It all started (or should I say, ended) back in 1998 when the Makah tribe was preparing to hunt a grey whale off the Washington coast. Like many people who grew up during the 1960s and ‘70s, I was taken with the idea of returning to a more primitive lifestyle, in “harmony with Nature” as I believed the American Indians surely were. I even spent a summer in the southeast Oregon desert, studying “Aboriginal life skills” of the Paiute people of the Northern Great Basin. It was the same survival course (taught by the same instructor) that Jean M. Auel later took as research for her “Clan of the Cave Bear” book series.
But I began to think that not all tribal people are cut of the same loincloth as the Makah made preparations to kill their NMFS quota of five whales to use for ceremonial and unspecified “commercial purposes.” You may remember the media frenzy surrounding the issue and the animal activists, including Captain Paul Watson at the helm of a Sea Shepherd ship, as well as devoted land protesters whom my wife and I supported and joined whenever we could. Unfortunately, despite months of protests and pleading, the tribe’s rag-tag whaling crew (aided by the federal government) was successful in killing a young female whale with a bullet from a highly untraditional high-powered 50 caliber rifle.
Sadly, “Yabis” (as a Makah elder and lone whale hunt detractor named the whale) could not be saved. The media, of course, defended the kill to the death, comparing the tribe’s right to shoot a whale with their own right to eat unlimited hamburgers. They did their darnedest to convince readers that the road to political correctness was through backing the tribe’s revival of their cultural tradition of killing whales. And besides, who wants to give up their hamburgers anyway?
Well, I for one. I finally saw the hypocrisy of objecting to hunting while continuing to eat farmed animals. From then on we vowed not to be complicit in the unnecessary taking of lives—150 billion a year, at last count. Up until then I had been a meat eater and an occasional fisherman. But from that moment on, I hung up my rod and reel and swore off meat and dairy, never once looking back.
Yet, I know dyed-in-the-faux-shearling vegans whose solid anti-animal abuse stance melts away like a sno-cone on a hot summer day at the first hint that an animal abuser is of aboriginal decent (not that any human being is really “native” to the America’s—some just arrived sooner than others). I may seem obstinate, but I don’t believe a prayer, a chant or any other song and dance makes an animal suffer less or end up any less dead if they were killed by a Native American.
Yet, some people buy into the notion that the mistreatment of a non-human by a native is some sort of spiritual event. Whether elk or bison, fish or whales, a killing that would normally be frowned upon is a joyous occasion when perpetrated by a tribal member. While anyone who holds to their ideals is somehow considered a “racist,” it’s the animal advocate who looks the other way as certain people do the killing who’s the real discriminator.
Shocking as it sounds, the Yellowstone bison are equally exploited fenced-in on a ranch on reservation land as they would be anywhere else in Montana; a deer or elk ends up every bit as injured or dead when shot by a tribal hunter as by the average American sport hunter; tribal gill nets do as much damage to a struggling salmon as those set out by non-Indian commercial fishermen, and a 50 caliber bullet rips into a whale with the same destructive force, no matter who pulls the trigger.
Yes, I used to be a meat-eating fisherman. I changed my ways after allowing myself to absorb facts like, “humans slaughter 6 million animals per hour!” and “20,000 more will die in the time it takes you to read these sentences!” That’s a Holocaust of farmed animals every 60 minutes! And that’s not counting fish, lobsters, shrimp, oysters, clams, krill or other sea life.
Call me a zealot, but when you realize there’s an apocalypse of animals happening right now, you want it stopped, once and for all, and by all—no exceptions.