Some commenters have wondered if my argument is really a side show. Most environmental groups oppose whaling and the killing of dolphins and other advanced mammals, so why am I trying to create a rift that isn’t there in the first place? For two reasons:
1. The rift is there and it will only grow wider. I strongly urge everyone to read the article “Kill Willy” in The New Republic. Here is an excerpt:
You see, though whales are lovely, intelligent, even cute animals, effective global management of these giant creatures has restored some of their stocks. Yet environmentalists are still trying to protect all whales from commercial use, a campaign that undermines the entire animal conservation movement.
Why [should] a multinational organization, reflecting the views of just one group, claim for itself the right to deny other countries the freedom to kill their own animals, which are in plentiful supply?
There is a growing chorus of voices that believe environmentalism should exclusively focus on issues of sustainability and drop its historical stance against such key issues as whaling. Some of these voices are coming from environmentalists, and some from the outside.
2. Since most environmentalists and environmental organizations continue to campaign against the killing of whales, dolphins, and other advanced mammals — even when these animals are not threatened with extinction — what I have been trying to do is to explore the moral framework that supports such a position. The only way to do this through the lens of animal welfare, which has a long tradition in moral philosophy. Anything else is purely subjective or purely emotional, and carries no philosophical weight whatsoever.
Right now environmentalism is going through a paradigm shift, and the outcome is unclear. Either it will choose to become the voice of what is essentially an amoral sustainability, and drop all notions of animal welfare, or it will realize that its goal should be more than just the sustainability of biological resources.
The movement has always walked an unsteady path between these two views. What I am arguing for is a clear articulation of the latter course coupled with an explicit statement of principles that expresses them. Anything else in my view is either wishy-washy or uninspiring or both.