Live and let live (whales excepted)

How can you tell the Japanese tourists on a whale-watching boat?
They’re the ones carrying the knives and forks aboard…

Having had my interest piqued by the latest batch of TC weird news, I was at the Japanese Whaling Society site the other day, a fascinating place which mounts a stoic defence of their right to harpoon any tasty-looking morsel of mammalian blubber within reach. Its suggestion is that whales are not that intelligent – the ratio of brain to weight is way below a dolphin’s – and that they’re more like ocean-dwelling cows than sentient beings. This is refreshingly robust, certainly a cut above the usual apologist nonsense over whaling for “scientific” reasons. Such are the joys of the Net: the ability to get points of view that are normally suppressed – sometimes for the best of reasons, but no truly democratic society can pick and choose who gets freedom of speech, and who doesn’t, based on whether you agree with their opinions.

I doubt that such views will be tolerated by those who manage “ethical investments”. These are funds who don’t invest your money in dubious companies that pollute the environment, say, or torture small furry animals. It’s one of those nice, woolly ideals – hell, even the name hijacks the moral high ground with the implication that other investments are somehow evil and immoral. It is interesting to speculate briefly as to whether proudly unethical investment funds do exist, advertising the fact that they don’t give a damn about morality, but they’ll do lots more with your money?

For the concept appeals only to the already-rich who can afford to take the hit. Ethical investments will, overall, do less well than normal ones, since if you make your choice based on factors other than pure financial performance, this is inevitable. It also seems to deny the inter-related nature of the modern economy, where no-one is innocent. Sure, there are degrees of guilt, but this is strangely bypassed: they aren’t called “slightly less unethical than average investments”.

In its simplest form, this is a boycott, which is the thin end of the wedge when it comes to campaigning tactics. For example: GM foods. It wasn’t enough for those who didn’t want to eat them, to buy from places that didn’t use genetically-modified ingredients, or simply read the freakin’ packet. Instead, there was a campaign of embarrassment, near-intimidation and vandalism aimed at forcing stores and farmers to cave in. Clearly, the arguments had failed to convince people, but as is all too often the case, who needs facts or evidence when you’ve got a good publicity campaign?

This intolerance for the views of others is characteristic of many a liberal cause: they’re right, you’re wrong, and you have to change to suit them. When was the last time you went to a vegetarian restaurant and saw a “Carnivores Option” on the menu? It’s the way that a small group will often attempt to enforce their own beliefs on others which irritates me. “I don’t want to wear fur, so all fur shops should be closed.” I don’t inflict my morality on others – much as the idea of skinning a few PETA activists does appeal – and I would appreciate it if others would give me the same respect.

So, if you don’t want to eat whale-meat, that’s fine. But if you can’t convince the Japanese not to do so, respect their views and let them get on with their lives.