So the 2012 whaling season in the Southern Ocean has started and I have to admit to always being a little confused as to why so many people have such a huge problem with whaling.
I’ve done this as a talkback topic over the years and the main answers are “It’s a horrific way to die” and “The Japanese are lying as they claim that the whales are for ‘research’ and we all know they are eating them.” Both of those statements I agree to, but the passion around this issue, aimed solely at the Japanese, seems to far out-way the hunting of whales.
Let me just put in here, as a disclaimer to the negative response sure to come, that I don’t like the hunting and killing of whales, I don’t want to do it, I don’t like to see it, and I don’t want to get into a conversation about being ‘pro whale hinting’, it’s not that, it’s just the confusion around why we Westerners have the luxury of saying that the Japanese are ‘bad’ for whaling but ignore lots of other areas that to me seem similar.
Did you know that Japan is not the only country who hunt whales, yet they have the light shone on them for. Amongst others Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Indonesia, Norway, The United States and Russia still actively hunt whales but very little, if any focus ever comes onto those countries for their harvesting of this majestic mammal. Norway and Iceland actually hunt on a commercial basis selling their whale meat openly in their communities.
For the 2012 season, it’s been released that the Japanese want to harvest 900 Minke Whales and 50 Fin Whales…is that a lot? Well that’s what we need to know.
The Minke population in the Southern Hemisphere alone is between 665,000 and 761,000, although that is thought to be half the population of the 1980s. The Fin population seems harder to nail down as I have seen estimations as low as 35,000 and as high as 119,000. Obviously there is room to challenge the catching of Fin Whales based on their population, but I do note that between 1988 and 2009 they have only taken 14 Fin Whales in total.
So why does the Western world find this so abhorrent? We happily hunt and kill other mammals putting them through stress and horrific deaths like deer stalking. We happily use technology to gain the upper hand when we hunt other majestic animals like using fish finders to locate swordfish and we happily kill and consume animals in their millions that other cultures would find offensive to kill like our propensity for beef not caring how a billion Hindu feel about it. So what is it about whales?
The other issue of contention for me is the people that are the face of fighting this hunting of whales. Paul Watson and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.
Paul Watson was one of the people who started Greenpeace but Greenpeace removed him after he became too aggressive during a protest over sealing. Watson’s actions led Greenpeace to lose their charity status for a time in America. From his post as the head of the Sea Shepherd group is he responsible for ramming, and sinking several boats all of which they have claimed responsibility for. His crew carries firearms and it has been documented on numerous occasions that members of the Sea Shepherd have shot at people trying to legally remove them from an area they are not entitled to be and they were removed from the IWC, they had observer status with them and lost that due to what the IWC called the ” Sea Shepherd’s acts of terrorism.”
Let me say again, I am not a ‘fan’ of hunting but likewise I am not a fan of killing all sorts of animals, if you are a carnivore or omnivore then check out the documentary Earthlings about how we treat other forms of meat…then point the bone at the Japanese. I think you’ll find it more difficult, we Westeners treat animals pretty badly as well.
But what is it with whales?
I have to be honest, if I was in Japan and someone offered me a taste of whale I’d probably try it. I don’t like how whales are harvested but it would be hypocritical of me to damn the Japanese, whilst leaving off the list all the other countries hunting whales let alone shouting from the rooftops how that steak got on my dinner table tonight.