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Home > Media Reiews > News Review Last Updated: 14:52 03/09/2007
News Review #35: May 28, 2002

Accusations Swirl as IWC Whale Hunt Deal Fails

Reviewed By Hitoshi URABE

"Accusations Swirl as IWC Whale Hunt Deal Fails"
Reuters /Yahoo

Annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission, held in Shimonoseki, Japan last week, ended without any significant results. As a matter of fact, it ended in a harsher tone than anyone had anticipated, raising serious doubts on the fundamental objectives of the Commission.

It seems that the majority of the reports on the meeting written in English, such as the one cited here, accuse Japan and other pro-whaling countries for the disappointing conclusions of the meeting. But for many Japanese not involved in whaling affairs, there are some naive questions that need to be clarified before taking any sides.

There are people who say eating whale is barbaric. They, however, do not explain why eating beef or pork, or chicken or salmon, could be described as civilized. It is perfectly all right not to eat whale if one does not want to. But demanding others to do the same is another story. Muslims do not eat pork and Hindis do not eat beef, but they do not condemn, say, Americans eating them. Some say whales should not be hunted because they are a part of wild life. But if so, a clarification would be needed as to why wild birds and animals are allowed to be hunted to serve French gourmet.

Others say hunting whales would violate the ecological balance. Further study is obviously needed to determine whether the claim is true or not. But if this were the case, it does not justify indigenous peoples, who are actually citizens of countries that are against whale hunting, to catch whales while at the same time prohibiting others to do so.

Behaviors of the Commission have been strange, too. IWC was set up to "provide for the proper conservation of whale stocks and thus make possible the orderly development of the whaling industry" according to the explanation on their own web sight. It is hard to understand, then, the Commission, at this year's meeting, rejected the application for membership by a whale hunting country, Iceland. It seems the Commission is defeating its own purpose by denying participation to the discussions of a country that is actually catching whales. It sounds like a bad joke if in fact Iceland had been refused for the reason that it catches whales, which would indicate that IWC happens to be a club of countries against whaling.

Despite these primitive questions, it must be noted that there is really no pressing reason for Japan to hunt whales. Animal protein necessary to keep the children healthy is no longer relied on whale meat in Japan, and saving the whaling industry can hardly be a cause for all the fuss, to secure a few hundred jobs while tens of thousands are being laid off due to recession and otherwise.

As it seems, there is no way to normalize the activities of IWC, as, in some sectors, the fundamental perception of what whaling means has become something of a principle that does not allow any compromise. On one hand there are people who insist whale hunting is simply bad, probably from ethical or religious motives, while at the other end whaling is regarded as a part of fundamental rights, to survive and work, and there are people who consider whale meat to be no different from beef or pork, or "le gibier" for that matter.

In any case, IWC is not functioning the way it should from whichever point of view you look at it. Perhaps it might be better off to dissolve the 56 year old organization, and hand the discussion over to some other platform where the issue could be examined in a broader perspective.

Copyright © Japanese Institute of Global Communications