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Tue Apr 30, 2019, 06:52 PM

Jules Howard: Humanity has truly lost its way if we're weaponising beluga whales

Source: The Guardian

Humanity has truly lost its way if we’re weaponising beluga whales

It’s a sad indictment when highly intelligent marine mammals are exploited for military aims

Jules Howard
Tue 30 Apr 2019 09.00 BST Last modified on Tue 30 Apr 2019 20.24 BST

Last week, a curious scene played out in the small Norwegian fishing village of Inga. Here, a mysterious white beluga whale appeared from out of the water and proceeded to behave very strangely. Upon the body of this whale there was a strap. Upon the fabric of this strap was written a long chain of human hieroglyphs – “Equipment of St Petersburg”, the writing said. And then – almost as if it were all a dream – the whale disappeared. Although it sounds like something Douglas Adams could have written, I want to welcome you to the dizzying age of weaponised whales. Because as well as poisoning oceans, we humans are also capable of poisoning the minds of the animals that live there.

First, some background. If the idea of the Russians using such a beautiful and intelligent organism to further their military aims disgusts you, I should tell you that many countries, particularly the US, have programmes that train dolphins and other species, including sea lions, for military exercises. These marine mammals can be trained to detect mines or assist in object recoveries. They can be trained to do search-and-rescue missions, too. In fact, as of 2007, the US navy was spending $14m a year on its marine programme, involving 75 mine-sweeping dolphins.

People who justify the existence of such programmes argue that the military sea lions and dolphins are well-trained and cared for and perform the same role as other service animals such as police dogs or horses. This argument is a good one, but it would hold more weight if in real life police officers trained wild-caught wolves or rode around on plains zebras. They do not do this. Still, the good news is that the US navy denies ever having used marine mammals to harm or injure or kill humans, which definitely makes the whole endeavour legit. Russia, on the other hand, is a little more secretive about its military marine mammals, hence the worldwide interest in the strange, indoctrinated beluga whale.

As you can probably tell by now, I find there is something deeply unnerving about the whole spectacle of military dolphins and whales. I’d almost say I’m disgusted by it. In fact, yes, it’s disgusting. But there’s something else … I just can’t stop thinking about that Russian strap the beluga whale was wearing. I can’t get it out of my head. And here’s why. You have to possess a dramatically impoverished sense of pathos to look at a dolphin or a whale and completely fail to notice its singular beauty, its powerful mind, complex communication and feats of cultural brilliance. It takes a certain sort of odious human sensibility to fail to see these attributes and instead wonder at how and where some artificial straps might fit best. “Should they be Velcro?” wonder these faceless military entities in their laboratories. “Maybe a leather kind of harness would work,” they posit, staring at an animal in a tank with one of the biggest brains in nature and, hell, possibly the universe.


Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/apr/30/beluga-whale-military-marine-mammal

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Reply Jules Howard: Humanity has truly lost its way if we're weaponising beluga whales (Original post)
Eugene Apr 2019 OP
Karadeniz Apr 2019 #1
Beringia Apr 2019 #2
customerserviceguy May 2019 #3

Response to Eugene (Original post)

Tue Apr 30, 2019, 08:10 PM

1. If we could redirect our obsession with new ways to kill to new ways to help..

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Response to Eugene (Original post)

Wed May 1, 2019, 12:05 AM

3. Not only are they beautiful and intelligent

they're extremely friendly, too! My lady saw the image of this beluga, and thought it looked weird. I assured her that they were so nice, they made dolphins look like they have an attitude!

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