whale

Are the Russians Using Animals to Spy on Other Countries?

whale

The world is definitely a weird place.  And it seems to be getting even more strange.   Norwegian fishermen have discovered a beluga whale wearing a harness off the country’s northern coast.  The fishermen were intrigued by how tame the whale was around humans, and the explanation might surprise you.  Scientists from Norway’s Institute of Marine Research suspect that the whale and its harness might be part of an operation put together by the Russian military.  See?  I told you that the world is weird!  The scientists tracked down the whale near the town of Ingoy and then attempted to remove the harness, as it appeared to be really tight.

The whale itself was enticed by the food they were trying to provide but wasn’t giving up the fight that easily.  They ended up having to get into the water to remove the harness. When they managed to get it off, they saw that it said “Equipment of St. Petersburg”.  Further, one of the researchers from the Norwegian Arctic University in Tromsø said was that they had been in contact with some researchers, but they have no knowledge about this kind of project.  But, they believe that it is linked to the Russian Navy in Murmansk. While there was no camera on the harness itself, it did have an attachment that would be able to fit a GoPro camera.

What many of you might not know is that there is a long history of both America and Russian military using animals for experiments.  And as recently as 2017, the Russian Defense Ministry’s own TV station, Zvezda, reported that dolphins, seals, and white whales were all being trained for military applications.   The scary part is that these animals are trained to do quite a few tasks.  From carrying equipment for divers to actually guarding military bases.   The U.S. military uses dolphins to hunt for underwater mines under the US Navy Marine Mammal Program and they’re also quite helpful for finding missing persons.

While not confirmed, some reports suggest that some of the animals trained by the Russian military are even taught to kill potential enemies.  Death aside, is this even ethical? Maybe I’m more shocked by the idea that this is something that is actually taking place at all.  I mean, training animals to perform in shows has been known to ruffle some feathers (no pun intended), so how would this be any different?  While the outcome might not necessarily be for an individual’s enjoyment, they are being used against their will.  An animal can’t consent to this kind of activity, which means they’re being taken advantage of.

All in all, though, I’m quite surprised this is happening.  Maybe I shouldn’t be.  Maybe I have to take the rose-colored glasses off and realize that these things are taking place, whether I think it’s right or not.  I’d be interested to see if there are actual case studies or research that shows how often animals are being used in this kind of way, and to what end?  Are they successful in their missions, or is it just to gain research.  Researchers themselves track animals to understand their habitats and behaviors, which isn’t consensual either, but one could argue it’s for their own good.  How is spying of benefit to the animal at all?