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Friday, March 12, 2010

What Would Jacques Cousteau Do?

The New York Times' environment blog has a provocative post that offers thoughtful, divergent views on putting a stop to the slaughter of dolphins from "The Cove's" Louie Psihoyos and marine biologist Carl Safina.

One particular aspect of the debate reminds me of stumbling, when I was about 10 years old, across Jacques Cousteau's matter-of-fact description of his crew's harpooning of a porpoise for shark bait. It just didn't jibe with my animal-kingdom-embracing preconceptions about how a man so devoted to sea life should act. I think I'm over it now. And that's good, because neither Psihoyos nor Safina appears to regard challenging cultural values as an effective strategy for combatting the grisliest of practices for harvesting marine animals.

"The Cove's" Psihoyos thinks the argument that stands the best chance of dissuading the dolphin-eaters is a humanitarian one: There's simply too much mercury and other toxic stuff in these mammals' bodies to ingest them regularly.

Safina is clearly (because he says so flatly) uncomfortable with "forcing my values on other people." He places his faith in the "most universal hallmark of human progress" which he describes as "the desire to minimize infliction of suffering."

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