Perspective from Japan on whaling and whale meat, a spot of gourmet news, and monthly updates of whale meat stockpile statistics
Australia's behaviour surrounding matters relating to whaling has made the news twice in recent days, with one story making headline news here in Japan.Word Conservation Congress Kerfuffle
Firstly, last week the BBC via Richard Black and various Australian media reported on events at a World Conservation Congress meeting held in Barcelona.
A unique consensus between environment groups and whaling nations ... was derailed by a last-minute Australian intervention.
That interpretation from the BBC
Australia has been accused of bungling international whaling talks and setting back a campaign to save whales.
And that from Australia's own The Australian
The articles note criticism from (self-proclaimed) "conservation groups", and the BBC article says that an anti-whaling country representative went so far as to describe what happened as "despicable".
The fuss was apparently surrounding the wording of a resolution, which was originally to include the words, "there is inadequate scientific information to support an assertion that controlling great whale populations can increase fisheries yields
", but subsequently changed by Australia to read "that the great whales play no significant role in the current crisis affecting global fisheries
". The former text was set to gain consensus adoption it seems, where as the latter and final text did not.
The "conservation groups" were complaining about Australia's change as they apparently saw the original wording as a victory - something the western media that reported the story seemed to concur with.
This begs the question that if this were the case, why would pro-sustainable use nations including Japan and Norway agree to such a text in the first place?
To my mind it seems the "conservation groups" and the media that reported the story have fallen into the trap of believing their own propaganda (excluding Richard Black who tends to be able to strike a good balance, but I think he missed part of the story here).
The original statement that the whaling nations were said to be prepared to agree with is in fact nothing spectacular. While it may at first glance seem like a vague way of saying the same thing as Australia's amended version, it's actually very different.
The statement that there is "inadequate scientific information" to draw a particular conclusion regarding a suggested hypothesis doesn't imply that the conclusion is actually false. And with regards to cetaceans and fisheries this does remain an open question.
Richard Black mentions in his article that some years back that,
the IWC's scientific committee had concluded there was no way of providing reliable advice on the impacts of cetaceans on fisheries
The IWC Scientific Committee reaffirmed this in it's 2008 report (see page 56
). Again, this does not imply that cetaceans do have no impact on fisheries, only that our science isn't yet as advanced in this area to be able to say much about it reliably.
So the original wording seems to be quite compatible with the positions of the pro-sustainable use nations, that interactions between cetaceans and fisheries warrant scientific research (and indeed Japan's JARPN II programme in the western-north pacific has been being conducted in recent years for this reason, and Iceland too has been running a similar programme).
Yet the "conservation groups" who are still campaigning against whaling have attacked Australia's move at Barcelona, when Australia has to my mind done exactly what would be expected of a staunch anti-whaling nation - ignore whatever the IWC Scientific Committee says and just deny outright that there is any cetacean-fisheries interaction worth taking into consideration for the sake of maintaining one's populist anti-whaling stance.
Perhaps the criticism that Australia copped for this has something to do with their failure to back up their threats with actions since the new Rudd government came to power this time last year. Or maybe their anti-whaling allies are just getting sleepy.Anti-Whaling Envoy Appointed
The other news that came out, perhaps in response to the criticism last week, was that Australia has finally confirmed that it has appointed former Sydney Olympics chief Sandy Hollway
to it's new official anti-whaling crusader position. However, Mr Hollway himself is already sounding rather pessimistic as if to soften up the Australia public:
"I wouldn't want to hold out false hope for a cessation. I think we might be past the point where the definition of success is a complete halt."
Japan already agreed to freeze plans to start sampling Antarctic humpbacks last year with respect to the delicate situation at the IWC, and given Australia's continued behaviour I can't see them winning any additional concessions without being prepared to make some themselves.
But the reason I cover the story is to talk about the response to this news in Japan. The story was posted to the "2ch" message board site's news headline section, where it subsequently racked up a few hundred (largely critical) comments within the space of a couple of hours.
Meanwhile Yahoo! also has the story here
. The Yahoo! story also includes many comments in response, and the comments there can be ranked. I'll translate off the top ranked comments, to give English readers an idea:8: 2008/10/20 10:19
"This coming from the country where they massacre kangaroos..."
3: 2008/10/20 10:02
"I want them to understand other countries' cultures, eh."
6: 2008/10/20 10:13
"I want them to come here once they've gone and protested English fox hunting and Spanish bull fighting. If I were to be harsh I'd say they're creating a side show."
5: 2008/10/20 10:06
"Chinese poodle Rudd goes anti-Japan because of his failed policies"
4: 2008/10/20 10:05
"Let's ban tourists from going to Australia. Japanese should stop going to Australia".
22: 2008/10/20 10:30
"I want them to say this once they've stopped massacring kangaroos.
The Australians are the only people who kangaroo babies out of their mother's pouches, grab their legs and beat them against the ground to kill them.
They are running over kangaroos with cars for real.
I think that's more terrible than killing them for food.
Until recently, Australians were treating Aborigines as if they weren't humans because they are a coloured people. Whales more than people... that's white supremacist Australia for you.
And the reason why whale numbers decreased so much in the first place was the white people were massacring heaps of them for whale oil.
And what's more why is it that they send a special envoy to Japan only. (laugh)
Why don't you send a special envoy to Northern Europe?
Is it because the Japanese are a coloured race?"
44: 2008/10/20 11:07
"They have no consideration for the eco-system,
and this looks like nothing more than "Japan bashing".
If it were just a some profit making organizations...
But that it's a nation state is just pathetic"
14: 2008/10/20 10:23
"Well then, should Japan also appoint a kangaroo massacre problem special envoy?"50: 2008/10/20 11:17
"Although they are happy enough killing kangaroos, to take a special view of cetaceans without rational reason is just as foolish an action as it is to think that white people are superior without rational reason.7: 2008/10/20 10:15
There is no reason at all for Japan to listen to what Australia has to say"
"Personally I wouldn't be put out if I did not eat whale,
but what is the reason for the westerners to be so insistent about this?"
18: 2008/10/20 10:26
"Hey Australians! Don't eat Aussie Beef! Cows are cute aren't they?!"
Needless to say, I personally don't agree with all of the sentiments that you see expressed in the comments I translated above, but these comments are fairly typical of what I see when reading these discussions (can you tell that hypocrisy doesn't go down well here?). Other comments voiced surprise that Australia is more worried about people killing whales than it appears to be about it's currency crashing in the financial and economic turmoil right now.
* * *
All in all, through the recent news it seems to me that Australia is determined to continue to take actions with more consideration for domestic politics than for the future of the IWC as a serious international organization, or Australia's relevancy to it or international whaling management more generally. On that note, I will note that Japanese officials have been writing interesting things with regards to the "Safety Net
" initiative, which I hope to introduce more of sometime in the not to distant future.
Labels: Japanese media perspective, Sandy Hollway