By Elma Morgan
Note: I want to preface this by saying this comes from the heart. It does not represent politics. It is what I am feeling right now. There seems to be much political angst going on in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, which I do not fully comprehend and the games are for the locals to play. I am not in for that. You do not punish a community for the actions of one who was trying to make a living doing a job that he has the skills to do. When I wrote this letter it was directed at the two papers that I read on the internet; however, my niece pointed out to me that it was iWitness News that started the fiasco.
So I hold you responsible for the furore that you have caused globally. I hope that this incident has taught you about objectivity in reporting and what it is to report with responsibility and without biases, malice or to stir up sensationalism and stir emotions.
My grandparents and my uncle had blackfish boats when we were younger. Some of our sustenance came from this activity as it provided a living, not only for our family but also for some of our neighbours, our friends and the community. Whaling supplements the economy of St. Vincent as it provides self-sufficiency, independence, small business entrepreneurship, aspirations, hope and money for the community. It provides the basic needs for the members of the community and, it is the means by which the parents can save money to educate their children so that their lives will be easier and more fulfilling. These tourists do not have to concern themselves with where their next meals are coming from, because they can afford to take cruises, and they can go whale watching. On those cruise ships, there are endless supplies of food and drink 24-7. I am sure they went back to their steaks, pork, lamb, fish and poultry for 24-7. How dare you then criticise the whalers who try to eke out a living so that someday their children could go whale watching too. They did that to the indigenous people who killed the bison for meat. They did that to the seal hunters in Alaska. We would not be shamed for conducting an honest living. Without this job activity, it means no blackfish, no job, no food, no money = ill health, shorter lifespan, loss of hope and aspirations; Tourist one = SVG out.
This part of our history, it might not be part of your body of knowledge of our people. This is about the right to fish for food, which has been accepted as an integral part of the sustainability and the cultural traditions of our ancestors. This colonial attitude does not bode well with me. We are not under your control anymore. Those same tourists, who were crying went back to their ship and most likely consumed steaks, chicken, fish, lamb, vegetables, fruits, which were at one time living beings, but were rendered non-living to sit on their plates. These are the same ones who hunt with the wildlife licenses and who hunt deer and caribou as trophies for their homes and office or to fill their freezers. These are some of the same ones who turn their backs when people of colour are murdered and they commit atrocities against people from other countries on their own lands. These things do not matter to them because as conservationists, environmentalists or Greenpeace, they are covered.
This is personal to us, as our family’s growth and development depended to some great extent on this form of living. Our family lived experiences involved in participating in the fishing and whaling industry for a living.
Note: According to Article of the United States Wildlife Act: 16284 Federal Register Volume72, No 64, Wednesday, April 2007 Rules and Regulations; Orcas are not mentioned as endangered species in the Caribbean waters.
We hold firm that these whalers have the right to do their jobs undeterred and with no obstructions. This is St. Vincent. It is like any other job: you do not work, you do not get paid. We do not have subsidised government systems. These men work so that they could provide for their families. It is a job, not a recreational sport. It is an honest living, which brings not only security but also an enormous amount of skills, security and independence. Who makes the decision that it is legal: The Whaling Commission and nobody else? This is St. Vincent. This is Barrouallie and we are proud of it. We will defend it!
It is left for us as a nation to promote what we have. It irritated me a bit when I saw the story and thought there we go again they are trying to foist their values on us. They have money to take cruises most of the people in Barrouallie do not. That is how our people meet their basic needs. Who are they to tell us what to do to put food on the tables for our families? I understand that they might not like this; however, it is what it is. Some of them feed and take care of their pets better than most people in SVG will ever be able to do. And there are Vincentians out there who subscribe to this hype and anger. Whaling is not just a sport. It is a means to an end and this is called employment to create sustainability, food to feed families and the community, to create employment to espouse hope and to make life a bit easier for the community. I do not think that those Vincentians in the diaspora or at home, who are appalled stop to think that this is part tradition, part of our culture but also our lifeline and our independence, especially here in Barrouallie.
Whale watching is recreational. One cruise ship visiting St. Vincent and the Grenadines once or twice a year to go whale watching is recreational. They might not even visit our shores. They could see this in the outside waters. We do not have natural resources, we do not have manufacturing jobs, we do not have small or big industry, we do not have large technology companies or offices, what we have is agriculture, we export some foods and we have fishing and whaling. Incidentally, this is not a new occupation that we just invented. Barrouallie has always been fishing and whaling community for over a century and it will remain just that. That is our livelihood. That is our mainstay and we are proud of it. This keeps our community employed. That job provides the basic needs of our community and spins off jobs to other parts of the island. Why judge us when you know nothing about our history, our culture, and our traditions? Come get to know us then walk a mile in our shoes!
Why would the government give into rich or well-off people, and environmentalists who can afford to go whale watching? Some of these same people are the ones who stand by while people of immigrant background and others are murdered and turn their faces. Some do not care because it is not in their community or not in their backyards. Some of them see us as subhuman. Some of them have pets that live loftier lives than most of the people in St. Vincent and the Grenadines do and specifically in Barrouallie. They could afford to go on cruises and go whale watching, while they think it is wrong to kill a whale to supply the needs of the community by providing employment. It might look gruesome and wrong. It might look horrific. It might even look like you are murdering the poor whale. It is for this reason why the slaughtering of fowl, sheep, pigs, goats, and cattle are done in slaughterhouses. It is what it is: a gruesome job.
This is what gives us the opportunity, and provide us with money and yes I am from Barrouallie, yes I will defend my people, to feed our families, to educate our children and to make it so we do not have to wait and depend on international handouts. It might not look good that we are killing those harmless whales and feeding our community with the meat. It might not look good because these tourists have witnessed those horrible acts. Some of these same people are the ones who stay silent when people of colour and the homeless are needlessly killed. They watch and turn their faces so as not to make contacts with the homeless who need money to buy a meal. It might not be pleasant, or it might be horrific that their pleasant whale watching was disturbed by whalers doing what they have to do feed their “village.” let them take their tours to some other place.
Most people will stop to further think, this is a job. It is the whalers’ employment. Like any other job if it is not done you have no money. No money, no food, poorer health and shorter, mortality and life span. Often these tourists come to our islands and take back the worst information and pictures of our people. It boosts their superiority and their egos. Nobody complains about this because the media is part of this whole hype. The media fans the fire then and when the blaze starts growing leaves it to self-extinguish then rush on to the next story. This is blatantly wrong in the name of making money or selling subscriptions or digital coverage and other marketing ploys.
When you are going to write articles as journalists: leave out the sentimentality, leave out the politics, the sensitisation, leave out the drama and the personifications, and be fair and objective, because it is more than selling newspapers. It is more than media hype. There are other people besides you who are involved in this. You can hurt communities, individuals and most of all the government and people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Be objective. Get the right facts. Learn about the Caribbean islands and their people, how they work, how they live, how they sustain themselves, and how they survive. Like you, we have families that we love.
We are a people. We have families that we want to educate and we have families who like you want opportunities for better lives. Put away your selfish egos and walk a mile in our shoes before you start scolding, criticise, and degrade us, because like you, we want freedom, independence and do have the right to make our own decisions. Whaling is legal. It has always been and it will continue to be because you are not in a position to police the waters around our areas. We live within the laws.
I hope that the people in St. Vincent and the Grenadines will see this for what it is a bunch of guys who think that they have the right still control the whole world and its people. It is media hype and the next few weeks, it will be all gone because someone in some other place would have done something more trite, more horrendous that the media feels is newsworthy. It is sad when because we do not have a national identity we have to be critical and be criticised because our people doing something as important as taking care of the people in their community by doing their jobs.
The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected]
The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].