Aw man, not the dolphins too! But it's true. Being cute and smart means NOTHING! We still want to harvest and exploit you too!
While the rest of the world sees dolphins as spirited creatures to be admired and cherished, the people of the Solomon Islands, an impoverished nation in the South Pacific, are not so sentimental. Every year, from December to March, men living in remote villages in Malaita province use dug-out canoes and boats to hunt dolphins.
Far out to sea, they attract the creatures by banging stones under water. Pods - as many as 200 dolphins - are herded towards the shore where the animals panic, driving their muzzles into the sand and suffocating. Villagers eat the meat but it is the teeth of certain species, particularly the spinner, that are most prized, used for special financial transactions such as paying dowries or 'bride price'.
The Malaitans are not the only people who see dolphins as a valuable commodity. Two hours by boat from the capital Honiara, on Gavutu Island, one man controversially claims to be working to save dolphins from the traditional hunts by selling them to aquariums.
The 40-acre island, surrounded by coral reefs teeming with life, has been leased by Chris Porter, 37, a former sea lion trainer from Vancouver, who established a dolphin export business in 2003. There was such an outcry over his first shipment of dolphins to a theme park in Mexico - nine of the mammals died soon after arrival - that Porter's activities were suspended amid fears that international condemnation of the trade would bring a boycott on the Solomon Islands' tuna fishing industry.
Last year the islands' government overturned the ban and he is back in business, employing 37 islanders in his burgeoning empire. Last October he sent a second shipment of 28 wild dolphins to Dubai. The animals were put on a barge, settled on mattress-like material, draped with wet cloths and transported from Gavutu to Honiara's domestic air terminal - closed for the occasion in case animal rights protesters tried to get near.
I know that a lot of people will accuse me of"cultural imperialism." These impoverished islanders need the employment and the dolphin teeth sales. This is economic survival. People first!!!
That argument gets tired after a while. Why do we punish animals for our own mistakes? Why do impoverished peoples have to rely on city slickers like Porter or the unsustainable harvest of animals for survival? Usually because they have no other opportunities or choices. They need to feed their families and survive. But why are they in this situation in the first place?
It's not the animals' fault. It's our fault as a species, particularly the members of wealthy corporations and citizens of the developed world. We create the global economic conditions that have left so many people in poverty that they have to rely on the land and its dwindling resources to survive. Why are the gorillas dying in Virunga? Because of war, poverty and corruption. Why is there war, poverty and corruption? Because of fights for resources. Why are there fights for resources? Because of human greed. We can't share. We take what we can get and then leave everyone else to fight for the scraps. And then we get angry because some people believe that the animals should not pay the price for saving the poor of the world.
They shouldn't pay the price. We should because our global economic system is the one responsible for this mess. We have to take responsibility for what we've created.
So next time you shriek "cultural imperialism" is causing poverty, look at yourself and see whether you may be playing a role in it too. Because it ain't the animals honey.
Photo by princessangel.