AWI Quarterly

The Tide Turns at the IWC

The differences of opinion at the annual meetings of the International Whaling Commission are so familiar and fundamental that observers have become accustomed to deadlock. But this year in Berlin, where the Commission met in plenary session from June 16-19, it was hard not to feel the logjam breaking up—in the whales' favor.
Whale-watching is becoming a lucrative business, even in Japan, a country that refuses to give up the inhumane practice of killing whales under the pretext of "scientific whaling." IFAW/R. Sobol

On the very first day, over the thunderous objections of the Norwegian and Japanese delegations and their supporters, the Commission gaveled into existence a new conservation committee by a vote of 25-20. Normally, the creation of yet another committee would hardly be cause for celebration, but this one clearly signaled a shift towards whale protection and away from the killing of whales. The new committee was fought vigorously by the whalers because it will focus on conservation, and gather information and recommend solutions on bycatch (drowning of whales and dolphins in fishing nets) and the growing environmental threats to whales such as toxic contamination and LFA sonar, information not likely to bolster their assertion that there are plenty of healthy whales to kill. Nongovernmental organizations will need to work hard with their governments over the next year to see this committee become effective; Japan, Norway, Iceland, and their allies have stated their intent to undermine the decision.

The vote spread also indicated that the Japanese have perhaps hit a high-water mark in their purchase of the commission through "economic assistance" to developing countries. Although they added two more countries to their chorus line (Nicaragua and Belize), they still lack the numbers to carry a simple majority, much less the 3/4 vote necessary on "schedule changes" such as dropping the moratorium on commercial whaling. While they were able to block important major initiatives such as the creation of whale sanctuaries in the South Pacific and South Atlantic, they could not stop the conservation committee, two votes condemning their bogus "scientific" whaling, the vote against their "small-scale coastal whaling," or the vote against allowing secret ballots. In a low moment before the conservation committee discussion, Japan and its pro-whaling allies moved to strike all conservation issues from the agenda; fortunately, that was turned back.

Apparently, Japan's whaling industry has collided with a new economic powerhouse with far more clout than even they can muster: whale watching. The newly formed International Association of Whale Watchers attended the meeting for the first time and gave a press conference announcing their formidable presence. More and more developing countries are beginning to realize significant economic and social benefits from whale-watching tourism. In just a few years, the industry has ballooned to an annual income of one billion U.S. dollars spread across 97 countries, giving them an economic relevance that whale-killing can't touch.

Iceland may offer the first showdown between whaling and whale-watching. Having re-joined the Commission this year with its reservation on the moratorium on commercial whaling intact, Iceland immediately announced its intention to begin its own yearly "scientific" whale-kill of 100 fin whales and 50 sei whales (classified as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature) as early as 2004. Despite the belligerence of their Commissioner, Stefan Asmundsson, within the IWC, these plans may be derailed by pressure at home. Icelandic whale watchers, who earned over $8 million from 90,000 visitors in 2001, have joined with Icelandair and the powerful Icelandic fishery industry to oppose the resumption of whaling.

Other information presented leaves no doubt that killing whales for food in the year 2003 is a brutal anachronism:

—Some whales take as long as five hours to die when struck by harpoons, a new report presents the possibility that some whales are conscious when butchered.

—The World Wildlife Fund estimates that 300,000 dolphins and whales are killed yearly after becoming entangled in fishing nets.

—Greenland's so-called aboriginal subsistence whaling was criticized for its huge commercial component and the recent slaughter of 32 orca whales.

AWI has attended the IWC meetings since the Commission's inception. We oppose all forms of whaling except those that are truly necessary for aboriginal subsistence.


USTR's Pig Politics

A USTR factsheet on "U.S. Pork Industry & Trade" cheers America's annual export of over 700 thousand metric tons of pork, valued at more than $1.5 billion. This, claims USTR, generates "wealth and create[s] good paying jobs that contribute significantly to the economic well-being of rural America." But American family farmers don't benefit; it's the corporate agribusinesses that dominate the domestic and foreign markets, subjecting pigs to intensive confinement.

"Free" trade isn't free for small-scale
 family farmers. Reducing trade barriers
facilitates the flow of cheap
 pork products from animal factories.

USTR is brazenly using the Central America Free Trade Agreement to eliminate the "sanitary barriers" that contribute to American pork exports from being restricted in the region. "Sanitary" measures are rules on food safety to prevent the spread of diseases and toxins, through the food supply.

USTR is also trying to undermine "China's zero tolerance on pathogens (listeria and salmonella) in raw meat."

"Opening the Australian market for U.S. pork exports is a priority for the Bush Administration," says USTR. The U.S. won't let food safety issues interfere with our ability to flood a market with cheap hog factory pork: "Australia has sanitary/animal health barriers that keep imported pork out. USTR is pushing the Australian government to develop a new, science-based pork import policy." Rather than improve our food safety, the U.S. wants to force other nations to lower their standards. When scientific findings are not suitable to USTR, we simply challenge those findings as not being based on sound science.


Book Reviews

By Dale Peterson; photographs and Afterward by Karl Ammann; University of California Press
Berkeley, California 2003; ISBN: 0-520-23090-6; 333 pages, $24.95

Eating Apes by Dale Peterson is well written in a comfortable style. This excellent and easy to read prose contrasts with the disturbing facts it presents of the ongoing genocides motivated by western civilization's penchant for greed and power. When you consider that indigenous human peoples of Africa have shared the forests with our fellow apes for thousands of years without destroying each other, it is easy to determine who is responsible for this disaster. Consider the fact that our western civilization has yet to come across a people (ape or otherwise) who have lived in harmony with nature and who we have not destroyed. This book chronicles the latest such destruction with regard to chimpanzees, gorillas, and the human forest foragers, as well as the forest in which they live.

Peterson's book with Karl Ammann's "Afterward" creates a bold and brave j'accuse of the logging and conservation organizations that are spearheading this latest attack. The uplifting part of the book is Karl Ammann's story of uncompromising ethics and an amazing dedication to bringing the bushmeat crisis to the world's attention. The apes are indeed fortunate to have a person of Ammann's character befriend them. Ammann's photographs are haunting and make statements that an entire book could not begin to express.

In addition to Ammann's story, there is the story of a former hunter, Joseph Melloh, which serves to give the hunters a face and humanity that can be understood and even forgiven. What cannot be understood or forgiven is the "Feel Good Conservation" rubbish provided by the logging companies and some of the conservation organizations to exploit this crisis for their own gains.

Whereas Peterson's bravery and Ammann's amazing dedication will make you feel proud to be a human, the actions of the conservation organizations selling out to the logging companies will make you ashamed and angry. You must read this book. And then you must follow the advice of Peterson and Ammann as to what you can do to help stop it. Finally, you must act now, because there is very little time left for our kin in the forests.
—Roger Fouts

for bea
By Kristin von Kreisler; Foreword by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson; Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam New York, NY 2003; ISBN: 1-58542-222-3; 192 pages, $19.95

At too many experimental laboratories that house dogs, you will see individual dogs who are huddled and trembling at the back of their cages, their heads are held low and their tails are tucked tightly beneath them. These poor souls, visibly traumatized by their situation, are terrified of every person who enters the room and every sound and activity that goes on around them. These animals, clearly unable to cope with the laboratory environment, shouldn't be there.

For Bea is the true story of one such dog, a beagle who escaped from a research facility and, aided by the compassion and patience of her new human companions, healed from the psychological damage inflicted upon her. Written by Kristin Von Kreisler about her beloved dog, the reader follows the painstaking transformation of Bea from mental wreck to grand dame of the house.

One of my favorite chapters is titled, "The Battle of Bea's Bulge." There are lots of dogs who love to eat to the point that you worry that, given the obsession and the opportunity, they would consume themselves to oblivion. The traumatized Bea was gaunt, but her rescue and healing yielded a figure that was dangerously overweight. To her chagrin, Bea was put on a diet. She rebelled by eating anything in sight, including papers from the trash can, the fuzz from tennis balls, the wicker off her own bed, and finally the padding from under a rug. Following the consumption of the padding and a trip to the veterinarian, a truce was reached in which Bea was given more food and she stopped eating non-food items.

The book, a quick read, is a heartwarming account sure to be enjoyed by anyone who has shared a special bond with a dog and will be particularly appreciated by those who at one time or another have had a beagle companion. —Cathy Liss

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