Let whales live

CLEARLY, commerce, and not the spirit of science, is the dominant motive behind Japan’s whaling expedition; and it must be stopped.

Despite an international moratorium on hunting, that had taken effect in 1966 in order to save the species from extinction, Japan is apparently going ahead with its agenda.

As Japan’s whaling fleet set off on a hunting expedition to the Antarctic ocean yesterday, tension was palpable; and quite understandably so. Environmental activists under the banner of Greenpeace — as also the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society — were quick to declare that the fleet would be closely followed and monitored by a team aboard the ship, Esperanza. Their intervention shows the strength that conservation movements have gained over the years. This is an admirable development.

In effect, Japan is exploiting a loophole in the international law that would allow limited hunting of the species for research purposes.

Japan maintains that whale hunting is an old tradition in the country. But, that is in reality an imported tradition. It started in the economically difficult days after World War II, when, ironically, American officials stationed there recommended it as “cheap protein”. It can no more be an excuse. According to reports, Japan kills over 1,000 whales a year in the Antarctic as well as the Pacific, citing research as the chief objective, but openly taking the flesh to dinner plates.

There is some truth in the argument that Australia is in the forefront of the Western resistance to the resumption of whale hunting — a species that, Japan claims, has grown in numbers in the aftermath of the 1966 moratorium. Humpback whales are special to Australia, as the species migrates northwards to Australia’s coast to breed. About 1.5 million tourists flock to its coast every year to watch the phenomenon, fetching $225 million in revenues. This could result in the Japanese-Australian relations, already facing odd weather for some time, sinking to a new low, diplomatically or otherwise. This is also a reason why Japan should have had second thoughts before setting sail to the Antarctic this time.

Japan, to its credit, has a pacifist constitution, which restrains it from engaging in wars. The ethos of peace and non-violence has a special bearing on it after the disastrous WW-II. That was after it learned lessons from the inhuman acts of aggression and torture it inflicted on the hapless populations in its neighbourhood. Japan must stay the course of peace and non-violence, not only with respect to human beings, but also with regard to other living beings.

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