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Nature News
by Marlene Harris

October 2000   —   Japanís Whale Hunt

Despite world–wide protests, Japanís whaling fleet went ahead with their extremely controversial whaling of Bryde and sperm whales this season. The total number of whales taken in this yearís hunt was 43 Bryde, 5 sperm and 40 minke whales. There seems to be no way to stop the Japanese. This year, there were threatened trade sanctions by the US, but even that had no effect on the whalers. (Of course, it remains to be seen if the American government follows through with their threats.)

As reported in Associated Press, the head of Japanís Fisheries dept was quoted to say that only "Anglo–Saxon countries" were opposed to Japanís "whaling research." This is a very strange observation as many non "Anglo–Saxon" nations including Brazil, Chile, Spain, Mexico, Italy and India, are all IWC members completely opposed to commercial whaling. Furthermore, in the most recent IWC meetings, all of Japanís whaling proposals failed to obtain majority support from many of these supposed "Anglo–Saxon" nations. Yet despite their failure, Japan continues to flaunt the IWC and establish their own rules of carnage, under the guise of "research."

The taking of these large, endangered whales demonstrates Japanís determination to develop a large scale commercial whaling industry, under the pretext of "scientific whaling." It also demonstrates how little power the IWC appears to have.

Opposition to Japanís whaling practices is even being expressed from inside the country itself. One of Japanís largest, most influential newspapers recently carried a full page editorial advising the country to review its whaling policies. The editorial was particularly critical regarding this yearís hunt of Brydeís and sperm whales, saying in effect that these species were on the US list of endangered species and it made neither political nor economic sense to anger the US, who has threatened trade sanctions over the issue.

The author personally condemned his countryís "research whaling" policy which basically is an undertaking of the Fisheries Dept, along with the Institute of Cetacean Research, and Institute of Far Seas Fisheries. These two institutes receive their operating income from the sale of whale meat so they obviously need research whaling to continue. Yet, he says, no Japanese fishery company wants to admit to a resumption of commercial whaling, so it is done in this backdoor fashion.

Furthermore, he asserts, those in favor of whaling cite the meat as "traditional Japanese food culture" and though he doesnít oppose this view, he does condemn the Fisheries Dept using the same argument in its own defense. He says: "Whale meat is no longer a staple of the Japanese diet. I, for one, am put off by the way the agency is using food culture to defend the vested interests of bureaucrats." He also acknowledges the anti–whaling viewpoint as a desire to protect wildlife. Many Japanese insist whale meat is to them, what beef is to western countries. But the author notes a major difference: "Ökilling and eating wild whales swimming freely is an act of barbarism, unlike the killing of livestock such as cattle, which are bred for human consumption. We must acknowledge this view."

The editorialís author, Yasuo Murata, a senior writer for the paper, expressed opposition to the countryís policy of "research whaling" as a sham which is seen for what it is by anti–whaling nations, i.e. commercial whaling. He believes this subterfuge gives the world community the impression that "Japan is sly and sneaky" and that this world opinion is "too high a price to pay." He writes: "Japan should give up extensive research whaling because it is seen by anti–whaling nations as a cover for commercial whaling, and is making the country feel guilty for its actionsÖ It is important that Japan is respected and honored internationally. It is a big minus to the country if we allow the misunderstanding and prejudice that Japanese are sly and sneaky, to take root abroad."

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