Discussion On Whether Japan Should Resume Commercial Whaling

Whales are one of the most intelligent species in the world. They communicate via local dialects; they learn and share information among themselves; some have even displayed signs of grievance for dead offspring with an orca recently being observed carrying the body of her dead calf of her back for over 2 weeks. Whales are a living, emotional, kind-hearted species, and they are being hunted and killed for seemingly no reason.

On December 26, 2018, the Japanese Government announced its plans for the resuming of commercial whaling, justifying it by saying “If we give up achieving the sustainable use of marine life resources, including whales, Japan will encounter serious difficulties in food security”. That’s interesting, because CBC news reported whale meat to account for 0.1% of meat consumption in the country. If the Japanese government has to bend the truth with such statements to justify its resumption of commercial whale hunting, there’s a pretty good chance that their actual reasons aren’t all that valid.

Although whaling has been banned in Japan since 1986, the government has been allowed to hunt whales in the Antarctic for “scientific research”. Despite not producing any actual significant research, this programme was allowed to carry on until 2014 when the International court of justice ruled against it, due to it clearly being a disguise for the continuation of commercial whaling. However, Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, wasted very little time in completely disregarding this and continuing to conduct “research”.

Whilst a pro-whaling stance is not taken by the majority of Japanese citizens, their government is able to pull from the pockets of its taxpayers in order to fund its whaling endeavours by promoting the practice as an integral part of ‘Japanese identity’. This notion must mean a whole lot to them. Otherwise, why would they willingly fund the endangerment and potential extinction of an entire species? I’m willing to bet that they’re unaware of the 20,162 whales that have been killed since the ban in 1986, not including any of the illegal killings (and given the whaling program’s apparent disregard for the legality of their practices, there have no doubt been many).

Almost 10% of these killings have been of fin, sperm, Bryde’s and Sei whales, all of which are listed as endangered. And even if Japan makes further efforts to only target minke whales, which aren’t endangered, many of these protected species will inevitably be killed in the crossfire. Furthermore, Figures from Japan's whaling expedition to Antarctica during 2017 and 18 reveal that out of the 181 female minke whales killed, 122 were pregnant, suggesting that although minkes aren’t endangered yet, they may be right on track.

Along with exploiting its citizens to pay for them to conduct illegal activities, the Japanese Government has gained support in the International Whaling commission from developing countries such as Laos and Mongolia, by presenting the prospect of development aid as an incentive for these nations to vote in their favour. I can’t speak for everyone, but I have a hard time justifying taking advantage of your citizens’ patriotism and the needs of developing countries just to continue hunting and endangering animals for meat that nobody even wants anyway. In fact, in recent years, there have been many reports of unsold whale meat and retailers cutting prices just to get it off their shelves.

Whales all around the world are threatened not just by hunters. In fact, whaling is not the largest threat to the survival of many endangered whale species. Collisions with ships, getting tangled in fishing nets, pollution and other human activities are currently even greater dangers. All of these things alone, pose the incredibly alarming threat of extinction to a species of gentle giants, who have almost never directly harmed any humans. So what sense is there in adding to and perpetuating the threat to the existence of such innocent animals?

In the end, the Japanese government’s decision to resume whaling is nothing a ploy by corrupt leaders to paint themselves as patriotic protectors of their culture. They know it won’t bring back an industry that has had its day, or a diet that nobody wants or needs any longer. And having been informed of the deception, manipulation and lack of moral concern behind the façade of the Japanese government’s plan to resume commercial whale hunting, it’s now up to you to consider whether you think the potential destruction of a kind-natured species is worth it for a country to cling onto its tired traditions. 

16 August 2021
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