Following the recent release of a paper on the inhumanity of the Taiji dolphin drive hunt (previous here, here, here, and here!), Lori Marino of Emory University voiced strong concerns about the language and approach of the paper, most prominently here.
Lori is as passionate, dedicated, and smart as they come when it comes to advocating for the rights of nonhumans. And she bravely raised completely legitimate points (though I personally did not agree completely with them). But she has reconsidered the sharpness and tone of her response, and has just released an open statement to the report authors:
Note to Self: It’s Not About Us
Open Statement to the authors of the Butterworth et al.(2013) paper: A Veterinary and Behavioral Analysis of Dolphin Killing Methods Currently Used in the “Drive Hunt” in Taiji, Japan
In response to the outpouring of strong reactions to this paper, both negative and positive, I need to say that my own criticisms of the paper reflect a very deep commitment to a particular stance on how we should oppose dolphin exploitation and abuse. They were not meant as a personal attack on the motivations of the authors, and I apologize and take full responsibility for any hurt the tone of my reaction and my comments have caused.
We are all frustrated over the ongoing abuses of dolphins and other animals. And we all have strong opinions about how to bring an end to those abuses. My own view is that a strong rights-based stance is the only one that will lead to real change, and that when we give the impression that we’re endorsing more “humane” ways of killing nonhuman animals, we have stepped over a “line in the sand” with regard to being respectful to the lives of the animals we are setting out to protect.
So I have very real concerns that a paper of this kind can backfire in terms of our goal, despite the good intentions.
More to the point, there is a respectful discussion to be had about these issues, and my reactions to this paper should have been more considerate and constructive.
I hope, in the future, to be able to reach out to my colleagues and friends as we all work to find ways to combat the abuses all around us – abuses that clearly leave deep marks on all of us.
I personally have no problem with sharp debates over this issue, or any issue. But it is important that debates not undermine the basic collegiality of all who care about dolphin issues, or undermine their ability to work together toward protecting dolphins. So I think this is a classy move on Lori’s part and I hope it succeeds in soothing any hurt feelings or ill will.