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They Can Add Calf Killers to Their Resume

February 17, 2008 3 comments

In the Saturday, February 9th, 2008 online edition of the Japan Times, C. W. Nicol wrote an op-ed entitled, “Killing Calves Makes Japan’s Whaling Indefensible,” which dots Japan’s whaling resume with another marker of blood. The interesting thing about his position is that he used to be a supporter of whaling, as he says here,

In the past, I have made myself pretty unpopular abroad in speaking out in defense of Japan taking whales for food, as long as the whalers abided by a scientific quota and observed IWC rules.

But with obvious astonishment at recent events he seems to have changed his opinion.

The sight of a dead whale doesn’t shock me because I’ve seen thousands. However, to see obvious and irrefutable evidence that Japanese whalers had crossed the line to killing calves, and probably a mother and calf, was too much.

He describes, with great detail, his experiences with the Japanese whaling industry. He is very knowledgeable on this subject. Not only has he seen Japanese whaling practices up close but also the whaling practices of other cultures,

Having lived with Inuit hunters in Canada, I could see nothing wrong in taking marine mammals for food. In the Antarctic especially, there were plentiful minke whales, thousands of them, and in no way could the species be called endangered.

I gather, he feels quite strongly about the recent events within the Japanese whaling community to be writing such an article.

In a previous post entitled, “Letter to the Japanese Whaling Association,” which I actually sent, via-email, to the Japan Whaling Association, I outlined why whale hunting should be discontinued in Japan. For Japan, I gather it is less about a viable food source, and more about ego. No one likes being told what to do. But sometimes, a nation and culture must look at itself and ask, “Is this really necessary?” Hopefully they come to a ‘right’ answer.

I just want to mention, I’m not 100% opposed to whale hunting (whether that matters or not). And I actually make my home in Japan. I take part in local community events and support Japan on many fronts. I just don’t support Japan on this front.

Nicol, even though he comes down on the side of the anti-whaling group still supports a small regional hunt for cultural purposes, which I can agree as well,

Perhaps one answer would be to preserve the tradition and skills of whaling by a very limited, well-observed and controlled coastal hunt. That is a decision Japan must make for itself.

My major issue with all this is the open lie. I would have more respect for the Japanese on this issue, if they would just admit, 100%, that they want to kill whales for food, and want to make money from it. I hate smokescreens and lies in situations like this. In the guise of scientific research they will kill 1,000 whales this year (including a scheduled 50 Humpback Whales – considered by some to be as intelligent a species as we’ve ever observed). If they want to see how far we can push a species to extinction without actually making them extinct then they are doing a good job. Or if they want to see how to bring a species back from possible extinction, then they are on the right track. I gather though, those are not the goals of the Japanese scientific community. Just say, “We want to kill whales for food and money.” So much easier to defend yourself that way.

I’m not a whale expert, but one responded to my first whaling article (thank you), and after doing some extra research of my own, I was even more hardened towards whale hunting in this context. Finally, C. W. Nicol states,

However, with this new lack of judgment in taking a minke calf, which no boatswain directing the movements of the ship from the crow’s nest, and certainly no harpooner worth his salt could mistake for an adult, I feel I can no longer justify further support for Japan’s Antarctic whaling. By the way, I am British-born, but a citizen of Japan.

“With rising fuel costs, with tons of frozen whale meat stored unused in warehouses, and with anger at home and abroad with Japan’s Antarctic whaling now so intense,” I just hope someday the Japanese Whaling community listens to its “longtime friend(s)” and curtails its whaling operations.

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Letter to the Japanese Whaling Association

November 29, 2007 12 comments

Dear Japan Whaling Association,

Your website is very informative with regards to Japan’s whaling and the detailed account of the history with regards to “culture” of whaling in Japan.  I actually agree with the part about imposing one’s views on another culture.  That said, hamburgers from the United States, meat pies from Australia, and fish and chips from England hardly relate/equate to slaughtering whales disguised as research.   Just say that you are going to defy the bans because you hate being told what to do.  Simple, people would have more respect this nation.

Another point, Japan’s “culture” of whaling pales in comparison to that of the Alaskan Inuit and various other indigenous populations.  Documented remains of whaling date back to 4500 BC (and they didn’t come from Japan).  Japan’s well documented whaling history comes in to play around the 12th century of the modern AD era.  Also, the drastic turn in Japan’s “culture” of whaling really began in 1906, and then during the aftermath of WWII (and by Japan’s accounts even much later) to fill a gap in meat based protein.  Understandable, but now I believe that protein gap has been filled to a great degree by a plethora of alternative choices.

I will always say that animals do not need to be killed to do research.  No human would accept the killing of another human to find out why humans live so long, or why cellular reproduction happens so rapidly, or how much energy brain impulses generate, or just how dense one’s heart really is, etc.  The reason we do not do this is because we have found much more humane ways of conducting such research.  I do not want to take away the “scientific research” of the Japanese whaling “culture,” but if your HUNTS are not about profit or supplying food for the Japanese population why not find a way to not kill the whales you HUNT?  Speaking of HUNT – last time I checked the dictionary it meant to kill something for sport or food.  I guess we can add “scientific research” to that definition.

Once again let me reiterate I do not want to stop the science-based research Japan is doing.  We need research if we want to figure out the intricacies of these animals that have roamed these oceans and Earth longer than humans.  I am sure with the cooperation of other nations Japan can find non-lethal ways to carry-out the research it needs to support its experiments.  Do the research just don’t kill the patients.

This issue is not about animal rights, although I believe animals have just as much right to life as a human.  For whatever magical reason humans were given the gift of reason.  We were given the gift to defy instinct and move through our lives with an acute awareness of logic, rationality, and hindsight (although we seem to forget this all to often).  We are thinkers.  Does that make us any more intelligent than other species?  I say no.  Body mass proportionality has nothing to do with intelligence.  That said, this issue is about one thing – honesty and ego.  Japan wants to HUNT whales to feed a population that doesn’t need it for survival.  Japan is using culture and tradition to justify keeping a dead industry alive because people have private interests in it.  In reality it helps no one – least of all the 127 million people living in Japan (or the 6 billion living on this planet).  I live in Japan, and I see what Japanese people eat every day.  Most of the menus I see at restaurants do not contain whale meat.  I walk into shopping markets and do not see “regular” people buying whale meat (unless they are rich-upper class folk). I am married to a Japanese woman and never once was served whale for breakfast, lunch or dinner. I just don’t see the argument for continuation of hunting whales. 

One might say, “Not held in check whales would eat all the fish in the ocean leaving none for humans.”  Great, then how about this novel idea – why don’t humans change their diets?  Why can’t we change?  If we are so intelligent and adaptable, and at the top of the food chain, why can’t we change?  Japan is blessed with far better conditions to live than the Inuit and other indigenous peoples who live in the Arctic Circle regions of the world.  Let them hunt the whales they need.  They’ve been doing it for thousands of years and they seem to understand how to balance it out.  I trust them far more to honestly regulate whale numbers than the nation of Japan.  They have less choice than a nation like Japan.  Japan has far more fertile land and has a greater economic diversity with which to deal with such cultural change.

Lastly, if Japan really wants to profit from whales invest in tourism – whale watching.  What better way to truly enjoy whales than to watch them in their natural habitats somewhat undisturbed.  The boats will already disturb them but at least if we keep a good distance they won’t kill them.  Various U.S. states make quite a bit of money through whale watching.  If Japan is truly committed to monitoring these animals of the deep then watch them and chart their patterns through life.  Watch how they interact with the environment around them.  What better way to teach children the harmony of nature and fruitfulness of life.  Take the families of Japan on a whale watching expedition and show them the beauty of these animals because the reality is there isn’t that many left, even by the numbers you have

Humans have done the most damage to the balance of the Earth’s oceanic ecosystem, not whales.  Humans have depleted the fisheries, not whales. We’ve polluted the oceans causing toxin levels within marine life to skyrocket making it unhealthy for us to consumer such meat in mass quantities.  

We are destroying ocean fisheries by contaminating them with heavy metals and chemical pollutants,” said Ocean Alliance president Roger Payne. “In the next few years we could lose access to many ocean fisheries; several species are already well on the way to becoming too polluted to eat. I am amazed by how few people recognize the seriousness of this issue.   

We need to study why we as a species continue to destroy our own planet, blame it on other species, and live out of balance with our global ecosystem.  Study that.

(P.S. – To see the Japanese side of this issue without my bias see this website for the Japan Whaling Association.)