Recent letters regarding the whaling controversy make it seem that opponents of whaling believe that the logic of their argument is self-evident. In her Dec. 18 letter, “Shame on the whale killers,” Patricia Betty uses the word “murder.” But “murder” is a legal term used only for humans. The logic evident in Betty’s statement is that what happens to a whale (or other “intelligent mammal”) is morally equivalent to what happens to a human. My question is, why?
What is the underlying logic of this argument? If it is wrong to kill an organism that is both (a) mammal and (b) intelligent, does that mean that it is OK to kill organisms that are not both (a) and (b)?
It is easy to determine whether an organism is a mammal, but “intelligent” is an imprecise term. Is it OK to kill cows because they are “unintelligent” compared to whales? What criteria are used to make this comparison?
Taking this logic further, we may ask, is it OK to kill humans who are mentally retarded or clinically brain-dead, since they are not “intelligent?” Can anyone opposed to whaling explain precisely what principle makes killing whales morally wrong?
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.