The Repeated Hounding Down and Tagging of Walruses Exposes Electronic Surveillance as Not Only Cruel but a Fraud
"As politics have (sic) gotten more and more polarized, everyone has to claim their views are objective, pure, and factual, which means they are pulled into the scientific side. Most of these issues are largely values questions, but no one wants to discuss those, so we end up with baroque debates about science."
-- Professor David Goldston
The patently cruel and inhumane practice of using electronic gadgetry in order to spy upon and control the activities and movements of animals is perhaps nowhere more poignantly demonstrated than in the ongoing tagging of walruses by the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources. More importantly and contrary to the scientists' claims, abusing and subjugating these majestic animals is not going to contribute anything beneficial toward their conservation.
For the past three years or so, Professor Erik Born and his colleagues have been hounding down Greenland's walruses and using crossbows, harpoons, and CO2 guns in order to dart them. (See photo above of lead tagger Mikkel Villum Jensen with a crossbow and the photo immediately below of skipper Knud Lennart with a harpoon.)
The matchbook-sized transmitters (See photo below on the right) are attached to razor-sharp ice picks which are driven deep into the behemoths' hides by the force of the weapons. (See photo below of a tagged walrus.) Born and his fellow researchers insist that the walruses do not feel any pain but that is the same old song that taggers, vivisectors, shelters, slaughterhouses, hunters, and animal abusers of all genres have always sung.
Even if that were the case, open wounds are always subject to infections that can sometimes be fatal. Besides, being chased for miles on end before being darted is traumatic in and of itself.
The transmitters, which cost several hundred dollars apiece, remain in situ for up to two months until the walruses' wounds heal and thus push them out. Or at least that is what the researchers claim.
Since satellites can only pick up signals from the transmitters whenever the animals are either resting on the ice or poke their heads above the water in order to breathe, it is conceivable that their skin grows over them and they therefore remain indefinitely inside their bodies poisoning their systems. Taggers never disclose the number of animals that they kill and their supporters in the moneybags media are not about to spill the beans on them.
Some of the transmitters also shatter upon impact with the walruses' four-inch-thick hides, others are scrapped off in collisions with the ice, and some of their antennas are crushed when the animals roll over on top of them. This, of course, provides a convenient rationale for the scientists to repeatedly hunt them down and tag them again and again.
Born and his partners in crime tagged eight walruses in April of 2007 and six more in August. The latter group, however, had the tags attached to their thirty-inch-long tusks.
The BBC, which has been cheerleading for the animal abusers while simultaneously masquerading as an honest media outlet, is keeping quiet about the modus operandi employed during this latest round of tagging. Most likely the animals were stalked while resting on the ice and then tranquilized.
The transmitters were then affixed to their tusks while DNA samples were taken and the animals measured and possibly even weighed. God only knows what else the researchers did to them while they were incapacitated.
The transmitters are expected to remain in place for eighteen months and that fact alone not only raises concerns about how they were secured but their cumbersomeness as well. Tant pis, they will more than likely remain attached even after they stop functioning unless the scientists elect to hound them down again and fit them with new surveillance equipment. (See photo further down the page of a walrus using his tusks in order to break through the ice.)
According to the Greenland Institute's propaganda, the tagging has been undertaken for a myriad of reasons, not the least of which is to discover where the walruses spend their summer vacations. "We want to find out where they are going," Born told the BBC on April 3, 2007. (See "GPS to Reveal Walrus Whereabouts.")
This is disingenuous for a number of reasons. First of all, it is not anyone's business where the walruses spend their summer vacations. They do not nose around trying to determine where humans spend their free time and scientists likewise do not have any legitimate reason for snooping into their affairs.
Secondly, Born admits in an October 11th interview with the BBC that he already knows that the walruses spend their summer vacations in and around Canada's Baffin Island. (See "Over and Out from Tagged Walruses.") Nevertheless, he is not about to give the beleaguered animals a moment's rest.
"And we will also have to go out next year and maybe the years after to put out more tags on Greenland's walruses, to make sure than we can have a sufficiently large sample size to make a firm conclusion," he declared. In other words, as long as there are walruses to tag and the money in order to do so, Born has absolutely no intention of ever leaving the animals alone.
Since Greenland's and Canada's walruses are still hunted by both commercial concerns and aborigines for their hides, ivory, meat, and blubber, Born's use of electronic surveillance in order to amass data on sustainability levels amounts to little more than pimping and whoring for animal killers and shekel counters.
Genetic research is another motivating factor driving the tagging campaign. Specifically, researchers desire to learn more about the genetic relationship between Greenland's and Canada's walruses as well as the differences between the eight recognized subspecies of Atlantic walruses (O. rosmarus rosmarus), which are distinguishable from Pacific walruses (Odobenus rosmarus divergens) and Siberian walruses (O. rosmarus laptevi).
Conservationists estimate that there are approximately two-hundred-thousand Pacific walruses but only around twenty-thousand Atlantic walruses and as few as five-thousand to ten-thousand of the Siberian variety. Despite their seemingly abundant numbers, the Center for Biological Diversity nonetheless filed a petition with the thoroughly discredited United States Fish and Wildlife Service on February 7th seeking to extend to them the protections of the Endangered Species Act.
This action is designed to protect them from the detrimental effects of global warming, oil and natural gas exploration, and the opening up of shipping routes in the Arctic. (See February 8, 2007 press release entitled "Endangered Species Act Protection Sought for Pacific Walrus Threatened by Global Warming, Oil Development.")
Although walruses have a life expectancy of fifty years, females give birth only about once every two years and this results in the species having the lowest reproductive rate of any pinniped. On the positive side, their only natural predators are orcas and polar bears but this advantage is all but negated by the carnage that hunters and the scientific community inflict upon them.
It is axiomatic that genetic research involves trapping and tranquilizing animals and then confiscating their DNA. This is most likely the raison d'etre behind attaching transmitters to the walruses' tusks.
Since mollusks provide a substantial portion of the walruses' diet, researchers claim that they want to discover what impact oil and natural gas exploration along the seabed is having on their food supply. That rationale is duplicitous in that oil companies should be banned from drilling in the oceans not only because of the impact that their activities have upon aquatic life but also because of the water and noise pollution that such activities engender.
Just the opposite is occurring, however. On February 6th, the Bush Administration opened up 2.7 million acres of the Pacific walruses' summer range along the Chukchi Sea to oil and natural gas exploration.
In 2006, researchers at Bangor University killed a four-hundred-five-year-old clam while conducting research off Iceland. (See Daily Telegraph, October 30, 2007, "Clam 405, Is Oldest Animal Ever.") Clearly, the scientific community cares little or nothing about preserving life and its members are perfectly willing to kill any animal if the dictates of either their egos or pocketbooks so dictates.
Similarly, there was not any outrage from either the scientific community or conservationists when a one-hundred-fifteen-year-old bowhead was savagely killed by Alaskan Eskimos in 2007. (See Cat Defender post of June 18, 2007 entitled "Alaskan Eskimos Bomb and Butcher One-Hundred-Fifteen-Year-Old Bowhead with the Complicity of the United States, IWC, and Sea Shepherd.")
Climate change is another reason advanced for repeatedly tagging and monitoring the activities of walruses. While the melting of the polar ice cap no doubt potentially spells doom for walruses, polar bears, and other species, Born and his colleagues have yet to explain how tagging mitigates the disastrous consequences of global warming.
Much the same thing can be said for pollution. Although both Roger Payne and Iain Kerr of Ocean Alliance are keenly aware of the devastating effects of ocean pollution, their only contribution so far toward saving aquatic life has been to mistreat whales.
For instance, they have spent the last five and one-half years sailing around the globe harassing and darting thousands of whales with crossbows. The darts tear off a small amount of blubber which the scientists then retrieve and perform biopsies on in order to test for pollution.( See photo at the bottom of the page of them stalking a whale.)
What they have discovered so far is that whales, not surprisingly, are inordinately contaminated with fire retardants (PBDEs), mercury, metals, and organic compounds. "But what we can say is that these animals are polluted beyond your wildest dreams," Payne told Living on Earth (LOE) on February 15th. (See "Bad News from the Blubber.") "They are appallingly polluted."
That is not anything new, however. Everybody knows that the seas are horribly polluted just as the air and outer space are equally contaminated. It would be refreshing if the scientific community would for a change tell the world something that everybody does not already know.
It would be better still if scientists and wildlife proponents were willing to confront the groups that are killing off the animals and destroying the environment but that, too, is not about to happen. In fact, Payne spends an inordinate amount of his time cozying up to precisely those interests.
"My feeling is there (are) as many people of good will in General Motors as there are in Greenpeace," he fatuously crowed to LOE in the article cited supra. "I think that it's just a matter of contacting these people and getting to know them and that the confrontation between environmentalists and industry is ludicrous."
He goes on to declare, "It's a terrible mistake. It accomplishes nothing, so one of the things that we have tried to do in the past is to work with these people, and when you do you discover oh my gosh, they're fabulously talented and they can do wonderful things. And just need to know, okay, where's the problem, and they can help to fix it."
Besides being patently absurd, Payne's sophistry recalls to mind Mike Gravel's curt dismissal of the zany notion that those Democrats now in power could ever be expected to get the United States out of Iraq when they were in fact every bit as responsible as the Republicans for leading the country into that unpopular quagmire in the first place. It is also important to remember Machiavelli's observation that armed princes succeed where unarmed ones fail.
Besides, as any fool knows, the capitalists are becoming more predatory every day. There may be a few men and women within their ranks who care about the animals and Mother Earth but they are largely irrelevant.
Without lawyers, advocacy groups, militants, and caring individuals there would not be either an animal rights movement or an environmental campaign. Payne can therefore be dismissed as a brownnoser who spends half of his time sucking the shekels out of the cracks of his capitalist buddies and the other half harassing and abusing whales in the pursuit of his self-serving, irrelevant tagging experiments.
Fewer people, less greed, conservation, and strict limits on CO2 emissions is the only formula that will prevent an ecological catastrophe. The time for study and jawboning is long past; what is needed now is concerted action.
Instead of confronting the greed of the oil companies and consumers alike, Born, Payne, and others only want to enslave walruses, whales, and other animals. "However, to get good information about how climate is affecting walruses, we are going to need to go out and do these tagging studies for many years," Born told the BBC in the October 11th article cited supra.
While Born and the scientific community continue to squander precious time and resources playing their domination games, walruses already are dying because of climate change. Last fall, par exemple, as many as four-thousand Pacific walruses were killed in stampedes on the Russian side of the Bering Strait. (See Canadian Press, December 17, 2007, "Thousands of Pacific Walruses Die; Global Warming Blamed.")
Due to the melting of the ice in the Chukchi and East Siberian seas, large numbers of walruses were forced to haul out on dry land in order to rest and to give birth. The resulting stampedes, which also led to the drowning deaths of many young calves, could have been caused by polar bears, hunters, or even low-flying airplanes.
Compounding matters further, the disappearance of the polar ice cap during the summer months is likely to precipitate a food shortage. Since the walruses no longer will have ice from which to dive for clams and snails, they will be forced to hunt in coastal waters which could eventually deplete those areas.
"With rapid action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, combined with a moratorium on new oil and gas development and shipping routes in the Arctic, we can still save the Pacific walrus, the polar bear, and the Arctic ecosystem," Shaye Wolf of the Center for Biological Diversity said in the organization's February 8th press release cited supra. "But the window of opportunity to act is closing rapidly."
In addition to being patently inhumane and serving as a convenient subterfuge in order to avoid confronting greedy capitalists, self-indulgent consumers, dirty polluters, and sadistic hunters, electronic surveillance of the animals obscures the moral neutrality of the scientific method itself. Whereas science is capable of producing weapons of mass destruction, clones, industrial-scale pollutants, and other harmful inventions, it is totally neutral as to the desirability of doing so.
Professor David Goldston of Princeton did not pull any punches when he told USA Today on August 6, 2007, "As politics have (sic) gotten more and more polarized, everyone has to claim their views are objective, pure, and factual, which means they are pulled into the scientific side. Most of these issues are largely values questions, but no one wants to discuss those, so we end up with baroque debates about science." (See "Science Versus Politics Gets Down and Dirty.")
To put it succinctly, the debate boils down to whether or not mankind believes that Mother Earth and the animals are worth saving. That is a quintessentially normative inquiry that science cannot begin to answer and to pretend otherwise is the very pinnacle of dishonesty.
Despite the obstacles, the answer to that all-important question should be a resounding yes! Not only because of their intrinsic value but also due to the petit fait that the path down which the scientists, capitalists, media barons, and militarists are dragging all creation is a cul-de-sac.
Native American environmental activist and University of Colorado professor Vine DeLoria Jr. summed up the dilemma confronting twenty-first century man in a nutshell when he defined progress as "the absolute destruction of the real world in favor of a technology that creates a comfortable way of life for a few fortunately situated people."
Given that reality, the way forward is clear: let the animals and Mother Earth live!
Photos: BBC (Jensen, Lennart, radio tag, and tagged walrus), Wikipedia (walrus using tusks in order to knife through the ice), and Chris Johnson of Ocean Alliance (whale being stalked).