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The Republican American: Shell game

Monday, December 10, 2007 4:29 AM EST

Talk about a flip-flop. Elements of the environmental movement that once abhorred whaling as a cruel slaughter of highly intelligent creatures now give whaling their blessing, as long as it allows the environmental left to take a swipe at Big Oil in the bargain.

Royal Dutch Shell wants to begin offshore oil exploration north of Barrow and Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, where huge reserves are believed waiting. Though the drilling sites are well to the west of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, opposition has arisen because drilling would divert bowhead whales to the north, out of range of Inupiats who kill about 60 of the animals annually.

Today’s Inupiat whalers use such ancient practices as shooting explosive harpoons out of rifles to dispatch the whales more quickly and safely (for the whalers) rather than stone-tipped wooden harpoons.

Environmental groups, including the Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council, are siding with the Inupiats. Their position contradicts their principles for three reasons. First, bowhead whales, numbering just 8,000, are vulnerable to extinction. Second, U.S. tolerance of Inupiat whaling diminishes the moral authority of activists who seek to curtail factory whaling by Japan, Norway and other seafaring nations. Third, the environmental movement used to say any killing of whales was wrong because of their extraordinary intelligence, an issue science has yet to resolve.

As for the Inupiat, they compromised their own traditions by adding modern weaponry to their arsenal. Perhaps the solution would be to let Royal Dutch Shell drill in exchange for providing modern, steel-hulled ships to ferry the native whalers to the bowheads’ new feeding grounds. and its sister websites,,,,, and are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

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