March 1st 2014

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: Union-related corruption: the issue that won't go away

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Royal commission will hit unions financially and politically

RURAL AFFAIRS: Push for a rural reconstruction bank

FAMILY LAW: The innocent victims of 'no-fault' divorce

EDITORIAL: Indonesia's elections and Australia's future

BORDER PROTECTION: Abbott stops illegal boat arrivals on Australia's shores

QUEENSLAND: Bill Glasson's support for 'gay' marriage cost him Griffith win

EUROPE: Belgium extends euthanasia to children

ILLICIT DRUGS: The folly of decriminalising cannabis

ILLICIT DRUGS: Crime-fighters brace for swelling tide of 'ice'

CONSERVATION: Eco-activists' bid to protect man-eating predators

WESTERN CIVILISATION: Ronald Reagan on religious tolerance

GOOD FOOD: There are ants and there are grasshoppers

OPINION: Are we really a clever country?


CULTURE: A day for vitriol and Valentines?

BOOK REVIEW Absorbing account of rise of new superpower

Books promotion page

Eco-activists' bid to protect man-eating predators

by Hal G.P. Colebatch

News Weekly, March 1, 2014

Mawkish anti-human irrationality’s victory over common sense in Western Australia may be short-lived.

Following a spate of shark attacks and fatalities in the ocean off WA — seven fatalities in the last three years — the state government announced plans to reduce their numbers by having professional fishermen catch and kill the largest and most dangerous sharks, in particular, the great whites.

Inevitably, some non-dangerous sharks and other sea-creatures risk being caught as well, but the targets of the cull are sharks over three metres long, including great whites, tigers, grey nurses, bull sharks and hammerheads — all man-eaters.

Since these sharks eat far more other sea-creatures than they eat humans, the plan could actually be expected to benefit more turtles, dolphins and other fish than the number that might be accidentally caught.

One fatality occurred just as a nearby restaurant was advertising a “gourmet experience”, a tragedy which led to some particularly offensive (I nearly said tasteless) jokes in the local media.

The government did not realise the nuttiness and self-hatred of some representatives of contemporary culture. Predictably, this policy of killing sharks led to mass demonstrations on the beaches by 6,000 eco-cranks and conscripted children clamouring, “Save our sharks!”, not to mention the notable rhyming banner expensively towed from an aircraft: “Great whites have rights!”

Actually, they don’t have rights, apart from the rights nature confers on apex predators and which go with having the biggest teeth. The rhyme says more about its author than about the fish concerned. Another rhyme proclaimed, “It’s their water, stop the slaughter!”

Someone attacked the state premier’s office with graffiti and a hammer. This daftest of all crusades reminds one of Tom Lehrer’s comment about the outpatients being out in force. Indeed, they came from all over Australia to show solidarity with their finny friends.

The people-haters are as usual desperate for a crusade — any crusade — so long as there is something counter-cultural about it. Any cause can attract a few cranks, but when thousands turn out in favour of man-eating sharks, there seems to be something disturbing afoot.

One partisan of the persecuted predators made the following observation: “Research has shown the number of shark-bite incidents occurring each year appears to be directly related to the amount of time people spend in the sea.” She surely has a point here, as very few shark attacks occur on dry land.

Another made the point, “We’re not obliged to swim in the ocean, but some people choose to do so, aware of the risk of shark attack.” Yet another placard advised: “Scared of sharks? Get a pool!”

All this provided insights into the psychology of the rent-a-crowd protest movement in general — not only an anti-human identification with man-eaters, but a peculiar quasi-puritanical desire to deny people the pleasure of swimming at Perth’s beautiful beaches in summer.

Members of the obnoxious Greens Party, which seems to grow more irrational by the day, demonstrated with a placard bearing the po-faced, prissy legend, “It’s an eco-system, not a swimming pool”, the implication being that humans have no right to swim in the ocean, or, if they do, what befalls them is their own fault. It is a neat clinical picture of the nihilism which appears to have taken over much of the Green movement. Another placard lamented the cruel fate of “these beautiful creatures”.

Professional fishermen who tendered for government contracts to catch sharks have been threatened by protesters. One website warned that fishermen who catch sharks “will face the public’s wrath”. A Facebook page set up by pro-shark extremists also lists the names and numbers of fishing businesses believed to have tendered for the contract. Another threatened on behalf of the man-eaters that “pickets and boycotts will be effective strategys (sic) to name and shame”.

Anyway, the WA government has announced that the culling program will be suspended.

In this new-found solicitude for apex predators, Australia seems to be catching up with the United States and Britain (the latter has a lobby campaigning for the re-introduction of wolves, bears and lynxes — this will give hikers and campers food for thought, as it may give the wolves, bears and lynxes food as well).

Mark Steyn devoted several brilliant pages of his blackly hilarious masterpiece, After America: Get Ready for Armageddon (2011), to examining the increasing attacks in the U.S. on humans by predatory wild animals — cougars and bears — as these predators, thanks to various green activities, lost their fear of man.

Victims have included eco-warriors such as Timothy Treadwell, whose modus operandi was to sidle up to bears and sing, “I love you”, in their ears. Bits of Mr Treadwell and his girlfriend were found in a brown bear’s food cache, while Frances Frost, an “environmentalist dancer”, was eaten by a cougar which had been methodically stalking her in spite of her impeccable pro-cougar credentials.

However, in Western Australia, Aussie common sense has not been silenced: more than 38,000 people have visited a Facebook page supporting the shark cull. In the first 10 days after it was created, it had attracted 2,000 “likes”. Comments on the site pointed out that the 6,000 pro-shark protesters hardly represented the greater Perth population of 1.7 million.

Hal G.P. Colebatch, PhD, is a Perth author and lawyer. 

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