Retrospectacle: A Neuroscience Blog

This is just plain heart-breaking. Even these Inuit seem sad to kill these poor belugas.

About 200 beluga were first spotted in early August by hunters in the Husky Lakes area south of Tuktoyaktuk, a string of saltwater inlets north of the Arctic Circle that are linked to the ocean through a 300-meter-wide [980-foot-wide] channel.

There still were about 80 of the white mammals left in the lakes by late October, but the lakes and the channel are quickly freezing over and the whales’ air hole shrinking.

Residents were cheering for the belugas to escape, even though each animal could provide enough meat and “muktuk” — skin and blubber usually served raw — to last a couple of large families through the winter.

But officials determined that escape was now impossible and the whales would suffocate or starve.

Killing the whales now, while they are still in good shape, is better than leaving them to slowly freeze under the ice, said Voudrach.

Sure, nature’s heartless. But the thought of all these poor whales clustering around a tiny air hole in the ice, bumpin’ their big white bodies into each other, trying to get their little blowhole into the air is just plain sad.

Ok, its a tad funny too. But 90% sad.


  1. #1 whale biologist
    November 17, 2006

    i don’t see how this is funny (even that 10% of it). I think it is sad, but it is part of nature. So, it’s the way it goes. And if all efforts to break the ice to free the whales have failed, then the best think to do is kill them and provide food to the Inuits.

  2. #2 John McKay
    November 17, 2006

    They are really beautiful animals. My family’s cabin is at a place called Beluga and, every summer, we see scores of them feeding on the salmon run. Fortunately, they aren’t endangered yet, but if we keep over harvesting the salmon, they soon will be.

    Although I know you didn’t mean it that way, I’m going to take exception to the condecending tone of “Even these Inuit seem sad.” They should seem especially sad. Leaving aside the spiritual aspect, which is still very real for most Inuit, there is a very real practical aspect to this. Most native northern peoples are to some extent still subsistence hunters. They know that next year’s food supply depends on enough Belugas escaping to breed and return next year. At the most practical level, killing these whales is wasted food.

  3. #3 Shelley Batts
    November 17, 2006

    Although I know you didn’t mean it that way, I’m going to take exception to the condecending tone of “Even these Inuit seem sad.”

    What I meant more specifically was that even people who normally hunt the whales, and can gain some meat/blubber/etc from their demise, were sad to do it. Beyond the wasted food/practical aspect, there seemed to be an emotional tone to the news piece about hoping they would escape and not wanting them to suffer that surprised me in a group that would normally hunt them for food. It wasn’t a criticism, really–I was just surprised. Its to their credit that they cared; I wonder if most people who raise and kill cows/pigs would be as moved by having to euthanize a group of, say, cows that wandered off and got trapped (not that some wouldn’t…..).

    And whale biologist, you’re probably right, there isn’t much funny about it. Sometimes my imagination creates silly imagery. Maybe its a coping mechanism. 🙂

  4. #4 John McKay
    November 17, 2006

    That’s what I thought. That’s why I didn’t pull out my shrill, self-righteous liberal mode to comment. Thanks for bringing this story to our attention.

  5. #5 Roy
    November 17, 2006

    The reality is certainly not funny, but I understand how sometimes we end up laughing at things that maybe aren’t funny in the real world. That whales are being hunted to extinction isn’t funny, either, but I couldn’t help but chuckle at this.

    Silly imagery, even if it’d be really sad in “real life”, can be amusing.

    You’re right, though. Maybe it’s just a coping mechanism.
    Or maybe it’s just me.
    And no, I’m totally not pimping Perry Bible Fellowship at all (even though I think it’s rather funny).

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