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I would like to dedicate this week’s blog to encouraging the Japanese authorities to abide by the final ruling of the International Court of Justice (31st March 2014) that Japan’s whaling program was not for scientific purposes. The ruling also forbade the granting of further permits for research whaling by Japan (a copy of the ruling can be found here). I would like to ask Japan, and its fellow industrial whaling countries like Norway and Island to consider ending all slaughter of whales on the basis that it causes considerable pain and suffering for questionable commercial gain.
Regular visitors to http://www.chrisduggleby.com will be well aware that I am very fortunate in being able to spend a large amount of time during the European winter on the South African coast. I actually have my office workstation there positioned so that I can admire the whales as they swim past and sometimes manage to click photos like the ones below. Its a bit like heaven: sunshine, writing books and amazing free entertainment from one of the mammalian wonders of the world.
The reason for the International Court of Justice’s ruling relates to the Japanese Government’s view that it could continue to kill whales for scientific purposes based on a clause (VIII) in the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling. That clause said:
1. Notwithstanding anything contained in this Convention any Contracting Government may grant to any of its nationals a special permit authorizing that national to kill, take and treat whales for purposes of scientific research subject to such restrictions as to number and subject to such other conditions as the Contracting Government thinks fit, and the killing, taking, and treating of whales in accordance with the provisions of this Article shall be exempt from the operation of this Convention. Each Contracting Government shall report at once to the Commission all such authorizations which it has granted. Each Contracting Government may at any time revoke any such special permit which it has granted.
2. Any whales taken under these special permits shall so far as practicable be processed and the proceeds shall be dealt with in accordance with directions issued by the Government by which the permit was granted
Using this clause Japan has been issuing permits to allow the continued hunting and killing of whales. These whales were then butchered and their remains sold in exactly the same manner as when Japan conducted its normal factory whaling operations.
The case against Japan was bought by Australia, a country which has considerable commercial ties with Japan but was driven by a strong conviction that the deliberate mass slaughter of whales in such a distressful way, for no real benefit to mankind was morally and ethically wrong. The people of Australia were simply not prepared to let their leaders stand by and allow this to continue.
Hundreds of years ago local communities of Japanese fishermen hunted whales in very small numbers to provide the population living near the coast with essential food and other products like oils. At the beginning of the 20th century following the lead of other nations like Norway industrial whaling started in Japan. As a result considerably larger numbers of these mammals where slaughtered and as local stocks became depleted the vessels started to hunt in the oceans far away from their traditional home waters. Eventually regions like the Antarctic became popular hunting grounds for the Japanese whalers. After the second World War the whaling industry was allowed to start again to help feed the starving population of Japan and provide other much needed raw materials. During this time whale meat became a key component in children’s school meals to ensure they received a basic level of nutrition. As a result, towards the second half of the last century many Japanese people had come to consider whale meat to be a normal part of their diet.
In recent times people in Japan and other traditional whale meat eating countries have moved away from this diet. In addition to allegations that it contains toxic levels of methyl mercury (6 times the US FDA limit for food in one study) whale meat can also be contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls. Pregnant women and children are strongly recommended against eating it. Following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear incident Mink whales caught of the coast of Hokkaido were found to contain radioactive caesium.
These health concerns together with the growing awareness that killing these mammals is both expensive and needlessly traumatic most of the population, even in Japan, is turning away from eating whale meat. The generation that was brought up on whale meat after the war is, to a large part, no longer with us. Therefore the explanation that whale meat is part of the ‘cultural diet‘ is no longer relevant. Due to the lack of demand from humans a lot of the whale meat is now used in processed dog food.
However, whaling – through considerable subsidies from the Japanese government – still continues. On its own it is economically unsustainable, although it is probably still considered to be a negotiating chip when the governments of Japan, Norway and Iceland sit down with the international community to discuss global fishing treaties. It is still responsible for the traumatic death of thousands of whales including their calves, many of them seriously endangered.
As the voting public in Australia have demonstrated it is possible to force otherwise hesitant governments to take appropriate action on matters we consider to be ethically and morally repugnant. Whaling has reached the stage where it just does not make commercial sense to continue. Therefore why should a civilised world allow these creatures to be slaughtered under such barbaric conditions?. If you agree please make your views known to those who could do something – and as a consumer remember that you always have a choice.
I include below some videos which illustrate the barbaric slaughter and suffering of whales pursued by Japanese whaling vessels – and for once I do not apologise for their unpleasant nature. In fact I challenge anyone watching the first one not to reach for a handkerchief.
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