After fights with the likes of Greenpeace and an engine fire, the Japanese whaling fleet is headed home “hundreds of whales short” of their goal. While the news reports go along with Japan’s claim that their whaling practices are somehow scientifically motivated and important to our understanding of whales, the truth of the matter is that Japan wants to continue to hunt whales and sell the meat for profit, which typically goes right back into hunting more whales the next year. While this years murderous cull was indeed cut short, 508 whales were killed, the original goal being 860 (the article does not mention what species were taken). We’re likely to see a replay of the drama in May when the fleet is scheduled to take 350 whales in the Pacific northwest, all of this is allowed by the International Whaling Commission according to the Yahoo!News article. If this is indeed true (no mention of Japan’s whaling practices is mentioned on the IWC website), then perhaps the IWC should take down all the beautiful pictures of whales jumping and swimming and replace them with what’s happening on the deck of the Nisshin Maru.
What really pisses me off is this line from the article
Tokyo maintains that whaling is a national tradition and a vital part of its food culture, and argues that whale stocks have sufficiently recovered since 1986 to allow a resumption of limited hunts of certain species.
Perhaps whaling was a part of Japanese culture at one time but to the best of my understanding, the people of Japan did not starve in 1986 when whaling was outlawed. Indeed, the attitude of “Well, it’s a cultural tradition, so who are we to tell them they can’t do it” helps no one and is downright daft. There is no reason that whales should be harvested, even if certain populations have rebounded. Beyond ecology, there is a strong ethical component that the Japanese have not responded to; whales are among the most intelligent creatures on the planet and have emotions, family groups suffering from emotional stress when members are lost. Is it ethical to continue hunting and killing animals that certainly feel pain and perhaps even understand they are dying when they’re being killed? The hunt is certainly not humane and there is no reason for it other than some people want to eat whale, similar problems still existing with the practice of shark finning because of the status eating shark find soup brings. The pseudoscientific medicinal culture does not help either, nearly everything being an aphrodesiac or making he who consumes a powerful animal embued with its power; such beliefs must be abandoned if we are to conserve wildlife.
The Japanese can continue to pay lip service to the rest of the world and say the hunt is for scientific purposes, but it doesn’t appear to be the case at all. The Yahoo!News article states that the hunts help identify population size, location (duh), and feeding habits of the animals, but couldn’t much of the data come from (gasp) not killing the whales? I guess these gives have never heard of the “Take only pictures, leave only footprints” philosophy to ecology. If this is really a scientific excercise, the boats would be outfitted with the best scientific equipment and scientists from around the world would get together to study cetaceans, but instead we find commerical whaling boats dedicated only to the hunting of these animals. I don’t know why countries that oppose whaling continually turn a blind eye to Japan or why the IWC allows this; what’s Japan going to do if other nations put their foot down? Cry like a baby? As mentioned before, this is not just a question of ecology but of ethics as well, and I think we know enough to say beyond a shadow of a doubt that the hunting of cetaceans is barbaric to the individual being killed and the family they leave behind (if there’s any family left). Much like other ecological problems, there is a moral imperitive to do what’s right regardless of what was permissable in the past or certain cultural beliefs. How long are we going to continue to commit sins against ourselves and nature simply because it’s comfortable to do so?