Tuesday 9 March 2010

That'll show 'em

Brendan Moyle has an excellent post up noting the rather big problems caused by the anti-whaling movement: long story short, it's turned whaling into a matter of national pride in whaling countries, triggering us vs them thinking rather than calm assessment.
So has the strategy of political and protest action succeeded? Is the fact that Japan now subsidies its whaling industry as a matter of principle a success? Is the fact that Norway continues to take hundreds of whales commercially a success? Is the fact that Canada told the anti-whaling movement to get stuffed and does it anyway a success? Is the fact that even anti-whaling countries still whale a success?

After nearly thirty years, it’s become increasingly obvious that the strategy of being a hardline, anti-whaling country fails the most basic litmus test. It’s not working to end whaling- it is a bad strategy that is failing.

Indeed, it may be counter-productive if this prompts Japan to support their whalers with subsidies and Japanese consumers are prompted to consume more whale meat as an issue of nationalistic pride. There’s a very good reason why most countries gave up whaling. The economics don’t really work. Converting an economic issue to a matter of principle, doesn’t seem to help whales out a lot.
Brendan goes on to argue that it's a waste of resources to try and save the not-endangered whales from whaling when there are plenty of endangered species.
Nearly a third of all amphibian and reptile species are estimated to be in serious risk of extinction. We are at a point where thousands of species are at much greater risk than minke whales. Yet the choice is to take those resources we have and put them into "stopping whaling". Trying to save a small set of species not actually threatened by whaling, and giving up on so many more species that are in more urgent need, isn’t the optimal approach. And the fact that this strategy to stop whaling has not succeeded in 30 years feels like a colossal waste of money.
Of course, that assumes that activist attention tends to improve outcomes for the target species. I'd been of the impression that it often did more harm than good, ensuring that property and market based solutions were politically impossible. Do the odds of weka meat farming being legalized go up or down if Greenpeace suddenly stops caring about whales and starts caring about weka?

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