Rapper Action Bronson feasted on whale blubber and meat while filming a segment for his reality show in Alaska – a fact that might have escaped public attention had he not wound up in the hospital for an unrelated condition. At the time Bronson’s understandable desire for privacy just fed the speculation by his fans, and early reports linked his hospital stay to his having indulged in whale blubber, whale meat, seal, and raw caribou.
…the Vice/Warner Bros. Records artist and host of “F*ck, That’s Delicious” called into HOT 97’s Ebro In The Morning show to clarify reports. “I did eat whale blubber—several types,” Bronson told Ebro, Peter Rosenberg and Laura Stylez. “I had all types of indigenous Alaskan native [food], man. [But] it wasn’t what put me in the hospital. This was [caused by] an old power-lifting injury from when I was a young man,” said the 31 year-old. (AFH)
Bronson seems to have imagined himself able to eat like an indigenous Alaskan and didn’t hesitate to eat the meat from endangered bowhead whales as well as ‘several types’ of blubber – yet he lacks any cultural ties to the region. He tweeted:
Actually…no, don’t try it.
There are several problems with Bronson’s actions, no matter how sincere he may be, and there are ethical problems with encouraging people to consume endangered species under any guise. The highly regulated take of bowhead whales is intended to allow people who have a spiritual and cultural dependence on marine mammals to continue to live as they did in the past.
Most of us just don’t have the biology to absorb large quantities of some fats and nutritional distress is a likely result of eating blubber. In contrast, at least some indigenous people do have physiological adaptations that allow them to process the fats present in marine mammals:
The indigenous people of Greenland, the Inuit, have lived for a long time in the extreme conditions of the Arctic, including low annual temperatures, and with a specialized diet rich in protein and fatty acids, particularly omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). A scan of Inuit genomes for signatures of adaptation revealed signals at several loci, with the strongest signal located in a cluster of fatty acid desaturases that determine PUFA levels. The selected alleles are associated with multiple metabolic and anthropometric phenotypes and have large effect sizes for weight and height, with the effect on height replicated in Europeans. By analyzing membrane lipids, we found that the selected alleles modulate fatty acid composition, which may affect the regulation of growth hormones. Thus, the Inuit have genetic and physiological adaptations to a diet rich in PUFAs.
Bronson also consumed a variety of toxins in his smorgasbord that consisted of bowhead whale, beluga whale blubber, frozen raw caribou meat and stew, baked whitefish with rendered seal oil – and no one is immune to the consequences of those contaminants:
According to the Humane Society International, whale blubber can contain polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs), dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) and dioxin—and heavy metals such as methylmercury.
PCBs can cause nerve damage, reproductive and developmental disorders, immune system suppression, liver damage, skin irritation, and endocrine disruption. DDT exposure is associated with certain cancer risks and neurological and reproductive disorders. Dioxins can cause cancer, metabolic dysfunction, and immune system disorders. Methylmercury consumption can cause neurological and developmental problems. The contaminants are often highly concentrated in blubber because they are lipophilic, meaning they bond easily and even preferentially to fat.
One study of Faroe Islanders detected developmental disorders in children whose mothers consumed pilot whale meat and blubber regularly during pregnancy. In addition, some Inuit communities in the Canadian and Alaskan Arctic—where mothers regularly consume beluga whale meat and blubber (as well as meat from bowhead whales, seals, and polar bears)—have detected health problems in children who were exposed to contaminants in utero and through breast milk.
Indigenous people of the Faroes, who believe the slaughter and consumption of whales is their cultural right.
Even people who wish to preserve their indigenous cultures should be wary of consuming products from marine mammals, and for the rest of us it is senseless to experiment with our health by eating the flesh and blubber from the animals we have polluted.