Japan has just announced that it’s leaving the International Whaling Commission to resume commercial hunting in July 2019.
As a middle-class, white British national living a privileged life of questionable significance in Britain, my opinion on the matter of Japanese whaling is of no real importance whatsoever. I have only been to Japan once, as a foetus, so my knowledge is based entirely on documentaries about tsunamis and weird sex fetishes in Tokyo. I accept too that my credibility regarding the subject of Japanese whaling is diminished by the fact that I regularly support the slaughter of animals (namely birds, pigs and cows) in my own country by buying bits of their dead flesh in plastic packets from Aldi.
Despite all of this – my hypocrisy, my naivety, my inexperience, my complete lack of understanding about Japanese culture – despite all of this, I feel compelled to write this post because I was upset and horrified to hear this morning that Japan is going to lift its ban on commercial whaling in July. The ban has been in place since 1986 (apart from a clause in the moratorium which allowed Japan to kill over 900 whales every winter in the name of scientific research – which in itself is pretty sickening). This ban has allowed the minke whale population to restore after the devastating affects of World War II, when whale meat was constantly on the menu.
Right now, close-knit minke whale families are migrating across the ocean towards the North Pacific. They are intelligent animals with loyal, sophisticated family structures and even, according to recent research, distinct cultures and social behaviours that differ group to group just like ours. Some whales, specifically humpbacks, have been observed intervening when groups of orcas have attacked other species like seals and dolphins. This is not the same as protecting their own calves or family members for survival reasons – this is protecting another, completely separate species. They will put themselves in danger to protect OTHER SPECIES, which could mean that some whales are altruistic. And why not? They are highly intelligent animals. There is still so much we don’t know about them.
Next summer, commercial whaling ships will await the arrival of whale families in the seas around Japan. The harpoons used to kill whales are designed to explode inside the animal’s body upon impact. Often the hits are not fatal and some whales are harpooned several times before they die. Some are winched by their tails with their heads underwater until they drown, some are shot multiple times with rifles. Whales are able to slow their breathing and heart rate, which means that even if they appear dead or unconscious, they are probably still feeling extreme pain.
The huge dead or dying bodies will then be hoisted up onto the ships, disembowelled and sold for meat that, according to one poll, 88.8% of Japanese people no longer eat. During the war whale meat was a staple food in Japan (and common in Britain too). It was often the only type of meat anyone ate. Now the country doesn’t need whale meat for economic reasons – and in fact fewer and fewer people do.
Why whale then?
I’ve read in a few places that whaling is an important part of Japanese culture and that we sanctimonious Brits should keep our noses out of it.
I also read that BBC Tokyo correspondent Rupert Wingfield-Hayes attended a private briefing in which a high-ranking member of the Japanese government said this:
“Antarctic whaling is not part of Japanese culture. It is terrible for our international image and there is no commercial demand for the meat. I think in another 10 years there will be no deep sea whaling in Japan.”
The journalist’s natural response was something along the lines of WHY WON’T YOU STOP IT THEN YOU IMBECILE? And the official said:
“There are some important political reasons why it is difficult to stop now.”
Let’s get this straight: whales = beautiful, fascinating, intelligent, compassionate creatures. Politicians = nothing close to any of these things.
Understandably unsatisfied with the official’s response, the BBC correspondent asked his contact Junko Sakuma, a former Greenpeace Japan worker and whaling researcher, what she thought these ‘political reasons’ were likely to be. She said it was down to the fact that Japan’s whaling is government-run, and so cutting the budgets and staff in this area would bring ‘tremendous shame’ to the bureaucrats running the offices.
“Most of the bureaucrats will fight to keep the whaling section in their ministry at all costs. And that is true with the politicians as well. If the issue is closely related to their constituency, they will promise to bring back commercial whaling. It is a way of keeping their seats.”
Politics. Every terrible injury we have ever inflicted upon our poor, broken planet started with a room full of talkative idiots in suits trying to impress and intimidate one another.
Why should whales have to die for that? For a plague of bald monkeys who thought they owned the world. For human pride. For popularity. For power.
What can we DO about this?
Kill all humans.
Or, failing mass genocide, we can find the organisations that have the influence and resources to maybe, just maybe make an impact.
The Whale and Dolphin Conservation is the leading charity dedicated to the protection of whales and dolphins. You can donate to help stop Japanese whaling here. It’s a thousand times better than buying some shit you found in a Boxing Day sale, you crazy human.