Japan: A Nation That Continues to Slaughter Whales

While many nations across the globe have abandoned the unnecessary hunting and slaughtering of whales due to the cruelty and danger it poses to these majestic mammals, Japan has continued to slaughter them both in national and international waters. According to the New York Times, Japan’s exit from the International Whaling Commission is a politically motivated move despite Japan noting that whale hunting is a part of their culture and is the main reason why they are exiting from the International Whaling Commission.

What Is the International Whaling Commission?

The International Whaling Commission is a global body that conserves and manages whaling, has a member count of eighty-nine countries, and addresses conservation issues like bycatch, entanglement, ocean noise, pollution, debris, sustainable whale watching, and collisions between ships and whales. The International Whaling Commission was established back in 1946 as a way to manage commercial whaling but in 1986 the IWC put a moratorium on hunting whales. Why? Back in the 1970s, the whaling populations took a massive plummet and so a moratorium was put into effect and has been left indefinitely as such despite intensive lobbying by countries that look to defend commercial whaling, such as Japan, Norway, and Iceland.

How Did Japan Flout the Moratorium All These Years?

The moratorium that was put in place in 1986 was to prohibit commercial whaling temporarily. Unfortunately, Japan used a loophole to flout the prohibition by using “scientific research” as their way into slaughtering thousands of sperm whales, fin whales, and minke whales. Subsequently, the whales that were slaughtered from their national shores were sold off into the domestic market as a meat source. However, with Japan’s exit from the International Whaling Commission, they can no longer slaughter thousands of whales through “scientific research” which is good news for whales off of the shores of Antarctica as Japan will be limiting its commercial whaling operations to its own territorial waters. Although this is good news for some populations of whales, it does mean that Japan has effectively declared itself as a “pirate whaling nation” since they are no longer pretending to abide by the international rules set by the International Whaling Commission.

How the Cultural Significance is a False Claim?

The main reason cited by Japan for exiting the International Whaling Commission was that commercial whaling is a central part to their nation’s identity. Now while the hunting of whales for their meat and their natural oils does have a history within Japan culture, being a major food source after World War Two, this is no longer the case. According to Wired Magazine,  the Japanese’s taste for whale meat has declined significantly, just like it has in other former whaling regions. The Nippon Research Center did a survey on this back in 2012 and actually found that 90% of Japan’s population had not bought whale meat in the past year while only a quarter of the population actually supported commercial whale fishing as a moral and legal operation. With less than a thousand people employed in the whaling industry within Japan, it’s hard to say that commercial whaling is central to Japan’s identity, especially when you place this beside indigenous communities in Alaska and Greenland who also claim that whale hunting has cultural significance.

Beyond this, Japan never noted to the commission what their intentions or plans are in this continued practice. The commission is not aware of what impact their operations will have on global whale populations or even how many whales will be caught and slaughtered. This is what makes it seem like Japan’s International Whaling Commission exit is a political move and a foolish one at that.

A Foolish Decision to Exit from the IWC

Due to the fact that Japan’s population is hardly in support of commercial whaling, it seems like the Japanese government’s decision is just a short-term ploy to posture those who defend the traditional way of life. This will end up being a foolish decision on Japan’s part as there is a universal obligation to protect the planet and the dwindling resources that we have. Japan has generally always supported multilateral efforts with regards to environmental initiatives, which is why this dismissive attitude is foolish, dangerous, and irresponsible.