There are two sides to the whole whaling debate. On the one hand there’s the idea that it’s both cruel and barbaric to slaughter intelligent creatures considering we also have alternatives for all the things they supposedly provide the industry. And on the other there’s shut up, we’re going to kill us some whales.
And thus Japan are pressuring the international community to abandon bans on commercial whaling at the International Whaling Commission meeting currently happening in Brazil.
According to their proposal, “Science is clear: there are certain species of whales whose population is healthy enough to be harvested sustainably… Japan proposes to establish a committee dedicated to sustainable whaling (including commercial whaling and aboriginal subsistence whaling).”
And the obvious counter argument is that there were loads of whales around before commercial whaling pushed many species to the brink of extinction, so even if the dubious-sounding Japanese report was accurate then saying “let’s push them back to the brink again!” isn’t especially sound reasoning.
Like climate change for the federal Liberal Party, this matter has become such a matter of principle for Japan that they’re not really interested in discussing it. This, despite the fact that there’s precious little demand as remarkably few people in Japan eat whale meat.
But it’s all about protecting Japanese culture, you see: and commercial whaling in the nation is an ancient tradition which spans all the way back to… um, food shortages after World War II. Venerable!
“The argument that we put forward from Australia is that we don’t want to see any whales killed, whether they’re killed because [of] commercial whaling or whether it’s so-called scientific whaling.” Australia’s assistant minister for international development and the Pacific, Anne Ruston said in response.
There’s one other little problem which makes it hard to argue Japan are operating in good faith, and also makes clear that Ruston is irrelevant: Japanese whaling has never stopped in the Southern Ocean. Which technically is Australia’s territory.
The problem is that we don’t actually enforce those waters, leaving defending Australia’s waters pretty much entirely up to the extra-legal and high-risk activities of Sea Shepherd. Who do amazing work, by the way. But since Japanese whaling ships are rather better armed and less scrupulous about sinking vessels than Sea Shepherd are, there’s only so much they can do.
Japanese whaling fleets have therefore been operating almost entirely with impunity while the one Australian customs vessel rated to sail in icy waters – Ocean Protector – was reassigned to the rather warmer waters around Australia to chase down asylum seekers.
In fact, right now it’s in the distinctly non-Antarctic waters near Perth. Which, you might notice, isn’t exactly a whaling hotspot.
But still, we can all agree those stupid whales have had it too good for too long, right? After all, what are they good for? They’re always swimming around, singing their idiot songs, not even protecting our giant undersea laboratories from Megs…