Published January 15, 2009
Re: Stop whaling in Iceland! ´Global` boycott against products, ´made in Iceland`
I am replying to your letter, which I received today, asking everyone to boycott all Icelandic products on account of Iceland’s scientific whaling policy.
First and foremost let me say that I eat Whale meat on occasion, I like it, and I don’t have a problem with it. I also do not have a problem with you personally choosing not to eat it nor in taking a personal moral or ethical stance in relation to the consumption of whale meat.
What I do have a problem with is your ignorance and your need to make it known to everyone else. I will assume for now, for the purposes of this rebuttal that you consume meat, that you consume fish and as a countryman of the biggest economy in the EU you consume pretty much EVERYTHING else around you too. So let me begin by saying that if you knew where most of it came from or how it was produced and made that the basis for deciding whether or not to use/eat/buy it you would be living naked in a cave somewhere eating organically grown dirt. Furthermore, you are German- so the sheer audacity with which you shake your finger at Iceland stems from the same kind of ethical logic that still stops Jewish people all over the world from buying a German-made car. Your self-righteous soapboxing is as dangerous, as it is stupid.
Perhaps though you are an expert. That is a possibility that I am willing to explore. So please tell me what exactly is it you know about whaling or about whales themselves? What do you know about the history of whaling and the current context for modern whaling in Iceland? Are you a specialist of some kind? Are you David Attenborough’s illegitimate German lovechild? Please tell me Andreas, what is it you know about whaling in Iceland that the rest of us don’t? I am genuinely interested in anything you could offer that could make me change my mind about it. I am a liberal person Andreas, I vote to the left, I have gay friends and send my kid to a Steiner school, I buy organic vegetables and I recycle… I am really open to new ideas and fresh perspectives so please, dazzle me.
In the meantime however let me tell you what I KNOW. Last year Iceland killed 39 minke whales. According to the most current scientific research, estimates have the number of Minke whales in Icelandic waters alone at some 44,000 animals. That’s FORTY-FOUR-THOUSAND 39- from 44,000 represents a percentage of the local whale population so small and insignificant that my calculator can barely manage all the zeros. Got it? So is the basis for your boycott simply that whales are endangered? Because if it is then your boycott is simply unjustified and in that light is completely unfair to the people of Iceland. No sane person could argue that minke whales are, in any way endangered here in Iceland.
You don’t say so specifically, but I assume you have issues with eating a sentient creature, because like most people you see a national geographic documentary about whales and you look in their big brown eyes and see something magical and this makes you want to hug and kiss them and protect them all. You think they are supremely intelligent and deserve more respect yes? But have you ever actually seen a whale? I mean in person? In the water? I have, in fact I have seen lots of them both here in Iceland and abroad and it is my belief that they are indeed very beautiful. I even went on a whale-watching trip with some friends of mine last summer in the North of Iceland and I enjoyed it very much- seeing them jumping around, hunting, swimming… very, very nice indeed. So, thank you very much for the suggestion about starting a whale watching industry, but we already have one and it is already BOOMING- it has been for years actually. In fact here in Reykjavik the whale-watching boats actually share a harbour with the whale-hunting boats! In the same harbour there are even restaurants where you can eat whale meat after you get back from your sightseeing tour!!! Iceland is indeed a country of many startling contrasts… fascinating stuff eh?
I also think Icelandic horses, and Icelandic sheep and cows and reindeer are very beautiful and like to look at them also. But of course I eat all of those too. My favourite meat is actually foal meat… a foal is a baby horse. I honestly can’t think of anything cuter than a baby horse but that doesn’t change the fact that they are plentiful and extremely tasty. The inner leg of a baby horse is pretty much the best meat on earth in my experience- especially raw with soy sauce and wasabi. The best meat from a whale comes from the neck and is also delicious eaten in this way. Tell me Andreas, what is your favourite meat? Is it beef perhaps? Yes, a big thick juicy steak, perhaps one that was organically grown and humanely slaughtered yes? I am sure you have thought about the fact that in order to produce the cow that your steak came from somewhere in the world a rainforest was probably cleared to make room for the land it was raised on. At the same time another rainforest somewhere was cleared to grow the organic grain that it fed on, not to mention the diesel fuelled truck that drove its stinking methane producing carcass hundreds of kilometres to market to be sold to a large supermarket chain who wrapped it in Styrofoam and cling-wrap and slapped a sticker on it that informed you of how ethically sound this piece of flesh is before you bought it. But you have thought about all of this haven’t you, before you wrote your letter?
The cost to the environment both locally and internationally in producing organically grown minke whale is basically zero. It is a totally sustainable production and aside from the method of killing, which we likely agree upon being terrible (ill get to that shortly), it is, for me, totally justifiable. We don’t have to feed a whale and we don’t have to look after it. We just have to harvest it, carve it up and eat it- all 15 tonnes of it. There is enough meat on one minke whale to feed hundreds of people and we don’t have to fell a forest and endanger hundreds of species of other animals, we don’t have to produce the same amount of CO2’s as a small car and we don’t have to produce enormous amounts of grain that could otherwise be feeding millions of starving people around the world.
So then, perhaps it is the issue of the method of slaughtering a whale that you base your boycott on? Yes? Ok, well NOW you are onto something! Let me say, you are not alone. I and many others agree with you 150% that the way in which a whale is slaughtered is indeed barbaric and cruel. They no doubt suffer greatly and I have no doubt there is a far more humane way to end their lives than drowning them with a large explosive harpoon in their side. I think you should write another letter to the International Whaling Commission appealing to the whalers of the world to devote funding for research and development of a modern painless method of slaughter not unlike those of a modern abattoir- something fast and lethal. I’ll even sign a petition for that if you want, now that we are friends. However if this is the basis for your boycott of Icelandic products then you should define that more clearly in your letter because if I was your professor I would suggest that your arguments so far for the boycotting of Icelandic products so far is extremely shaky.
You make no mention of the dishonesty in calling our whaling “scientific” and I think you missed your best opportunity to find a solid angle to justify your boycott there. I personally think it is appalling that the Icelandic government calls our whaling “scientific”. We, the Icelandic people have nothing to be ashamed about in hunting whales and should not be hiding the bloody reality of the act behind the veil of science. It is not science. We just like to hunt them and we like to eat them. I think we should actually be greatly increasing the yearly quota for hunting whales in Iceland to a level deemed sustainable through scientific research. My fear is however that we don’t do this because we are constantly pandering to the demands of armchair activists like yourself. I think this is symptomatic of much larger problem in Iceland- we care way too much about what everyone else thinks because we have lost the ability to think for ourselves.
It is actually a particularly poignant moment to discuss increased local production of whale meat at this time, when Iceland’s reliance on a globalized economy has recently blown up in its face in spectacular fashion. We, like your country Germany have relied far too much on everyone else to do everything for us in recent years when we should have been focusing on what we can do and on what we have and be making ourselves more self-sufficient. As a result we are currently, fucked. It is, in my mind, tout-amount to criminal that Icelandic people are importing and eating food produced in the USA, or the EU and our local fish stocks are depleting at record levels meanwhile at the same time 44,000 minke whales swim around us in every direction and we only have access to the meat of 39 of them per year under the false auspice of “scientific research”.
In conclusion I would like to say simply that I think your letter is stupid, and I think if you really believe everything you have written you are also, by default, stupid too. I also suspect you are a hypocrite… However in closing I will give you the benefit of the doubt that you don’t eat any meat, and are a strict vegan, and live on a self-sustainable farm in the countryside where you do everything yourself and have no moral or ethical issues of your own to deal with- in which case I am sorry for calling you names and ask you to pray for my murderous soul to whoever or whatever your God is.
In the meantime though I hope that I have given you something to think about and that maybe you will see fit to write another letter, one with either a better argument for boycotting Icelandic producers such as myself, or to make an apology for being an ignorant do-gooder who should be focused more on the dilemmas of his own backyard rather than those of mine.
By the way. I am a composer. Below is a link to my last album, which was produced in Iceland. You can buy it online through my Icelandic record label’s web store.
I hope you enjoy it.