Arguing the toss, spiked style

This week: is it wrong for Japan to want to hunt whales?

The bloody Japanese!

Gosh! What’s that all about? I thought you liked Japan?

I do like Japan. But there is a certain something about the Japanese. Don’t you find they’re a bit, you know, brutal?

You really do have to explain what you’re on about.

Well, the Japanese have just been told by the International Court of Justice to stop hunting minke whales in the Antarctic. They claimed it was for ‘scientific research’, but that’s just bullshit. It was commercial hunting of whales.

What’s wrong with hunting whales, for whatever purpose?

Are you joking? Don’t you remember Save the Whale? They’re being hunted to extinction!

Actually, they’re not. In fact, since most countries stopped whaling, numbers have bounced right back. There’s at least half a million minke whales now, for example, just in the Antarctic, probably over a million worldwide.

So the ban was effective!

The ban was almost certainly excessive. As well as minke whales, a number of other species that were in trouble now exist in healthy numbers. It is perfectly possible to hunt whales at a level that would keep stocks plentiful without having an outright ban. The problem with the Grand Banks near Canada, where the cod stocks collapsed after overfishing, is a salutory lesson that everyone concerned has learned. Whalers need whales to hunt, they have no interest in driving them to extinction.

The ban really is way over the top. For example, Japan has also set a quota of 50 sei whales per year, even though they are still called ‘endangered’. Yet there are estimated to be 28,000 sei whales now. So 50 is, er, a drop in the ocean.

Why hunt them at all? Who uses whale products these days?

Well, there are plenty of people who would like to make a livelihood from hunting whales and many who would make use of whale products. If there weren’t people who wanted whale products, nobody would be arguing against the ban. The fact that some countries have carried on is a sign of the commercial importance of whales to specific communities, even if it’s not that important to the overall economy. The real question is: if you can limit whaling to a number that won’t effect the long-term stocks, why not?

Because whales are really intelligent.

By animal standards, maybe. But so are pigs. And you like eating pigs.

But the way they are killed is barbaric. They could be struggling with harpoons or whatever for an hour before they die?

So fish flopping around in a net for a few minutes as they suffocate is okay? In any event, why would a whaler want to struggle with a whale for long periods of time? It would be a waste of time and fuel. They are usually killed quickly. Indeed, some other people say whales are killed too quickly, that the hunt is too one-sided. But that’s a good thing, allowing quick kills.

Anyhow, the thing that’s really barbaric is the attitude towards those who do engage in whaling, particularly the Japanese. As you just nobly demonstrated.

Don’t you think it’s kinda creepy that they keep on whaling? And they trap dolphins and slaughter them, too. I saw a film about it. I mean, dolphins! Who doesn’t like dolphins?

Er, the fish that dolphins eat? It’s a brutal world out there.

Listen, if you want to have an argument about animal rights, that’s fine, we should do that some time. But there’s nothing special about animals that swim. I don’t see any problem with exploiting animals for food, fur, skin, oil or whatever.

I do object to the way that people who hunt whales are portrayed, though, and it’s much more apparent in relation to the Japanese than to, say, the Norwegians. Norwegians are just too cuddly and social democratic to be hated that much. The Japanese, on the other hand, are still treated like an alien species by some people.

Whales are just animals like any other. I see no reason why we shouldn’t hunt for them just like we hunt for other fish. As long as we’re smart about how we do it, there’s no reason why whales and whalers can’t both thrive. What we don’t need are international unaccountable organisations like the International Whaling Commission depriving people of a livelihood, and we don’t need the borderline racism aimed at Japanese people just because Western greens have got a ‘yuk’ response to whale hunting.

Rob Lyons is associate editor at spiked.


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