The road to Napier is paved with good intentions.
So I said to myself, as I veered haphazardly along State Highway Two—a misnomer if there ever was one. I passed a couple of optimistic traffic police on the side of a highway that had no stretches long enough to achieve the speed limit, and made my way into earthquake country.
There is not a lot to say about Napier as a town. The best view can be had from Bluff Hill, looking out to the sea, and away from the semi-urban centre. The Napier folk celebrate the fact that they have one of the largest collections of art deco architecture in the world. There’s a good reason for this. Art deco is fucking ugly. No other city in the world has seen fit to replicate it. Where it has existed, sensible town planners have permitted wide scale demolition. The fact Napier has art deco architecture at all is a historical accident. After the 1931 quake, the authorities simply took a fad that was already running out of time, and applied it on a wider scale to citizens who were still too shell-shocked to realise what was happening to them. If the upheaval had taken place in 1985, the entire town would resemble a set from That 70’s Show.
I blame Susan Wood for my journey. Last week she did an interview with some random dolphin-trainer from Napier’s Marineland, who was at pains to explain how grief-stricken everybody was about the death of one of Marineland’s last two remaining dolphins, despite the creature living to twice its natural age. According to the trainer, even the seals were sad. "I’ve worked here since leaving school," she says. "This is all I know how to do."
I don’t like cat-people on a good day. This chick was the ultimate cat-person. Cat-people do not have lives of any consequence. They fuss and preen over stupid animals that are far removed from their single useful purpose: to catch mice. This trainer had just applied her catness to small marine mammals. She’d set her whole life around the care of two ageing dolphins, in a country that no longer allows the incarceration of new dolphins. So a visit to Marineland had to be funny.
Kelly is the one remaining dolphin at the unnatural age of 36. It refused to spin when instructed, played dead when it was supposed to jump, showed its tail when it was told to bare its teeth, and generally seemed to be incapable of carrying out even the dumbest tricks. Even its species type—the common dolphin—seemed lame. Kelly should have been bottle-nosed. It should have been able to pop the top off my beer with its nose. Then people would flock to Marineland, and even Chris Carter would pay money to allow them to keep more dolphins in captivity.
I don’t object to dolphins being held in a confined space. And to be fair, Marineland has some pretty confined spaces. The seal enclosures—which contains some albino-like North American species of seal—are smaller than some hotel baths I’ve lounged in. If it’s good enough for a german shepherd to be kept as a pet, why not a fur seal, which is basically a dog with flippers? And if seals can be held, why not dolphins? And if dolphins are allowed, why not whales?
Which gets me to whales. I don’t understand why whales are amazing creatures.
They are not great just because somebody wrote a book about one of them, and called the book Moby Dick. More books have been written about Al Gore than have been written about whales named Moby Dick. That alone does not make whales great.
Nor are they great because they are more intelligent than other species. I once had a dog that barked on command. I have not seen a whale that can bark on demand. Dogs have a profound sense of smell. Whales don’t. Dogs can fetch on land and in water. Do I need to go on with this analogy?
Whales have an international commission established—the International Whaling Commission, no less, to manage whale stocks for hunting purposes. Sure, a bunch of greenie weirdoes from New Zealand and other countries have jumped up and down and hijacked the purpose of the commission to attempt to ban whaling altogether—no wonder, really, that countries like Norway and Japan go out on their own.
Whales are not universally endangered as a species. Pilot whales are in abundance. There’s about a million of them floating about, doing their whaley thing. Some of them beach themselves and give rise to great works of literature, such as Whale Rider. Where would Witi Ihimaera be without whale beachings? But I digress. The Japanese could comfortably hunt and chomp through 30,000 pilot whales a year without negatively affecting pilot whale populations. The Norwegians could eat the steaks of 1200 humpbacks a year without depleting existing stock. There’s even ample numbers of Blue Whales—over 10,000, to allow the IWC to start breeding and farming them.
Because, as we know, no species of animal that has ever been commercially farmed, has ever become extinct.
Yes, many species of whales are very big. Many of them are also no larger than dolphins. The dwarf sperm whale, for example, is smaller than a bottle-nose. The big whales are really just the fat chicks of the oceans. They're fun to harrass and lam/harpoon, but unless they're on the menu, what use are they?
So by supporting the moratorium on whaling, what we are really doing is giving in to the morbidly obese people of the world, who want to justify their over-indulgence on the greatness of the whale species. It’s a sham, and I’ve seen through it.
There is only one solution to protecting whales from extinction, and saving the heart-land of the Hawke’s Bay. Napier would be a far more interesting town, and Marineland a far more visited attraction, if they farmed whales in their pools.
Monday, April 24, 2006
The road to Napier is paved with good intentions.