On the South coast of NSW, Australia, in a town named Eden, there is an old whaling station. No longer used for whaling it has been turned into a whale museum. If you visit you’ll read the story of a killer whale that struck up a very special relationship with the whalers. When whales were swimming by it would herd them inshore, then race close into shore and leap about to get the whalers’ attention. This would tell the whalers that there were whales out in the ocean. They’d jump into their long open whaling boats and pass a rope into the water. The killer whale would take the rope between its teeth and tow them out to where the whales were. The whalers would then pull out their harpoons and spear the whales. Blood rushed out, the pain of the harpoon drove the whales into frenzied panic and protest, until they were overcome and died. The Whalers then lashed them to the boats and dragged them to shore. As a reward the killer whale would be thrown pieces of whale meat.
Attitudes to whaling have changed dramatically since those days, perhaps to a more biblical line. The writer of Psalm 104 speaks of whales, in verse 26. The Psalm writer says God made leviathan (here meaning whales) for no other reason than to frolic in the ocean, to spend its days with the earths oceans as its playpen. It doesn’t exist for human benefit but for God’s enjoyment, to frolic and play in the seas, a delightful celebration of God’s creative power.
This takes us way beyond a purely domination view of the environment – the what can we get from it approach – to tell us that God delights in his creation, God enjoys the world’s natural environment. And so the Psalm ends in verse 31 by calling on God to “rejoice in his works”.
Source: whaling information for Eden whaling museum website
Sometimes we humans can be very cruel. A few years ago Professor David Shepherd of Southeastern Louisiana University conducted an experiment that showed just how cruel. Shepherd and his colleagues placed eight fake turtles and snakes at various points along a road, directly in the path of oncoming vehicles. At other places they put eight fake turtles and snakes way off the side of the road. To hit these snakes and turtles drivers would have to deliberately make the effort.
They found that 87% of drivers went out of their way to avoid hitting any of the snakes and turtles. 7% didn’t notice the fakes and so unintentionally ran them over. But 6% of drivers had a mean streak. They deliberately went out of their way to run over even the snakes and turtles off the side of the road. Shepherd reported that one truck driver crossed from the centre lane, went into the opposite lane of traffic and onto the shoulder of the road in order to rundown a turtle.
It’s amazing how we can get satisfaction out of cruelty, but most of us manage it at some time, whether it be the harsh words we use on someone, the gossip we offer, laughing at someone’s weakness, or mean spirited rejection of others.
Source: Scientific information from Karl Kruszelnicki’s New Moments in Science #3.
An English biologist, Gavin Maxwell tells the story of how two otter cubs were brought to the UK from Nigeria. One morning a Church of Scotland minister was walking along the foreshores of a nearby lake and saw the otter cubs playing by the edge. He pulled out a shotgun and shot them. One of the cubs died instantly, the other died later in the water. When a local journalist questioned him about it the minister replied there was no moral problem for “the Lord gave man control over the beasts of the field.”
Source: reported in John Stott, Issues Facing Christians Today