Sunday, March 9, 2008

Whacking Whales for Wada

To the Japanese, the slaughter of whales for human consumption is not merely a matter of culture, tradition or economics. There exists a national mindset in Japan that their food sources, manner of processing, and method of acquisition, is a matter of justice; it is not an issue of conservation but an issue of sovereignty. This is the core of the information gathered by BBC Correspondent Chris Hogg after a visit to a small Japanese coastal town of Wada that hunts whales, and dresses and prepares these for the market, in the town's whale meat processing factory.

The International Whaling Commission (IWC), of which Japan is a member, continues to search for a common ground between pro and anti whaling nations. But even this body has inadequate teeth to implement its own rules, and there are vague areas in terms of its control over its members. The IWC bans commercial whaling but not all species are covered by the ban. It allows whaling for scientific study (Japan) but lets individual countries issue their own permits; to the extent that 900 whales are killed in one expedition. It issues a moratorium on whaling but cannot act on a unilateral objection filed by a country (Norway) that defies its order. It permits aborigines (Alaskan Inupiat) to hunt whales for food.

Mr. Yoshinori Shoji is Wada's town whaler and he epitomizes what the Japanese feel about the issue. Mr. Shoji catches mostly Baird's Beaked whales. His haul is 14 a year. Japanese imposed quotas allow him only 3 summer months to hunt. In his view, the Japanese have been eating whales for 400 years, and he sees no difference between hunting fish and hunting whales. He agrees that some species need to be protected, like the blue whale, but others are abundant; and when hunting can be made sustainable, no one has the right to make him stop. He deplores the government's lack of effort to spread its message to opponents of whaling, that whales have traditionally been food for the Japanese.

Pressure on Japan to end whaling have been ignored and the country's insistence on the practice has tarnished its image abroad. In countries where strong opposition exists, like Australia, expeditions are mounted in an attempt to thwart the whaling activities. The Japanese see these protest efforts as publicity to generate more donors and allow countries to show that tax money is being spent sensibly. It is an area where whalers cannot compete. Protesters, on the other hand doubt the scientific purpose of Japan's whale hunt that run into thousands annually, saying that the animals need not be slaughtered to be studied, nor that many be butchered for the purpose.

The other contentious issue is the question of abundance or depletion. Scientific data on whale species, number, life span, reproduction and mating cycles, among others, is sorely inadequate as these mammals are difficult to track. The Japanese have challenged this data base and have decided to conduct their own conservation efforts through the scientific study that it conducts yearly.

If in a single expedition more than a thousand whales are killed, how long before there will be nothing left to study? After their "tests", the same whales are sold to meat factories for conversion to sashimi. Perhaps the tests are to determine if these are edible, or to remove the poison that they suspect were fed by conservationists. As the Japanese successfully continue their tradition and enjoy the sovereignty of their whale jerky, whale steaks, whale burgers, and whale whatever you want, the whalers will continue to use "scientific research" as a whale of an excuse to get away with slaughter. After feasting on the meat of this noble animal, may these consumers produce a whale of a by-product that will have ten times the difficulty of exiting their back portal. And may this difficulty become an excruciating part of their tradition.



dcunnz said...

Maybe the following comment should be published through out the world.
Japan should be reminded that a lot of countries and different tribes used to have cannibalism as part of their culture.
Under pressure from the rest of the world these countries and tribes have all quit their cannibalism and have taken it out of their culture.
Japan is under pressure from the rest of the world to stop its Whale slaughtering so why don’t they take whaling out of their culture just as the others took cannibalism out of theirs.
Whaling is only a very minute part of their culture.
If Japanese pride is what is stopping them then maybe another nuke bomb might remind them that they are not superior to the rest of the world as they found out in WW2.
Japanese are not going to die of starvation if they stop whaling.
(Maybe if Japan turned to cannibalism instead of whaling to get their nourishment the rest of the world might leave them alone and stop hassling them.)

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hi Dcunnz,

Welcome to the Spitting Vessel!

The Japanese are very protective of their culture, and any intrusion is naturally viewed as undermining their sovereignty which is a terrible injustice; because they don't undermine other countries by attacking their cultural traditions. This is their way of thinking.

While I am with you that they should mend this small portion of their culture, I think an A-bomb is a little bit too much. :-)

The IWC is an impotent body and I suspect that some of its members secretly favor continued whaling. Until definitive data on the number of whales per species are gathered, this controversy will not end. Although Japan has issued quotas to its own whalers, the annual expeditions for alleged scientific study is disturbing, perhaps because everyone knows it's a cover up for the real intent - Sashimi.

If they are really serious, they will disallow whale meat for daily consumption and not let the kids develop the taste for this. Children in Japan are aware of the global objection to whaling, and this should be nurtured so that consumption decline among its citizens lead to culture change at some future date - while the number per specie is being determined. At the rate that indiscriminate scientific tests are being conducted, it becomes increasingly suspect if these are done by scientists at all or simply by chefs and butchers. --Durano, done!

Blogtommy said...

Senseless animal slaughter in the name of anything is wrong.


durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hi Tommy,

Our view is that it's senseless, but the thing is, they have a very different perspective of this activity.

I feel I can say what needs to be said wherever I am, but I would not say a thing if I'm in Japan. I may be on the Sashimi menu. :-) I would taste better though. :-) --Durano, done!

The Fitness Diva said...

The same way the consumption of dog is now being addressed in various parts of Asia. We see it as barbaric and senseless, but dog, cat and various other animals we see as pets and/or endangered specie have been on the menus of many cultures since the beginning of time.
Getting various peoples to see the barbarism in cannibalism is easier than telling Japanese, Chinese or whoever that they should stop hunting their oh so tasty whale, or catching and caging dogs for consumption.

In India, I do believe the cow is sacred, but Indians don't try to influence the rest of the world with this belief.

This is a hard one. Imagine if we were told that we shouldn't be mass producing, slaughtering and eating chicken? Or pigs? What would be your reaction?

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hi Fitness Diva,

Good point about India and the dog eaters of Asia.

However, I wouldn't raise a howl if the Japanese could mass produce and domesticate whales, then they can slaughter all they want.:-) --Durano, done!