I lived in Africa from 1985 to 1992 and I worked for a period in Kenya with a fellow who grew up along the shores of Lake Victoria.
The first time David saw the ocean was when we traveled together from Nairobi to Mombassa and then on to Malindi doing field survey work.
To commemorate David’s first trip to the coast I suggested we have lunch at a resort just north of Mombassa.
We walked into the buffet lunch, come seafood smorgasbord, and David was incredulous.
“You don’t eat those things,” he said laughing and pointing at the huge bowl of prawns.
They live in the mud and feed-on the crap at the bottom of the lake he went on to explain. He was referring to yabbies.
Diet is cultural. I lived in Madagascar for some years and there was a proverb that went something along the lines, “If you haven’t eaten rice with your meal, you haven’t eaten.”
So should the Japanese be allowed to eat whales?
In today’s The Australian, Federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell is reported saying:
The world’s humpback whale population had been reduced by 97per cent by commercial whaling. In the 20 years since commercial whaling had been banned, numbers had still only increased to 25 per cent of the original population. “Now is not the time to start hunting them again”.
So he is running the argument that the Japanese should not be hunting whales because numbers are low. But then the piece in the newspaper went on,
Senator Campbell said he hoped to end the whale kills that Japan conducts in the name of science and was shocked and saddened by recently broadcast images of whale-cooking classes in Japan.
“Anyone who sees a giant and highly-intelligent creature getting harpooned – having a grenade set off inside its head or inside its stomach and if it doesn’t get killed within 20 or 30 minutes they stick an electronic lance in it – if somebody doesn’t get emotional about that there’s something wrong with them.”
In a land-based context there is an argument that sustainable harvesting programs focused on native species can enhance conservation. Bob Beale and Mike Archer writing in the Australian Financial Review (23-28th December 2004) argued that mallee fowl and giant bustard would not be “facing oblivion if we served them up for Christmas dinner instead of Asian chicken and North American turkey”.
Should every thinking environmentalist be vegetarian?