Whale & seal news articles

Note:  Toney Mars was a campaign director of Western Canada Wilderness Committee from November 1995 to August 1999, but has since departed from that organization.

Open letter to the President of the United States

Dear President of the United States of America:

On February 11, 1997, you wrote a letter to the U.S. Congress citing Canada as having "conducted whaling activities that diminish the effectiveness of a conservation program of the International Whaling Commission", regarding the granting of whaling licences to the Canadian Inuits without IWC approval. We as Canadians take your point well, and pledge to pursue the matter with our government. This letter, however, concerns the killing of a Grey whale by your own Makah tribe.

In the same letter to Congress, you also wrote: "I understand the importance of maintaining traditional native cultures, and I support aboriginal whaling that is managed through the IWC." On this, we beg to differ, and hope that you will reevaluate the basic philosophy behind this statement.

First, we question the word "traditional". Obviously this is a key word distinguishing aboriginal whaling from non-aboriginal whaling, and must itself therefore be clearly defined. In particular, should traditional whaling employ definitely non-traditional equipment such as motorized watercraft and armour piercing firearms? We believe that the vast majority of Americans and Canadians would say a resounding "NO!"

More basically, and especially applicable to the Makah, is the question of traditional need, namely food, clothing and fuel. The Makah have done without whale-derived food, clothing and fuel for over seven decades. High on their list of reasons is to use the killing of whales to solve their people's alcohol and drug abuse problems. Kindly show us the traditionality of this reason.

Even more basic than this is whether all elements of traditional aboriginal culture are to be held sacrosanct. If so, then even slavery should be revived. If not, then why should killing whales be so unquestionably honoured?

Ultimately, we believe that as civilization advances on to a new millennium, killing sentient, intelligent, peaceful and trusting creatures like whales and dolphins can no longer be justified, for any reason, by anyone, be they Japanese, Norwegian, Russian, American (Makah), or, yes, Canadian (Inuit). This means that within or beyond IWC parameters, whaling must end.

We ask you to please re-examine the basis of your thinking, which the vast majority of your citizens, judging by their overwhelming opposition to the hunt, obviously have done.

Yours sincerely,

Toney Mars
Founder, HOPE-GEO

1997-10-10-5         The Toronto Star         by Joseph Hall

[Seals killed to fill demand for sex potions, group charges]

"¦ Group brings together prominent Canadians¦

"Canadian taxpayers are subsidizing an international trade in seal penises to create dubious Chinese sex potions, a new anti-sealing group - Canadians Against the Commercial Seal Hunt - has charged¦

"Vancouver environmentalist Toney Mars says seals are shot or clubbed at random and then turned over to see whether they™re males.

"He says that most of the seal penises harvested in this way went into Chinese aphrodisiacs that have no scientifically proven value (just like tiger penis medicines)¦"

1997-11-08-6         The Vancouver Sun         by Alex Strachan

[Mason Lee can be bright, witty and hugely irritating]

"On the Edge (Global TV), with Robert Mason Lee¦

"¦ A recent debate between Vancouver Aquarium director John Nightingale, UBC animal welfare professor Dan Weary, Western Canada Wilderness Committee scientist Toney Mars and the Humane Society™s Ingrid Pollack about the moral and ethical implications of keeping whales in captivity was informative and captivating.

"Another recent discussion about smokers™ rights¦ was pointless and irritating¦"

1998-03-21-6         Times Colonist, Victoria, BC         by Judith Lavoie

[Seal hunt protested with blood]

"¦ Toney Mars¦ said he does not usually advocate breaking the law. But he is considering withholding his income taxes this year because tax money is being used to subsidize the commercial seal hunt¦"

1998-09-14-1         Times Colonist, Victoria, BC         by Cindy E. Harnett

[Seaborne protest in native whaling controversy]

"¦ ˜I respect native rights, but we human beings are past the point where we need to kill these beings to survive¦,™Marr said¦ ˜Tradition to me, which is so sacred to so many people, is actually a dirty word, because it stands in the way of the evolution of the human spirit.™

"The World Council of Whalers, a 20 country group, was put together two years ago to ready people for hunts all over the world. The Makah have accused animal-rights activists of trying to ˜put their culture into a museum™.

"Marr said the reverse is true. ˜A living culture evolves with the times and is not stuck in the past. If they want to go into the past and maintain the status quo, they are putting themselves into a museum.™"

1998-10-05-1         Times Colonist, Victoria, BC         by Richard Watts

[Greenpeace neutral on whaling]

"Greenpeace - which made its name battling to save whales from being hunted to extinct - is now sitting firmly on the fence over the Makah hunt¦

"John Vanderhoeven, director of field operations for the provincial SPCA, said the group is opposed to the inhumane killing of any creature¦ ˜I™m not sure how a person could bring about the humane death of a whale,™ said Vanderhoeven.

Toney Mars¦ said, ˜We oppose killing whales, whether for cultural or economic reasons, if only one account of the inevitable cruelty.™

"And he says his group is appalled by the Canadian government™s decision to allow the Makah to pursue a wounded whale into Canadian waters to finish it off.

"Marr says the Canadian position was like a wounded man coming to your door for help, ˜and you invite the assailant in to finish the job.™

"Meanwhile the Nuu-Cha-Nulth Indians of southwest Vancouver Island, who include the Washington Makah among their members, say the hunt is justified and are supporting the Makah hunters¦"

1998-10-06-2         Penticton Harold         by Toney Mars

[Whale™s rights come first]

"I respect aboriginal rights, but I respect even more the right of whales to live, and live in peace and harmony with humans¦

"The Pacific Grey whales annually migrate up and down the North American coast¦ have been living in peace and harmony with humans for more than 70 years. They™ve come to enjoy human company and allow us the privilege of touching them.

"If now a few humans begin to kill them, I would consider our species as a whole to be betraying the sacred trust established with another sentient species. A few whale will lose their lives, but Homo sapiens will lose its humanity¦"

1998-10-09-5         The Vancouver Sun         by Toney Mars

[Whales shouldn™t be on the sushi menu]

"¦ The Japanese and Norwegians are strong backers of the Makah™s ˜right™ to kill whales. They have given at least US$10,000 for the Makah™s whaling campaign.

"These pirate whaling nations are not acting out of interest in the Makah as a people or respect for aboriginal right. They are using them as a can opener to restart whaling for ˜cultural need™. Once the Makah succeed in taking their first whale, the Japanese and Norwegians can then claim the right to whale for ˜cultural need™ of their own.

"Tom Happynook, a Nuu-Cha-Nulth relative of the Makah and head of the World Council of whalers, say the Japanese are justified in continuing to kill whales and dolphins for so-called ˜scientific™ reasons in the face of a global whaling ban by IWC. Maybe he can tell me how much science is involved in consuming a plate of whale sushi¦"

1998-10-22-4         Nelson Daily News         by Toney Mars

[Rights of whales must supersede aboriginal rights]

"¦ I have no doubt that whales are not only sentient but intelligent. Even small cetaceans like dolphins have brains larger and more convoluted than our own. They have sophisticated social and behaviour patterns. They have complex languages and different Orca pods have different dialects. The songs of the humpback changes from year to year¦ We may freely give each other the right to kill these highly advanced beings, but in the high scheme of things, we have no right to give such a right to anyone¦

"Tradition to me is not the sacred word that so many uphold it to be. To me, tradition often stand in the way of human intellectual and spiritual evolution¦ I urge all to examine their own traditions and voluntarily shed those elements within them that are no longer consistent with today™s environmental and humane principles. I ask those within the aboriginal communities to follow the lead of the Makah™s Alberta Thompson to voluntarily forego the whale-killing element of their tradition.

"Finally, I must make one thing clear. I am against killing whales, period, for any reason, by anyone, be they Japanese, Norwegian, Russian or Makah."

1999-05-16-7         The Province, Vancouver         by Jason Proctor

[Whale escapes after shrugging off harpoon]

"Makah whalers in Washington™s Neah Bay struck their prey yesterday, but the whale escaped, (hurt, but alive).

"˜The Makah harpooner threw the harpoon at the whale from about 10 feet away,™ said Toney Mars¦ who was watching from about 600 meters. ˜The harpoon entered the left flank of the whale, who did a nose dive, carrying the harpoon and the attached float with it. But the harpoon (soon got detached and the whale disappeared).™

"Activists opposed to the hunt earlier scared away several whales. Some protesters were arrested and the rest were prevented by authorities from nearing the whales (on grounds of harassing them)¦

"˜The whale is a warrior, just like our Makah men are warriors,™ said Joddie Johnson, a member of the Makah band. ˜He wants to die in honour.™"

1999-05-18-2         The Vancouver Sun         by Craig McInnes

[Native leaders condemn Clark for ˜colonial™ position]

"¦ Toney Mars¦ said that the anti-whaling campaign is not aimed at aboriginal rights.

"˜We™re not pointing fingers at the native people. We are just against whaling.™

"Marr said it was ˜ludicrous™ to describe Monday™s whale killing as a revival of tradition.

"˜First they towed their ceremonial canoe out to the whale with a power boat. Then they detached the canoe to harpoon the whale, Then they used a .50 calibre gun to finish it off.™

"Marr said the Makah™s whale hunt has little to do with the band™s food needs. ˜It™s something they™ve chosen as a vehicle to assert themselves as a self-determined people. If they want to (stand up and be counted, fine, but not on a whale that they kill).™¦"

1999-05-22-6         Times Colonist, Victoria, BC         by Toney Mars

[Tradition should end like slavery]

"¦ On May 17, the day the whale died - sacrificed in a vain and vainglorious attempt to revive an obsolete tradition¦ To many in the environmental movement, it is a day that will go down in infamy¦

"Should native cultures with whaling traditions have special rights to whale? In my opinion, no, just as I say no to the Chinese culture having special rights to use bear gall bladders, tiger bone and rhino horn in traditional medicine, nor European cultures having special rights to practice their bloody trophy hunting tradition. To integrate myself into the Canadian society during the last three decade since I became a Canadian, I had to retrain myself many times in just about everything in life; I can™t see why ex-whalers can™t do the same¦"

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