Week 5: Whaling laws
By Jordan Fay
Two years ago I was taking anthropology class at Melbourne University, a weekly, two hour adventure into the beautiful and sometimes sad world of cultural identity and religious conflict taught by smoke-break enthusiast Andrew Dawson. Like cement pouring over a sponge my brain bathed thickly in the idea of cultural relativism. Webs of meaning, regardless of which specific ones you believe in, are applied to everything and that’s how people deal with the weight of existence. When whaling laws came up I was eager to have my views broadened. I was a year into veganism and was yet to engage with the immensely political aspects of the issue.
I learnt of the Western phenomenon of the Super Whale: a mythical homogenisation of anthropomorphism and classic whale characteristics (the massive size of a Blue Whale, the friendliness of a Gray Whale, the large brain of a Sperm Whale, the beautiful singing of the Humpbuck, etc) created under the campaign of whale-activists and anti-whaling laws (Kalland, 20-21). Serving as a water-dwelling-Jesus-poster-child for anti-whaling crusades, organisations like Greenpeace and WWF have turned the issue into a profitable commodity that is fuelled by the crisis discourse of global warming (Kalland, 21, 24). Now, I don’t agree with whaling or any practice of animal slaughter (especially commercial kinds), but I find it hard to tolerate the ignorance of those who boast about the “I’m a whale adopter” sticker fading on their Jeep’s rear windscreen on the way to a restaurant to dine on veal. No offence Andrew, I mean, you painted your brother in the same light to prove your point during the lecture.
Main reference article (I just so happened to find the same article I read for my anthropology class):
– ‘Whose whale is that? Diverting the commodity path’ by Arne Kalland.