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Can the killing of whales be justified for cultural purposes?

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Student: Sebastian Student: Sebastian Moore

POLS312: 2500-3000 Word Essay

Word Count: 2703

Research Question:

Can the killing of whales be justified if it serves a cultural purpose?

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Whaling is one of the oldest known areas of the over-exploitation of Nature.  Consequently, it was necessary to establish an international authority that could conserve whale species where other 2

attempts had failed.  The International Whaling Commission (IWC) was thus formed as an international body providing for the terms set out in the International Convention for the Regulation 3

of Whaling (ICRW), culminating in the IWC’s establishment establishment of a moratorium on commercial whaling 4

in 1982.  However, for countries such as Norway and Japan it has been argued that ‘as a result of 5

cultural considerations, exemptions should be made’ , these arguments being ‘assisted by the strong, 6

historical and cultural traditions in whaling that would be violated if whaling was prohibited’.   This essay will attempt to provide an evaluative summary of the arguments proposed regarding the question of whether ‘the killing of whales be justified if it serves a cultural purpose’ through the application of ethical theory.

Before attempting to analyses the breadth of arguments regarding this ethical question, we must first consider whether whales have direct moral standing, for this argument to even be valid.

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Scarff, J. E. (1977). The International Management of Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises: An Interdisciplinary  Assessment., p. 343 2 Gillespie, A. (1997). The ethical question in t he whaling debate. Georgetown International Environmental Law Review, 9:2, 9:2, p. 355. 3 International Whaling Commission. (1946). International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, Schedule, http://iwc.int/private/downl http://iwc.int/private/downloads/1lv6fvjz06f oads/1lv6fvjz06f48wc44w4s4w8gs/S 48wc44w4s4w8gs/Schedule-Fe chedule-February-2013.pdf bruary-2013.pdf (accessed 15 May 2014). 4 D’Amato, A., & Chopra, S. (1991). Whales: Their Emerging Right to Life. American Life.  American Journal of International International Law, 85:21, p. 16. 5 Gillespie, op.cit., p 374. 6 ibid.

Student: Sebastian Moore

POLS312: 2500-3000 Word Essay

Word Count: 2703

For something to have direct moral standing is for it, independently of its relation to other things or creatures, to possess features in virtue of which it deserves to be given moral consideration by agents who are capable of making moral choices. Different moral t heories 7 represent direct moral standing in different ways.

Therefore in order to conceptually analyse the issue at hand, a moral or ethical theory must first be chosen. The principal practice when approac hing the question of whether animals have direct moral standing is ‘proffered by the philosopher Peter Singer. Singer’s commitment is to the utilitarian 8

doctrine’,  which ‘holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness; 9

wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness’,  with happiness being defined as pleasure, 10

with the absence of pain.  Thus, when applying this moral theory to animals, one realises that many nonhuman animals also experience pleasure and pain, and thus according to the traditional utilitarian maxim, animals thus have direct moral standing and therefore should be factored into our 11

decision making.  As the eighteenth century philosopher Jeremy Bentham stated, “The question is not can they reason? Nor can they talk? The question is can they suffer?”

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However, there are critics who challenge the utility calculation. Common to their claims against the utilitarian approach’s recognition of animals having direct moral standing, is the idea that moral consideration can only be extended to individuals who reach mandatory thresholds of rationality, intelligence, or language, in other words, those who are sentient. This therefore implies certain 13

levels of rationality, intelligence, and language need to be met.  Yet, these arguments rest on fragile supports. Firstly, why would an animal’s lacking in the normal human levels of rationality, intelligence, or language, give us the liberty to ignore its pain? As well as this, when extending the 7

Timmons, M. (2014). Disputed moral issues: a reade.r, pp. 380-381. Gillespie, op.cit., p 376. 9 Geirsson, H., & Holmgren, M. (2010). Ethical theory: a concise anthology ., p. 90. 10 Driver, J. (2012). Consequentialism., p. 2. 11 Timmons, op.cit., p. 382. 12 Bentham, J. (1996). An introduction to the principles of morals and legislation., p. 328. 13 Timmons, op.cit., p. 387. 8

Student: Sebastian Moore

POLS312: 2500-3000 Word Essay

Word Count: 2703

argument, if these three characteristics were necessary prerequisites for moral consideration, how would one then justify moral consideration being given to human infants or severely intellectually disabled humans, especially when ‘many adult mammals and birds exhibit greater rationality and intelligence then do human infants’.

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Secondly, when swapping this argument around, would one

then be justified in giving a greater moral consideration to humans with higher levels of rationality, intelligence, or language?

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This utilitarian position Singer holds is most often attacked by what is broadly known as 16

contractarianism.  The key characteristic of this approach ‘is the postulating of an arena whereby 17

rational individuals decide which principles of justice and morality they can accept’.  In other words, legitimate principles of justice and morality are those that would be agreed upon by rational 18

individuals in appropriate circumstances.  It is widely assumed by contractualism theorists that due to animals being unable to be parties to agreements, they therefore cannot be recipients of moral 19

consideration.  This appears to be confirmed by John Rawls (leading figure in social contract theory) in his book “A Theory of Justice”. According to Rawls that due to society being regarded as ‘a 20

cooperative venture for mutual advantage’,  to benefit from this advantage one must be able to provide something in return. However, unlike humans animals have no duties and do not contribute to society in conventional ways such as earning money and therefore cannot be given moral consideration in the form of rights.

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ibid. ibid. 16 Gillespie, op.cit., p 381. 17 Garner, R. (2013) A Theory of Justice for Animals: Animal Rights in a Nonideal World ., pp. 23-24. 18 Ibid., p. 24. 19 Carruthers, P. (1992). The Animals Issue: Moral Theory in Practice., pp. 98-99. 20 Rawls, J. (1972). A Theory of Justice., p. 4. 21 Gillespie, op.cit., p 381. 15

Student: Sebastian Moore

POLS312: 2500-3000 Word Essay

Word Count: 2703

The obvious argument to this theory however is that insisting on moral agency as an entry point to moral consideration or justice also has the effect of excluding what academic Daniel Dombrowski terms “marginal” humans

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. That is human infants or severely intellectually disabled humans.

However, Rawls does make an effort to include “marginal” humans in his theory of justice on the grounds that when failing to do so would create risks to just institutions (these risks he does not define), as they would have been parties to the contract, if it had not have been for their 23

unfortunate circumstances, thus they should not be penalized for their bad luck.  But in response to this isn’t ‘being born an animal similarly a matter of chance’?

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Another moral theory that can be used to resolve the issue of whether whales have a direct moral standing is virtue ethics. Virtue ethics instructs us to think about ‘the rights and wrongs of our treatment of nonhuman animals in terms of virt ues and vices rather than in terms of consequences [utilitarianism], or rights and duties [contract arianism]’.

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Thus, according to virtue ethics killing for 26

example is not unjust but callous and contrary to the virtue of charity.  A virtue can thus be defined 27

as a ‘good, or admirable, or praiseworthy character trait’.  Therefore, when applying virtue ethics to animals, one can see the application of moral consideration towards animals is consistent with virtue 28

ethics.  “If cruelty is a vice, then to recognise an act as one of cr uelty to animals is thereby to recognise it as a wrong, and no further account of wherein its wrongness consists is called for”.

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22

Dombrowski, D. A. (1997). Babies and Beasts: The Argument from Marginal Cases., p. 2. Rawls, op.cit., p. 509. 24 Garner, op.cit., p. 32. 25 Beauchamp, T., & Frey, R. (2011) The Oxford handbook of animal ethics., p. 119. 23

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Hursthouse, R. (2001) On virtue ethics., p. 6. Hursthouse, R. (2000) Ethics, humans and other animals : an introduction with readings., p. 147. 28 Garner, op.cit., p. 67. 29 Hursthouse, R. (2007) “Enviromental Virtue Ehtics” Walker, R., & Ivanhoe, P. Working virtue : virtue ethics and contemporary moral problems., pp. 159. 27

Student: Sebastian Moore

POLS312: 2500-3000 Word Essay

Word Count: 2703

There are however several general problems with virtue ethics approach in relation to animals. For example, while it is possible to identify conceptual virtues and vices, it is difficult to judge particular 30

actions without some prior ethical theory.  A contextual example of this is the conception of being cruel to animals is usually defined in the law of most developed countries, in terms of ethical theory 31

that regards the exploitation of animals for human benefit as being acceptable.  Thus it seems that “a conception of moral virtues can never provide a complete account of morality, since it 32

presupposes further normative standards that cannot be reduced to virtues”.  Another short fall of virtue ethics when in application to animals is that it does not always provide a clear guideline to 33

action or moral judgement.  For example, cruelty and a lack of compassion can be used as vices to 34

 justify change to the ‘many ways in which we use animals for food’.  However, one is then left in the dark to decide whether it is virtuous to pursue vegetarianism or merely m ake an active effort to abstain from easting animals in factory farms.

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Thus in deciding which ethical theory one should pursue in deciding whether whales have direct moral standing, it would be prudent to apply a utilitarian approach to the overarching question of this essay. Not only being the principle theory applied today in the subject of animals rights, the short falls of the competing ethical theories, whose application is not impractical when evaluating other ethical questions, for the question at hand, Utilitarianism will be the approach that will be applied when evaluating the arguments for and against whether the killing of whales can be justified if it serves a cultural purpose. More specifically rule Utilitarianism, that is an act is right if it conforms

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Garner, op.cit., p. 69. ibid. 32 Hursthouse, R. (2007) “Law, Morality and Virtue” Walker, R., & Ivanhoe, P. Working virtue : virtue ethics and contemporary moral problems., pp. 193. 33 Walker, R., & Ivanhoe, P. (2007) Working virtue : virtue ethics and contemporary moral problems., p. 7. 31

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Hursthouse, R. (2007) “Enviromental Virtue Ehtics” Walker, R., & Ivanhoe, P. Working virtue : virtue ethics and contemporary moral problems., pp. 156. 35 Garner, op.cit.

Student: Sebastian Moore

POLS312: 2500-3000 Word Essay

Word Count: 2703

to a rule (or set of rules) which if generally accepted would bring about more utility than an alternative rule (or set of rules).

The instigation of the moratorium on commercial whaling in 1982 created a ri ft between two 36

schools of thought in the IWC.  On one side there were the pro-whaling states, who maintained that whaling was a cultural tradition of their people, which they have the right to preserve, and on the other side there was the anti-whaling states that maintained that such cultural practices were 37

unethical.  However, ‘since its inception, the IWC has recognised that indigenous, or ‘aboriginal subsistence’ whaling of of a different nature to commercial whaling … thus not subject to the 38

moratorium’. Presently four countries consisting of Denmark (Greenland), the Russian Federation, St Vincent and the Grenadines and the United States of America (USA) have been granted aboriginal 39

subsistence’ whaling for their indigenous communities,  however, pro whaling states such as Japan, Norway and Iceland commonly argue that they also deserve an exemption similar to the these the 40

indigenous populations of these countries such as the Inuit’s and the Makah.  Both these sides, present arguments and counter arguments to the question of whether the killing of whales be  justified if it serves a cultural purpose.

In assessing the arguments for the pro-whaling nations regarding culture the c hief argument that presents itself is that ‘whaling is a part of their cultural heritage and its prohibition would eliminate a

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Hodges, B. T. (2000) The cracking facade of the International Whaling Commission as an institution of international law: Norwegian small-type whaling and the aboriginal subsistence exemption.  Journal of Environmental Law and Litigation, 15:2, pp. 295 -302. 37 Gillespie, op.cit., pp. 373-375. 38 International Whaling Commission. ( n.d.). Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling, http://iwc.int/aboriginal (accessed 15 May 2014). 39 ibid. 40 Wagner, D. (2004) Competing cultural interests in the whaling debate: an e xception to the universality of the right to culture. Transnational Law & Contemporary Problems, 14:2, p. 846.

Student: Sebastian Moore

POLS312: 2500-3000 Word Essay

Word Count: 2703

41

way of life for their people’.  Culture rights, although being seen as by far the least developed 42

human rights when regarding international agreements, are however provided for.  For example, the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity ‘recognizes c ulture within the scope of cultural 43

pluralism’,  allowing the provision for the ‘the harmonious coexistence of multiple cultural 44

paradigms’.  Therefore, wouldn’t the IWC’s refusal to extend the aboriginal subsistence to countries such as Norway and Japan manifest in something analogous to cultural imperialism?

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Although with international law providing for the right to culture, with neither side of the whaling debate in essence denying that there is a right to culture, as illustrated by the states who have exemptions to the moratorium, anti-whaling states still confront this cultural argument in two 46

ways.  The first counter argument anti-whaling states emphasise is that even if whaling is apart of a state’s cultural heritage, should all cultural traditions be passed down to the next generations”?

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This is reinforced by the arguments from previous countries that participated in whaling who have 48

“moved with the times and ceased whaling many decades ago”. A counter argument to this of course is that even if there was a move to have the tradition stopped from being passed down, this would not mean that the younger generations would agree. This is illustrated in statistics from 2012 features in the “Society & Natural resources: An international Journal” where the question of whether artisanal whaling should be maintained was po sed to Faroese and Vincentian youth.

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Gillespie, op.cit., p. 374. Komurcu, M. (2002) Cultural heritage endangered by large dams and its protection under international law. (archeological sites in Turkey). Wisconsin International Law Journal, 20:2, pp. 233-276. 43 Wagner, op.cit., p. 842. 44 Gillespie, op.cit., p. 355. 45 Wagner, op.cit., p. 847. 46 ibid., p. 849. 47 ibid. 48  Heptinstall, S. 'When the Sea Foamed Red ', Daily Mail (London), 15 September 2003, p. 28. 49 Fielding, R. (2013) Whaling Futures: A Survey of Faroese and Vincentian Youth on the Topic of Artisanal Whaling. Society & Natural Resources, 26:7, pp. 818-819. 42

Student: Sebastian Moore

POLS312: 2500-3000 Word Essay

Word Count: 2703

Although under half, 40% of respondents were hopeful for the continuation of whaling, a relatively large percentage when considering the notion of discontinuing whaling for cultural purposes.

The second argument anti-whaling states propose is that they too have an equivalent right to culture, that is a culture that values the preservation of nature, in particular animals”.

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One only needs to

look to the number of preservation programs maintained in countries such as the United States, for evidence of this developing culture.

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Apart from these arguments, supporters of the moratorium

on whaling have also sought to justify their case on ethical grounds, such as New Zealand and Australia who criticise the practice of whaling as being immoral.

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In deciding which side of the whaling debate in regards to culture is right, one must apply the breadth of arguments to ethical theory in order to decide which side’s arguments are more persuasive. In essence, utilitarianism establishes whales as having a direct moral standing, and thus eligible for moral consideration. Utilitarianism as stated before ‘holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness; wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness’, with happiness being defined as pleasure, with the absence of pain.

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Thus no effort is

required that the in maximising happiness and reducing pain, killing of whales for cultural purposes is wrong, as well as inducing pain for the whale, it does not promote the ideals held by anti-whaling countries. Thus in order to maximise happiness and reduce pain, the majority’s argument, that is the anti-whaling countries, and the whales themselves who undoubtedly want to live, should prevail in this debate. Thus, never can the killing of whales be justified for a cultural purpose.

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Wagner, op.cit., p. 851. ibid. 52 ibid. 53 Driver, op.cit. 51

Student: Sebastian Moore

POLS312: 2500-3000 Word Essay

Word Count: 2703

When applying a utilitarian approach to the question of whether the killing of whales be justified if it serves a cultural purpose, brings forth the chief question of whether the right to culture of tradition whaling countries is ethically more moral sounding than if the whales were allowed to live. In this case, when applying a utilitarian approach to this ethical question, the arguments in favour of the whales outweigh the arguments in favour of the cultural rights of traditional whaling communities to be catered for.

Student: Sebastian Moore

POLS312: 2500-3000 Word Essay

Word Count: 2703

Bibliography

1. D’Amato, A., & Chopra, S. (1991). Whales: Their Emerging Right to Life. American  Journal of International Law, 85:21, 21-737.

2. Beauchamp, T., & Frey, R. (2011). The Oxford handbook of animal ethics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

3. Bentham, J. (1996). An introduction to the principles of morals and legislation. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

4. Carruthers, P. (1992). The Animals Issue: Moral Theory in Practice: Cambridge University Press.

5. Dombrowski, D. A. (1997). Babies and Beasts: The Argument from Marginal Cases: University of Illinois Press.

6. Driver, J. (2012). Consequentialism. London: Routledge.

7. Fielding, R. (2013). Whaling Futures: A Survey of Faroese and Vincentian Youth on the Topic of Artisanal Whaling. Society & Natural Resources, 26:7, 810-826.

8. Garner, R. (2013). A theory of justice for animals : animal rights in a nonideal world , Oxford: Oxford University Press.

9. Garner, R. (2011). Animal welfare, ethics and the work of the International Whaling Commission. Journal of Global Ethics, 7:3, 279-290.

10. Geirsson, H., & Holmgren, M. (2010). Ethical theory : a concise anthology . Peterborough: Broadview Press.

11. Gillespie, A. (1997). The ethical question in the whaling debate. Georgetown International Environmental Law Review, 9:2, 355-387.

Student: Sebastian Moore

POLS312: 2500-3000 Word Essay

Word Count: 2703

12. Heptinstall, S. 'When the Sea Foamed Red ', Daily Mail (London), 15 September 2003, p. 28.

13. Hodges, B. T. (2000). The cracking facade of the International Whaling Commission as an institution of international law: Norwegian small-type whaling and the aboriginal subsistence exemption. Journal of Environmental Law and Litigation, 15:2, 295-328.

14. Hursthouse, R. (2000). Ethics, humans and other animals : an introduction with readings. London: Routledge.

15. Hursthouse, R. (2001). On virtue ethics. Oxford [England]: Oxford England: Oxford University Press.

16. Hursthouse, R. (2007) “Enviromental Virtue Ehtics” Walker, R., & Ivanhoe, P. Working virtue : virtue ethics and contemporary moral problems, Oxford: Clarendon Press. 17. Hursthouse, R. (2007) “Law, Morality and Virtue” Walker, R., & Ivanhoe, P. Working virtue : virtue ethics and contemporary moral problems, Oxford: Clarendon Press.

18. International Whaling Commission. (1946). International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, Schedule, http://iwc.int/private/downloads/1lv6fvjz06f48wc44w4s4w8gs/Schedule-February2013.pdf (accessed 15 May 2014).

19. International Whaling Commission. ( n.d.). Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling, http://iwc.int/aboriginal (accessed 15 May 2014).

20. Komurcu, M. (2002). Cultural heritage endangered by large dams and its protection under international law.(archeological sites in Turkey). Wisconsin International Law  Journal, 20:2, 233-296.

21. Rawls, J. (2009). A Theory of Justice: Harvard University Press.

22. Scarff, J. E. (1977). The International Management of Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises:  An Interdisciplinary Assessment : University of California, School of Law.

Student: Sebastian Moore

POLS312: 2500-3000 Word Essay

Word Count: 2703

23. Smith, K., & Light, M. (2001). Ethics and foreign policy . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

24. Timmons, M. (2014). Disputed moral issues : a reader : New York: Oxford University Press.

25. Wagner, D. (2004). Competing cultural interests in the whaling debate: an exception to the universality of the right to culture. Transnational Law & Contemporary Problems, 14:2, 831.

26. Walker, R., & Ivanhoe, P. (2007). Working virtue : virtue ethics and contemporary moral  problems. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

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