Dwindling Food for Thought

As nations around the world continue to destroy entire species, woe betide the animals that become a delicacy

Fish don't vote. Neither do tigers, polar bears, sharks, elephants or any other endangered animals whose plight was addressed at the UN meeting on endangered species in Doha.

Because wildlife has no political clout, nations around the world continue to destroy entire species until none are left. So much for enlightened humanity at work in the 21st century.

An admirable effort by the United States to protect the gravely overfished Pacific bluefin tuna, the supreme sushi or sashimi delicacy, was voted down by the conferees after intense lobbying from Japan.

Another laudable effort by the United States to protect polar bears by banning their hunting was also defeated -thanks in good part to Canada and Greenland. The U.S. warns that melting sea ice caused by global warming threatens the already endangered bears.

Canadians like to think of themselves as a humane, enlightened nation and good global citizens.

But abroad, Canada is increasingly viewed as a backwards, brutish country because of its stalwart defence of slaughtering baby seals, trapping fur animals, encouraging the hunting of black and grizzly bears, and now blocking a ban on hunting polar bears.

Canadian conservatives share the bizarre notion with their Republican soulmates that massacring helpless, defenceless animals with high-powered weapons is somehow manly and patriotic. It's not. It's cowardly, uncivilized and shameful in our day and age. Trophy hunting and killing bears for body parts for bogus Chinese remedies should be banned.

Most nations abuse animals, but China, which I enormously admire in other ways, unfortunately remains a major malefactor.

Last week came reports that 11 rare Siberian tigers had starved to death in a commercial Chinese zoo. Tiger paws are served at nouveau-riche Chinese banquets. Dog and cat meat is routinely offered in restaurants in China, Korea and Taiwan.

Japan and China have long opposed efforts to end the ivory trade. Their continued covert importing of ivory threatens the already fast-dwindling number of African elephants. The same holds true for Africa's horned rhinos. Both magnificent creatures are being massacred for knickknacks.

China and Japan are fighting efforts to protect the dwindling number of sharks, dolphins and whales. Only one shark species was afforded protection at Doha.

Shark fins make delicious soup and are a staple of Chinese weddings. I love shark's fin soup, but boycott it, as I do fois gras and veal.

Sharks seem doomed, just as the once seemingly limitless North Sea cod, Dover sole and caviar-producing Caspian sturgeon. Woe betide the species that becomes a delicacy, or a supposedly low-calorie meal, like sushi.

Nations with important fishing fleets, like Japan, China, France, Spain, Poland and Russia, strongly oppose protecting maritime species.

Even the European Union, the world's leader in defending animal rights, has failed to curb its rapacious fishermen, who thwart all efforts to lessen their depredations by violent strikes and blockades.

These marauders will continue to fish until no fish are left. Then they will demand government compensation for their stupidity and greed.

Factory fishing ships with advanced electronics once used to hunt submarines are literally hoovering up large tracts of the world's oceans and raping coastlines of unstable or war-torn nations unable to protect their littoral waters.

The last time I went skin-diving in the Mediterranean, I was horrified to see not a single fish over finger size. It was an underwater desert.

Politicians are unlikely to say no to hunters or fishermen in all but a few enlightened countries.

It's up to consumers who care about the planet's living creatures and environment to make their power felt by avoiding products from nations that are notorious abusers of animal and maritime life. The EU has already begun boycotting certain Canadian goods because of its loathsome seal hunt.

It is edifying to see the United States junking the George W. Bush/Dick Cheney medieval delight in slaughtering animals for fun and mowing down entire forests.

At least here, the Obama administration is beginning to make a real difference.

© 2023 Eric Margolis