’re killing creatures with superior brain power.
Most marine scientists are now willing to agree that dolphin intelligence is at a minimum equal to that of a three-year-old child.
This analysis assumes that humans represent the apex of intelligence. Communications or intelligence that is different from ours de facto ‘lesser’.
Humans can’t distinguish a shark with an empty stomach from one that’s just eaten by “seeing” inside his stomach. Dolphins do understand this fact, and they communicate their findings to other dolphins in a “let’s get out of here” versus “no problem” language that we humans don’t understand operationally.
Presently, aspects of dolphin behavior and communication skills escapes our knowledge base, leaving a very real possibility that dolphin intelligence is vastly more advanced than that of a three-year-old. I’ve written previously about dolphin brains.
Dolphin brain and behavior research is prompting a reconsideration of our relationship with these glorious, ancient creatures who have lived on earth for 50 million years or so — until man began to make extinct dolphin species like the Yangtze River Dolphin.
Dolphins and Non-Person Status
Preparing to write this essay, I spent a lot of time on conservative blogs, trying to understand the response to the evolving proposal that dolphins be awarded “person” status. Once God made men in charge of everything that had any vitality, they assumed that “human” and “person” are synonyms, negating earlier rights enjoyed by other species.
Of course, Genesis was quoted lavishly. And Darwin, too, even though Darwin’s beliefs on this subject are often. misunderstood. Man creates bullet point arguments to support his lordship over dolphins and other creatures. Scholarship is in short support on these blogs, including no references to support statements like dolphins big brains are only full of fat, not sophisticated neural circuitry.
When scholarship, critical thinking and intelligence are seen as arrogant, elitist, and frankly un-American from Maine to Mexico — as is the case today in America — any proposal to grant dolphins ‘non-human persons’ status is surely the work of deranged liberal socialists, probably unemployed dopers under the influence of PETA.
In fact, PETA and Greenpeace, or Ric O’Barry’s SaveJapanDolphins.org have nothing to do with the origin of “person” status for dolphins. This is not a socialist conspiracy against the NRA.
Thomas I. White, the Conrad N. Hilton Chair of Business Ethics at Loyola Marymount University and the author of “In Defense of Dolphins: The New Moral Frontier” has explained the logic of moving to grant dolphins “person” status in his recent essay Dolphin People, for The Philosophers’ Magazine.
Returning to Greek philosophy, White explains why dolphins deserve person status, even though they are not human.
The criteria are (1) is alive, (2) is aware, (3) feels positive and negative sensations, (4) has emotions, (5) has a sense of self, (6) controls its own behaviour, and (7) recognises other persons and treats them appropriately. A person also (8) has a variety of sophisticated cognitive abilities. It is capable of analytical, conceptual thought. A person can learn, retain and recall information. It can solve complex problems with analytical thought. And a person can communicate in a way that suggests thought.
Read The London Times analysis of the same issue: Scientists say dolphins should be treated as ‘non-human persons’.
Earlier this week, we posted the much-reported story of Merlin the bottlenose dolphin learning to use the iPad. See SpeakDolphin.com. On Facebook I posed the question, what we will do if the first words the ‘always-smiling ‘Merlin types on the iPad are: “You guys are real jerks!”
Given the realities of dolphins living under a wide range of personal, life-threatening assaults, the question would be a great one from a smart-ass three-year-old.
We all know kids say the darndest things! Anne
Note: I’ve taken two of the dolphin photos from Y-Mun in Malaysia without her permission. But I’m writing her now, and I think she will be pleased. Y-Mun shares her thoughts on human’s rights to kill dolphins, sharks and whales, and she specifically writes about Taiji:
every living things are the creation of God,dolphins are living things,sharks are,whales are,humans are, we are all living things who shared the same habitat—-earth.we are a big family,but nowadays humans are killing their own ”family members”!!!!
we often say that a lion or a tiger is a cruel animal. in fact,we as humans are the cruelest being as we killed our ‘family members’ for our own benefits!!
so people!! stop slaughtering our ”family members” !!!!!!!!!!