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David @ Tokyo

Perspective from Japan on whaling and whale meat, a spot of gourmet news, and monthly updates of whale meat stockpile statistics



IWC 2005: Ignorant western media

Emma Tom in her weekly Wednesday column in The Australian provides an excellent example of just how poor the level of knowledge of the whaling issue is in anti-whaling nations.

I do have to give her credit where it is due - her article is cleverly written, but as far as providing information of any value, fails miserably.

Let's have a look at her various booboos, and to conclude I'll give her some advice for an original column:

1) She starts off by sarcastically questioning whale meat ending up on Japanese sushi trains.

As I have pointed out before, Japan is legally required to make full use of what is left over after the scientists are done. Australia is signatory to the ICRW, which requires this. Since Emma Tom clearly thinks so little of these rules, why isn't she using her column to criticise her hypocritical government? Why isn't she suggesting that, as per Article XI of the ICRW, her government withdraws?

2) Next, she makes the standard anti-whaling assertion that there is no research going on, and that the purpose of the activity is only to get meat on the table (and at the end of the article she suggests that Japanese research methods have been "rejected by every serious research community in the universe").

Like her Prime Minister Johnny Howard, I can but wonder if she has any cetacean science credentials at all. If she wants to know what the IWC Scientific Committee actually thinks of Japan's research programmes, she might like to actually consider the reports which the Scientific Committee have put together on the matter? Nothing of the sort in her article. She appears to have read a press release from an anti-whaling NGO / politician, and without bothering to do her own thinking, blindly accepted the notion of "research whaling as a front for commercial whaling" as a truth. The IWC's Scientific Commitee, surely the world's preeminant forum of cetacean scientists, has never "rejected" lethal whaling as a research method. Even the IWC's homepage contains information about how for example whale ages can be accurately determined by the number of layers of wax on the ear drums.

3) From here on in, she is downright absurd. Next, she demonstrates her ignorance again of the research programmes by suggesting that Japan cetacean scientists could be researched by slaughtering them.

Very very pathetic... Again, one has to refer her to the ICRW, the document to which Australia chooses to remain a signatory, which states clearly that signatory nations are entitled to catch whales for research purposes. Where on earth did she get the idea that murdering scientists and legally taking whales for research purposes as permitted by international agreement is in any way comparable?? Again, if she doesn't like this law (and it seems that judging by her choice of comparison, she doesn't) why isn't she using her article to suggest that Australia withdraw from the Convention?

4) Next she tries to actual provide a reasonable point, but fails anyway. She asserts that there is "academic research questioning the notion that whaling has deep cultural roots in Japan in the first place". She is at pains to add in parenthesis one example of a research who "claims whale meat was eaten by large numbers of Japanese only in the dark decade after World War II."

The Japanese themselves will be the first to tell you that whale consumption boomed post World War II. This claim isn't disputed at all - Emma Tom is throughly confused if she thinks it is. Her implication is inside-out. Whale meat consumption having boomed post World War II does not imply that there were no deep cultural traditions of whale consumption prior to that. What Emma Tom needs to consider is not what happened after WWII, but what was the situation before.

What is commonly argued by the Japanese at the IWC every year, but to no avail, is that Japan's small scale coastal whaling communities (of which there are 4, and this is where the traditions are) deserve to be allocated catch quotas like their counterparts in Alaska, Russia, etc.

Before she starts trying to justify an assertion that Japan does not have whaling traditions with such terribly poor logic, Emma Tom ought to consider that some of these Japanese whaling centres existed before Australia and New Zealand were even settled by the white man.

But that of course is just the cultural argument. Japan has always been at pains to make it clear (although largely ignored by the ignorant western media) that there are two types of whaling in Japan - traditional small scale whaling, and larger scale pelagic whaling for commercial purposes. The argument for small scale whaling is that the people of these traditional whaling communities ought to be able to retain their cultural identity - just as the American whalers of Alaska are able. Emma Tom has seemingly gotten confused into thinking these traditional arguments are used as a justification for pelagic whaling. That is not the case. The argument for pelagic whaling is in terms of science and international law.

5) She then takes a comment that eating whales and cows is the same thing totally out of context. They aren't the same, she says, since there are 1.5 billion cows in the world, and 800,000 minke whales.

So what? There are different numbers of sheep, pigs and fish too, but Australians happily eat all three. Number comparisons is meaningless. What matters is sustainability - and in order to understand what is sustainable, you need to understand what it is you want to utilise, and in order to gain this understanding you need to partake in scientific research. This part isn't cetacean science - Emma Tom should be able to follow this much, at least.

6) Remaining on the "ridiculous" theme, she continues: "They may argue hunting humans is wrong because our high intelligence puts us in a category different from other species made of meat."

Oh dear... Emma gets it wrong on two counts with this single line of argumentation:

Firstly, since when was intelligence a determinant in choosing what is and is not suitable to eat? Is it the case that Emma Tom believes mentally retarded people are good for eating because they have low intelligence? I'm going to assume that this is not the case. Emma might then consider that humans generally (and I stress that) avoid eating our own or similar species. Emma may like to think that humans are whales are similar species (and Greenpeace propaganda would support her), but biologically whales have more in common with cows than they do with humans.

Secondly, pigs are recognised by animal intelligence researchers to have a high degree of intelligence. Yet Greenpeace and other anti-whaling proponents have never proposed that the world cease pork consumption. The reason why is simple: Pigs aren't as "cute" as whales, in the eyes of the west. Meanwhile, many have attempted to prove higher Cetacean intelligence, but have never been able to find such indications. On the other hand, researchers such as Margaret Klinowska have observed that whales display little more intelligence than other wild animals, based on their behavioural patterns.

But that's enough of that

Now for the advice to Emma Tom that I promised -
I don't know if she will read this, but I did send her an email to invite her to come along as take a look (feel free to drop me a comment or email if you do), so here goes:

Darling, if you want to boost your readership, you might want to try coming up with something original for your little western newspaper column. Your arguments are old and stale and can be found on virtually any "environmental" NGO homepage, along with the typical GIVE US YOUR MONEY links.

Rather than just trot out the tired old Greenpeace fundraising propaganda, why not look at the issue from a totally new perspective. Here's two options:

1) "Why is our government signatory to the Internation Convention for the Regulation of Whaling when we don't even want whaling, let alone troubling ourselves with trying to regulate it?"

Hint - it's because your politicians are hypocrites

2) "Why do Greenpeace and our politicians claim that there is an impending environmental disaster about to occur, when even our own scientists are telling us that humpback whale population are booming at a rate of 10% per year?"

Hint - it's because anti-whaling campaigns are big money pullers for these groups and without generating uninformed fear about this issue finances will suffer, and easy votes won't be won. Why don't you compare the amount of revenue generated by whale meat sales from a alleged "hoax" scientific research programme versus the amount of donations granted to these "environmental NGOs"?

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