Wednesday, 2 March 2011
The Asahi Shimbun newspaper editorial of February 22, 2011 indicates that whaling is still being supported by elements within Japanese society, but the focus appears to be turning towards coastal hunts in the vicinity of Japan's territorial waters:
Violent acts of harassment must never be condoned, but the victims should not allow themselves to be pushed around and resort to knee-jerk reactions.
After repeated harassment of Japanese whalers by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, the government last week called off a research whaling mission in the Antarctic Ocean.
Sea Shepherd's harassment tactics included bringing their vessels dangerously close to Japanese whalers and hurling bottles of hazardous chemicals at them. The international community must condemn such activities by this radical anti-whaling group.
That said, however, anti-whaling sentiments run high in the governments and societies of the West. Together with other whaling nations, Japan has for years asserted and defended its right to whaling before the International Whaling Commission (IWC), but there is no solution in sight.
The arguments of the opposing camps are fundamentally irreconcilable. The pro-whaling camp asserts that whales are a "utilizable resource," while the anti-whaling camp sees them as "wild animals that need to be protected."
The Japanese government makes a scientifically valid argument when it points out that there are species of "resource whales," such as Antarctic minkes, that whalers are allowed to hunt. However, the prevalent thinking around the world today is that there is no need to hunt and eat those whales just because of their large population.
So long as the opposing camps hold on to their mutually unacceptable arguments, no resolution to the dispute can be hoped for. Both sides must recognize that no single value system should be forced on the entire world, and try to seek a compromise.
Following last week's decision, the government must think calmly about its future policy. While planning a long-range strategy, we believe the government should ask itself this fundamental question: Is Antarctic whaling truly necessary for Japan?
Japan's position is that it wants to resume commercial whaling in the Antarctic, and that research whaling is a preparatory step. Anti-whaling nations have all sorts of reasons of their own, but they are united in their opposition to commercial whaling in any form, and they are not giving an inch.
Demand for whale meat is not growing at all in Japan, and the nation's ocean-going whaling industry is effectively dead. Given this reality, there is little justification for Japan's stated need to resume commercial whaling in the Antarctic.
The most notable compromise plan so far floated by the IWC is to allow coastal whaling but ban hunting beyond 200 miles of the coast. The basic thinking is that each country should engage in coastal whaling at its discretion. But the international community's majority opinion should be honored for whaling in the Antarctic and other open seas.
We believe this is an appropriate plan. It requires anti-whaling nations to acknowledge whales as a "utilizable resource." But at the same time, Japan should rethink its position and switch course, namely, to downscale and eventually give up Antarctic whaling so long as its right to coastal whaling is guaranteed.
Whether we eat whale meat is our business and nobody else's. And we tend to react with anger when foreign countries tell us we shouldn't eat it. But while refusing to bend to the tactics of Sea Shepherd, we do need to explore a new way of whaling.