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Japanese whaling: An insupportable practice
Scripps Howard News Service


June 19, 2006

Want to buy an island? Follow the Japanese example. They apparently know how better than anyone else in the world.

I'm not talking about the Japanese archipelago. I'm talking about smaller, poorer islands in our own backyard - Caribbean islands.

The Japanese failed in their most recent attempt to overturn a 20-year ban on commercial whaling imposed by the International Whaling Commission. This week the commission held its annual meeting on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts. But smitten as the Japanese were by the international community's decision to act humanely toward these sea mammals, the Japanese nonetheless figured out how to ignore the ban entirely. They harvest as many whales as they please, claiming to slaughter them for "scientific" reasons.

This "work around" victory did not satisfy the Japanese blubber bloodlust. We all know saving face is critical in Asian culture. So Japan purchased considerable clout on the commission by lobbying small Caribbean, African and Pacific nations, most with laughable whaling interests, to join them in voting to overturn the 20-year ban. How did Japan do it? Through aid to these countries' fisheries programs or other forms of blood money.

Tokyo denies that it has bought the backing of such developing nations, but evidence has surfaced in recent years that it pays IWC dues and travel expenses for some countries.

There are two very odd aspects to Japan's position and that of its Caribbean supporters. First, Greenpeace reports, "This year all the private companies behind the Japan's so-called scientific whaling pulled out, claiming that there is no profit to be made from whaling and that too few Japanese people are interested in eating whale meat. In response, the Fisheries Agency of Japan has set up its own company to try and sell the 'chopped and boxed' by-products of its science to schools, hospitals and restaurants."

Why hunt whales if even the Japanese people don't want to eat them? Japan looks ridiculous. And cruel. And heartless. What is the goal post here?

The second oddity comes from Japan's Caribbean supporters. John Maxwell of the Jamaica Observer writes, "It is difficult to make sense of the Eastern Caribbean position. Their representatives repeat well-rehearsed lines about the sustainable development of marine resources, but are unable or unwilling to provide any evidence of any program of work in this direction. In a statement called 'The declaration of St Kitts,' Caribbean stakeholders urged Caribbean politicians to 'Vote for the Caribbean,' to vote for the interest of their own people instead of the interest of Japan.

"In support of their position, the stakeholders brought witnesses from the whale watching industry to make the point that whales were more profitable to the Caribbean alive than dead. As some people say, whales should be seen, not hurt. A stakeholder from the Dominican Republic related how in one locality, Samana, whale watching, in an annual 65-day season, brings in more than $15 million in direct and indirect revenue."

Japanese consumers don't want to eat them. And Caribbean nations make more money from tourists who want to watch them than from slaughtering them.

In fairness to Japan, it is not the only nation that wants freedom to slaughter unlimited numbers of whales. Norway flouts the ban on commercial whaling. Iceland slaughters a lesser number. Even we in the United States allow our "indigenous" hunters to take a few for "sustenance." I've witnessed whale hunting in Alaska by natives sporting high-powered, scoped, elaborate weapons. It's a sorry, sorry spectacle.

Japan claims it "harvests" the whale humanely. But Australia presented evidence to the commission of the high seas bloodbath the Japanese create when they kill these regal creatures. Environmentalists who filmed Japanese boats whaling in the Antarctic say that some animals took 30 minutes to die and showed videos of whales being hoisted aboard expansive vessels, flailing with skins ripped wide open, surrounded by huge pools of red-stained seawater. Any observer who could live with himself after witnessing that sort of spectacle (many relish it) deserves a similar fate.


Bonnie Erbe is a TV host and writes this column for Scripps Howard News Service.
E-mail bonnieerbe(at)
Distributed to subscribers for publication by Scripps Howard News Service.

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