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39 responses to “Why does Japan keep whaling?”

  1. hazym

    We could equally ask “Why does Norway keep whaling?” Why does Iceland keep whaling? Why does Russia keep whaling?why does..well you get the point.

    We could also ask why we always concentrate on the Japanese whalers. Tell me its not the “R” word.

    For perspective, 45 sperm whales committed suicide yesterday in Tassie. The total number of strandings in the past 3 months in just southern Tasmania exceeds 250. Maybe Greenpeace would be better served by sending the ‘Sea Shepherd’ to guide these supposedly intelligent creatures away from land. Maybe the IWC could vote on teaching whales the difference between land and sea.

    Meanwhile, would it be terribly gauche to mention that the dugong slaughter continues…and continues uncommented upon.

  2. MH

    The kanji character for whale is a combination of two parts, the first being the sign for fish. Nearly all kanji characters for fish names, from snapper to kingfish, are of the same two-part design.

    So the point is that the Japanese think that whales are really fish?

  3. Robert Merkel

    Hazym: for what it’s worth, I think whaling is blown out of all proortion in Australia.

    while I oppose whale hunting on the basis that a) it’s not humane, and b) it’s unclear that the catch is sustainable. However, there are a lot of other practices which pose much greater concerns on both counts, and attract a tiny fraction of the attention.

  4. Robert Merkel

    MH: no, the point is that Japan is worried that if they cave on whales, next stop is their (unsustainable) tuna and salmon operations.

    BTW, from what I understand Australia’s tuna fisheries aren’t all that admirable either.

  5. clarencegirl

    “MH: no, the point is that Japan is worried that if they cave on whales, next stop is their (unsustainable) tuna and salmon operations.

    BTW, from what I understand Australia’s tuna fisheries aren’t all that admirable either.”

    Think you’re right, Robert.

  6. Andrew E

    Why does Robert Merkel answer his own question?

  7. Robert Merkel

    Andrew E: maybe it’s because I’m not entirely convinced that one article I’ve dug up on the internet is the whole story, and I’m hoping somebody has more information.

    It could also be that I’ve got the written equivalent of the Australian end-of-sentence raised inflection.

  8. patrickg

    Tuna is terrible, and the Japanese have been lying about their catches for years, raping the ocean doing it, and screwing everyone else in the world ultimately. )Let the record reflect we’re better, but still bad.

    Regarding why Australians give such a shit, I would argue that proximity, and that these oceans are areas popularly thought of as “ours”, and the number of aussies on the boats, etc. I’m not saying racism isn’t involved at all, but not solely involved.

  9. patrickg

    As to why they don’t stop. I think the quote about the fisheries issue is at least partly right, see here.

    Also though, I would put this in context of Japanese attitudes towards both nature, and the sea. Land of contrasts is such a cliche, but in some ways true. Japan reveres nature, but at the same time is one of the most polluting/environmentally irresponsible developed nations there is.

  10. MarkL

    Hmm. Is the answer: ‘Whales are tasty with wasabi?’

    MarkL
    Canberra

  11. darin

    Whale With Spicy Cucumber Vinaigrette
    Ingredients:
    1 small cucumber, sliced lengthwise and seeded
    2 to 3 jalapenos, stems and seeds removed
    Salt
    ¼ cup rice vinegar
    ¼ cup nam pla fish sauce
    4 ounces Whale skinned and boned (dugong or dolphin may be substituted)
    Lime, cut into wedges
    Cilantro sprigs, for garnish.

    1. In a food processor, pulse together cucumber the jalapenos and ½ teaspoon salt until finely chopped. Transfer to a bowl, stir in the rice vinegar and fish sauce and set aside. Thinly slice the remaining cucumber into 1/8-by-1/8-by-1-inch sticks.

    2. Using a very sharp knife with the blade lying flat, horizontally slice the whale or smart fish substitute as thinly as possible. Stack 5 or 6 cucumber sticks and wrap with a slice of smart fish.

    3. Place 4 smart fish wraps on each of 4 plates. Spoon the dressing over the fish, sprinkle with lime juice and garnish with cilantro. Serves 4.

  12. Robert Merkel

    MarkL: nope. By every report I’ve read whale meat is pretty awful. That’s why they can’t sell it.

  13. Shaun

    Aye, I’ve tried whale meat. It was in those halcyon days when the last refuge of a scoundrel was English teaching in Japan. Students, wise to the mores of gaijins would sometimes try and way lay the odd sensei and trick them into a bite of what meat. Twice I was caught in such a nefarious trap.

    Sort of salty really. Nothing to write home about.

    I do remember there was a Kiwi guy in the office that was very much into anti-whaling. Baiting him into a spluttering, angry anti-whaling rant was a popular sport.

  14. consumer

    might be an acquired taste… keep trying.

    i used to hate salami which had any hint of that ‘donkey’ character (no other way to describe it!)

  15. Yobbo

    Question: Why does Australia keep killing cows for food despite the protestations of PETA?

    Answer: Because we have always done so, and don’t give a toss what crazy enviromentalists think.

    Whales are the cows of the sea. Regardless of whether you agree with that or not, that is the way that nations like Japan and Norway see them. They see our protests against Whaling as being as ridiculous as the lunatic green fringe protests against any other kind of animal harvesting.

  16. Herman Melville

    “…by every report I’ve read whale meat is pretty awful”

    Arr, tell that to Tashtango, matey!

  17. Paul Burns

    Because Rudd doesn’t send the Australian Navy down ibto Antartica to stop them?

  18. MarkL

    Robert, I have eaten it on several occasions. I agree that the way the Japanese restaurants prepare it is quite poor. Tastes like tough fishy beef. But it’s eaten commonly in the Pacific as a heavy curry (lots of coconut milk) with a hell of a lot of chili. Quite good with taro.

    Dugong, on the other hand, is just awful. It’s just a mass of fat with slim slivers of meat attached.

    MarkL
    canberra

  19. Alan

    Japan, Norway and Iceland keep whaling not because they love whale meat but because of thee bigger issue of who controls the rights to harvest the sea.
    I think they see the International Whaling Commission as the thin edge of the wedge in that if it can say who can fish the open waters then it is only a matter of time before the same ideas are applied to fishing per se. I suppose it is analogous to the US and its obsession with a right to bear arms.

  20. Robert Merkel

    Yobbo, nice theory, doesn’t fit the facts.

    Japan really only went into industrial whaling after WWII, as I understand it. Before that, there were only a few coastal communities who used to eat the stuff regularly.

  21. Bill Posters

    Chasing the Nishin Maru around the Southern Ocean hasn’t achieved a great deal,

    Really? Says who?

  22. Robert Merkel

    Says me.

    If the point is to stop the Japanese from whaling, it’s failing miserably.

  23. boo

    It’s kept a spotlight on the issue and some pressure on the Govt. I’m also pretty sure I read somewhere that the Indonesion authorities refused to let a Japanese whaler dock for repairs after lobbying by protest groups & (here is where I’m really unsure) discussions with the Australian Govt.

  24. Geoff Honnor

    “Japan, Norway and Iceland keep whaling not because they love whale meat but because of thee bigger issue of who controls the rights to harvest the sea.”

    I think this is right. All three countries have strong historical and cultural identity linkage with maritime traditions and whales (and dolphins) are seen as an integral part of the sea harvest – much like Tuna. The Japanese could legitimately ask why we accord a special, protected status to some sections of the sea harvest while hungrily devouring the rest.

    I suspect that the massive western turnaround in this respect over the last few decades is tied into to our propensity for anthropomorphising “cute” or “familiar” species while barbecuing the rest. Whales sing in the sort of health spa friendly way that the octopus does not and David Attenborough is unlikely to feature the loving familial relationships of the Blue Cod in a doco any time soon.

    Maybe the more interesting question is why we – and not the Japanese – have shifted our attitudes so significantly in such a species-specific way.

  25. Tom Davies

    The US pressured Japan to go along with the moratorium, which they did — your article says “not to go along with the moratorium” which contradicts the point you are making — just a typo, but a confusing one.

  26. Robert Merkel

    Thanks Tom. Made the edit.

  27. Andrew E

    Robert@22: oh come on, if the Japanese wanted to go into industrial whaling in a big way, they would do so. One old rustbucket is a sure sign of failure, combined with a stubborn insistence on keeping up appearances. Surely the end of Japanese whaling is nigh.

    Come up with any fresh and arresting insights yet?

    Yobbo: you’re falling into the same anthropomorphising trap as the lunatic environmentalists (are there any other kind?), which doesn’t allow for any reasoning in this debate beyond the pride of a few people in a couple of northern hemisphere countries (what about Iceland, or are you bound by the Don’t Kick People When They’re Down Act?).

  28. furious balancing

    Andrew E – “you’re falling into the same anthropomorphising trap as the lunatic environmentalists (are there any other kind?), which doesn’t allow for any reasoning in this debate beyond the pride of a few people in a couple of northern hemisphere countries (what about Iceland, or are you bound by the Don’t Kick People When They’re Down Act?).”

    I’m an environmentalist and I’m not a lunatic. I think whaling is one of the least important conservation issues there is, and I think whale hunting is probably not currently the key threat to species diversity in the Southern and Antarctic Oceans, particularly with Japan agreeing not to target humpback whales.

    I feel that the Australian governments approach which simply emphasises an anti-whaling stance, does not allow for a sophisticated discussion about matters such as species abundance and the sustainability of the catch.

    I think Geoff H is right to ask – “Maybe the more interesting question is why we – and not the Japanese – have shifted our attitudes so significantly in such a species-specific way.”

    My cynical supposition is that it’s an easy issue for our government to ‘profit’ from in terms of promoting an environmental issue that the majority of Australians, regardless of their political leanings, tend to agree on.

    I would have thought that Australia’s own Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act [EPBC] would oblige the government to act on whale hunting in Australian waters, as, unlike most species where the Act specifies that a species or ecological community be rated as threatened or endangered before a species recovery plan is commissioned and threat mitigation is implemented. The fact that they don’t act reinforces my belief that there rhetoric is simply populism.

    To be even more cynical, it probably doesn’t serve the government for Australians to develop a sophisticated understanding of the EPBC Act.

  29. furious balancing

    ^^ sorry, I seem to have accidentally deleted part of my post.

    It should read:

    I would have thought that Australia’s own Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act [EPBC] would oblige the government to act on whale hunting in Australian waters, as, unlike most species where the Act specifies that a species or ecological community be rated as threatened or endangered before a species recovery plan is commissioned and threat mitigation is implemented, the EPBC prohibits whale hunting.

    “It is an offence to injure, take, trade, keep, move, harass, chase, herd, tag, mark or brand a cetacean in the Australian Whale Sanctuary without a permit.”

  30. jane

    Why does Japan keep whaling? Because they can.

  31. Nabakov

    Some apparently unconnected observations.

    I once encountered a whale while diving off Taveuni. Boy, did it have a presence well beyond its sheer bulk. OK, it was only a pilot whale. But it was fucking big yet just affably cruising along and seemed quite amused for a while by us prodding it. Then it got obviously bored and with a swash of its tale fin, it just took off like a torpedo. I’ve never been so clearly rejected by a cetacean before.

    On the other hand whale tastes awful. What I ate once managed to combine the worse bits of beef and fish. Maybe if you marinated it for while. Like several years.

    Whaling tactics are pretty fucking disgusting. Like nailing a calf and using it’s distress calls to attract others. I doubt any red blooded hunter would think that’s fair game.

    As Geoff and others has pointed out, whaling is matter of cultural heritage and national pride in conquering the elements that surround insular island societies. Fool around with such things at your own risk.

    Greenpeace and the Japanese whalers, although neither will admit it, I reckon are having the time of their lives facing off against eachother. Life’s generally as boring as whaleshit on a Japanese whaling factory ship while the seafaring Greenpeace mob are usually scions of the middle class rediscovering their pirate heritage. All sides, after many long days at sea doing boring housekeeping stuff, are really getting off on the adrenaline rush of water cannon and zodiac duels.

    If the Japanese were real serious about whalemeat as a part of their diet, the where’s the push to breed them domestically in large pens in the Inland Sea. The artificial insemination efforts alone should spin off some great footage for the country that gave us tentacle porn. (Wait till they finally get a giant squid in captivity. Their TV dating shows really will ratchet up a notch. You’ve chosen Bachelor No 2. Dagon!)

    Never mind the whales, what about the bees? Those buzzy little buggers are experiencing serious die off. If we lose them, then we’re really fucked.

    And never mind the bees, several million people have died in the Congo over the past decade mainly to keep us in mobile phones. Everyone has a right to set, act on and promote their priorities. But personally I’ve given up trying to prioritise other’s priorities. Saving the snow leopard is good though. I like snow leopards.

    And as jane just said – Why does Japan keep whaling? Because they can. To convince them otherwise means dealing with a proud, powerful and subtle culture on their own terms. Greenpeace should just hire the people behind Hello Kitty to do the same with whales. Then Japanese support for whaling would vanish within a generation and even a 5% cut of the merchandising would fund Greenpeace in perpetuity.

  32. JM

    Interesting thing about whale meat:- the Japanese don’t even eat the stuff in any great quantity. Most of it ends up in pet food.

    Bit of history. Whales, while hunted in very small numbers traditionally, only became a big business after the war when food was scarce.

    The result is that it has a similar status to tripe in Oz, ie. it’s poor food, the food eaten in bad times. Some of the older generation still eat it but it’s mostly acquired taste and nostalgia.

    I went to Tsukiji the main fish market in Tokyo a few years ago to watch the fish auctions and although there are masses of stalls selling everything else I really had to hunt down the whale meat area – only 4 small stalls. Most of it had been sold in bulk to the pet food suppliers.

    They don’t eat it, really they don’t. The whale industry is an industry sheltered by government subsidy so the owners can recoup the cost of the ships. And the owners are politically connected so that’s why they built the ships in the first place.

    They’ve got a nice little earner going – donate some money, get the subsidy, have to build the ships to justify the subsidy and just keep rolling.

  33. Yobbo

    Interesting thing about whale meat:- the Japanese don’t even eat the stuff in any great quantity. Most of it ends up in pet food.

    They don’t catch it in any great quantity either. 1000 whales a year isn’t a whole lot for a country of 130 million.

    The result is that it has a similar status to tripe in Oz, ie. it’s poor food, the food eaten in bad times.

    There is an restaurant in Shibuya that serves nothing but whale. I’ve eaten it there and it’s much better (and more popular) than offal.

    It’s not so much like Tripe as it is like Mutton. Sure, in a perfect world we’d eat nothing but Lamb and Steak, but the reality for a lot of people is chicken, mutton, and sausages.

    Of course nobody would bother with it if wasn’t for government subsidies, I’m pretty sure if the Japanese whaling industry was forced to survive on its own, the price of whale due to difficulty of catching them would price itself out of the plates of all but the richest diehard gaijin-hating Yakuza, who would eat it just out of spite for losing the war.

    The biggest problem with whale as food is that you can’t grow a pasture in the sea. (unless you are living in an Arthur C. Clarke novel).

  34. andyc

    Nabs @ 31: so many nails hit on the head that I think you’ve built a McMansion.

    I heart the idea of a Hello Flipper franchise!

    Bravo!!!

  35. Andrew E

    furiousbalancing: I’m taking the piss, get out of the way or you’ll be soaking in it.

  36. furious balancing

    Andrew E, in your mind, you seen to have overemphasised my concern one way or the other. In other words, I couldn’t give a shit about your taking of the piss.

  37. gilmae

    The artificial insemination efforts alone should spin off some great footage for the country that gave us tentacle porn.

    Oh god, no. My imagination!! The years of television watching have done nothing!

  38. Bill Posters

    If the point is to stop the Japanese from whaling, it’s failing miserably.

    So that’s why the Japanese are
    desperate to do a deal that would move much of their activity out of the Southern Ocean, away from the “failing miserably” Sea Shepherd?

  39. Behemoth

    “…unless you are living in an Arthur C. Clarke novel).”

    The Deep Range!

    I read that book while learning to scuba dive. Reality turned out to be somewhat disappointing.