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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 2006: Suggestion of boycotts against Japan

The Christian Science Monitor has lined up as another western media outlet calling for boycotts against Japan, in order to "Save Whales".

The suggestion is ridiculous.

Japan is just one of the nations that actually hunt whales, and just one of a larger number of nations that accept whaling activity. Singling out the Japanese is not going to rid the world of whaling - so why single out Japan?

The prospect of the IWC allowing the slaughter of whale species not fully recovered has yet to raise much fuss in many antiwhaling nations. But it should, given the importance of whales in the health of oceans.

Indeed, the reason that there is not much fuss in most anti-whaling is that most people in those nations do not care about whaling. Whaling does not effect most people in any way.

But the argument here is intellectually bankrupt. The IWC's Scientific Committee has recognised that it is able to set safe catch limits for certain whale stocks, even those that are not "fully recovered". Under the IWC's Revised Management Procedure, commercial catch limits would not be set for any stock less than 54% of it's estimated pre-whaling abundance. Thus, even were the majority of people in unaffected anti-whaling nations less apathetic, given this fact many would likely be resting easily, anyway.

The rest of the article is based on the idea that something needs to be done to stop Japan from whaling, despite failing to provide a reason why the world's conservationists should be afraid:

If the UN General Assembly or the US does not act soon, then a consumer boycott of Japanese products is needed. That will catch the attention of Japanese corporate leaders, who can then pressure politicians leading the pro-whaling campaign.

The UN General Assembly and US are not going to "act", because they recognise the international mandate of the IWC to regulate whaling, and moreover they are more likely to have been properly briefed on the issue than the Christian Science Monitor.

These politicians regard the ban as Western "culinary imperialism" aimed at Japan's tradition of eating whale meat. But the issue is conservation, not culture, and the Japanese data and arguments that many whale species are fully revived should remain suspect, and certainly not acted on in a secret IWC ballot.

Japan's data is reviewed by the IWC's Scientific Committee (SC). The SC, made up of almost 200 cetacean scientists from various parts of the world, provides advice to the IWC on scientific issues. Japan's data is thus subjected to heavy scrutiny, before the IWC makes any decisions based upon it.

Incidentally, Japan's research suggests only that the Antarctic minke stock is close to it's natural limit. It's research indicates that commercial whaling could still not be undertaken on the 'D' and 'E' Humpback stocks for example, which while increasing rapidly, are still below 54% of their pre-whaling abundance estimates.

Environmentalists see Japan as little concerned about nature's well-being beyond its shores.

Environmentalists ought to consider whether such a conviction is rational, or whether it could be prejudiced.

And the resurgence of nationalism in Japan - something its business chiefs sometimes oppose - may be behind this pro-whaling initiative.

This is another ridiculous assertion. Japan has consistently maintained it's pro-whaling position, irrespective of any perceived "resurgence of nationalism".

Persuasion through facts and logic about the health of whale stocks are unlikely to prevail at the IWC, given Japan's long determination to overturn the ban for cultural reasons and its monied clout over weak members.

Cultural motivations for whaling, certainly, but Japan's justifications are based primarily on accepted scientific evidence that some whale stocks are robust and able to sustain limited hunts. Japan accepts that whale stocks that are not robust enough to sustain hunting (such as the Blue whale) should not be hunted at all. Japan is the only nation putting significant effort into improving knowledge of whale stocks and their health.

Barring quick US or UN action, a temporary consumer boycott of Japanese products would carry the most certainty of saving the ban.

As the article itself points out, people in most anti-whaling nations don't care enough to boycott Japanese products. It's worth noting that the "ban" is more correctly termed a moratorium ("a suspension of an ongoing or planned activity").

Forcing Japan to back down isn't a pleasant prospect. But neither is the risk of some whale species going extinct.

It should be an embarrassment for a supposed science newspaper to posture that whale species may go extinct due to future whaling under IWC rules without providing any scientific argument to back up the claim.

Hi David,

I am a citizen of the brothel country of Antigua and Barbuda.

I am so encouraged you feel that Japan has the right to force the issue of ownership of a common resource while making a mockery of the IWC and now suggesting that the institution has lost it's way.

I could not agree more, but it is entirely to the efforts of the pro-whaling bloc led by Japan that has allowed in fact encouraged it to happen.

If indeed the aid your country is so generous in giving was pure then I would have less of an issue. Sadly I do not see it that way.

What I see is the administering of te drug "aid dependency" in order to have the junkie nation fixed for all the future hits and like any junkie, no thought to self estem or consequences that may lie in the future.

Hi Martin,

Thanks for commenting. Your comments interested me so I thought I should write a new item about it:


It's interesting to me that you are concerned about the effects of alledged vote buying on your country's self esteem.

If it were me, I'd be proud that my nation was standing up to the threats of irrational anti-whaling groups based in wealthy foreign nations.

I'm not Japanese by the way, so you need not refer to Japan as "my country". I'm a New Zealander, so perhaps a fellow cricket lover :-)

Ironically, like you, I think my country's position at the IWC is shameful, an international disgrace. New Zealand government officials happily apply the principle of sustainable use to our own natural resources, setting limits on use in accordance with scientific advice.

But in international forums such as the IWC, when the issue does not directly affect our own people, our politicians cave into the pressure from anti-whaling NGO groups, and do not act according to principle.

On a government website, there is a statement that New Zealand wishes to position itself as "a champion of sustainable development, at home and internationally, committed to following and developing best practice".

How can my country ever achieve this great goal when it not only fails miserably to stick to it's principles in international fora, but also leads the charge against the proponents of the practice we wish to uphold?

I'd be proud of Antigua & Barbuda position on this issue, if I were you.
Hi all,
Here's an interesting link about the "save the whales campaign - boycott Japan".

It's by Paul Watson's friend Ric O'Berry, former dolphin trainer, now engaged in an NGO trying to stop Japanese small cetacean hunt. But this article is NOT what you think. This anti whaling organisation and guy is against boycott Japan campaigns. Actually they run a " stop " the save the whales campaign" because they thought this could lead to abuse of Japanese people in the US.

Check out article:
Save the Dolphins - Boycott Japan?


Check under 2005 " The Taiji Nightmare continues" and scroll down to the article.
Thanks for that Ann.

It's good to see really. Boycotts against Japan aren't really ever going to be effective, anyway. Japan is the world's second largest economy, and at the end of the day I think the number of people who feel strongly enough about whaling to change their consumer habits is fairly low.

Personally, seeing nations support the principle of sustainable use makes me want to visit those nations. I'd like to visit all of Iceland, Norway and the Caribbean one day (particularly the Caribbean, as I've had in interest in the region since I was a child). If I get to Norway, I might stop by in Sweden as well :-)

Nonetheless, while I appreciate the fact that these anti-dolphin campaigners recognise that it is irrational to target all Japanese for the actions of a few, I still can't agree with their opposition to dolphin killing.

When wild animals are hunted, inevitably it is done outdoors, in the open.
On the other hand, lifestock are slaughtered indoors, where no one is able to see.

I believe that the people who think dolphin killing should stop would feel the exact same way about lifestock slaughter, were they to get a look inside a slaughterhouse.

As someone who has never slaughtered a cow or a dolphin, I don't think I'm in a position to criticise either. I have no doubt that people of both occupations do the very best they can to ensure as swift a death as possible. I don't think many humans would take pleasure out of torturing the animals they slaughter for food, and even if there were some people like that, I don't think they would be representative of the people in such an occupation.
If you ever travel to Norway you are also welcome to visit Sweden and our beautiful capital Stockholm,well if you have the guts drop in to the Greenpeace office and discuss little whaling with our Norwegian whale's campaigner and have a drink ;)
Thanks for the offer Ann :-)

Although, if I find myself on holiday in such a part of the world I think I will stick to tourism, rather than arguing with the locals over whaling issues. I'm quite happy to limit that activity to my blog :-)
i have worked on boycotts in the past such as dow chemical w/ napalm and the anti-nestle corp involvement w/ infant formula. and we won. to get to the japanese is thru the pocket book....after todays failure to get japans surrender to the rules of the environment law , no more purchasing of exported products of japanese origin. check out your japanese restaurant. give up your sushi. remember g. bush w/freedom fries. go.
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