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Thursday, 6 June, 2002, 09:59 GMT 10:59 UK
Should whaling be permitted?
Pro-whaling countries, led by Japan, are attempting to have a 15-year ban on commercial whaling lifted at this year's meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC).
Anti-whaling campaigners scored an unexpected victory in the first vote to be taken at the conference, but support for the pro-whaling lobby is said to be building.
The result of the vote meant that Iceland, which wants to see a return to commercial whaling, will now be excluded from joining the IWC.
The UK Fisheries Minister, Elliot Morley, said the result was better than expected and a very good sign, but he cautioned that anti-whaling countries could face tougher resistance in their effort to maintain the existing global ban on whaling.
Should whaling be permitted? What do you think will be achieved at the IWC meeting?
This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Anonymous , USA
As for Japan's using culture as defence, I want to say that culture is not a static thing, but changes according to our new knowledge that informs our new ethics. Polygamy and cannibalism have long gone. The culture that like to test the effect of killer germs on living humans has also been censored. As a civilized culture, we have to recognize the pain of others, and move on for a better world, instead of indulging on sadistic pleasures.
As commercial whaling has not been permitted for decades, can someone please inform me how a whaling industry big enough to require protection still exists in Japan at all? Surely we have learned all we can by slaughtering whales to examine their stomach contents etc? Far better to observe them in the wild.
The ark sakura, Japan
I support a continuation of the ban on whaling. If whale populations recover to the point where it becomes obvious that sustainable commercial whaling under strict supervision is possible , then I see no reason why it should not be re-introduced
The need to slaughter whales is unnecessary and cruel. In this day and age we have the ability to duplicate any product that is removed and sold during the commercial whaling process. However this is big business and when there is money to be made, industry is bound to ignore the alternatives.
(a) There is no humane way of killing a whale, as I understand the process. They do not readily lose consciousness, in contrast to the more usual "meat animals" which can be stunned before death.
I'm having trouble understanding all of this. I'm really neutral on the issue personally. In my home country, Iceland, scientists and government are saying it is safe to start whaling again, at least for certain types of whale. They even say it is needed to protect us from overpopulation of certain types. I am lost in all of this. I feel Greenpeace has through the years been a responsible organization, but now they seem at odds with recognized research. I cannot find any hard data on their website on the issue, only sentimental stuff. Where can I find scientific data to support the demand for a continued ban on whaling?
Many of the Japanese correspondents say they will take whales at a sustainable rate. As someone who has dived in a remote area of Indonesia I have seen the destruction of coral reefs caused when large fish are caught for the Japanese market. I certainly isn't sustainable! I have also spoken to divers who remember the large numbers of sharks that used to be found in the same area but which are now vanishing because they have been almost eliminated by over fishing. Don't trust countries which say they will only take what the environment can sustain. It won't happen with whales any more than it has happened with cod in the North Atlantic. Eating whales is a luxury indulged in at the expense of the moral repugnance of the majority of the informed world. The arguments used to justify it smell of the same self-centred attitudes that powerful interests always use to get their way at the expense of others.
It is incredible how people can say that whales are only a food source.
Whales are important creatures that help keep the balance of the oceans' ecosystems. There are so many thing that we still don't know about them. They don't harm us in any way and what do certain people do in exchange torture and slaughter them for their own egocentric and greedy reasons.
As a former fisherman on the Atlantic coast, I have seen many whales. They captivate us with their moods that can be felt even though they are only momentarily above water. Their elegance is known throughout the world - not their meat. Animals that are capable of making beautiful music ought not to be killed for mere oil.
During former whaling seasons, whale populations have been conducted close to extinction. Some populations are slowly recovering, however, they face other threats, such as contamination etc. I doubt that populations are well enough to be commercialized. Therefore I am against re-enacting whaling in order to conserve marine mammal biodiversity.
The whale does not need structure or clothing to survive in a sane and intelligent way. With the size of its brain, it can concentrate it's intelligence on areas of thought that are beyond mankind's conception. We have no standard or context with which to measure whale intelligence. Based upon humanities current and past history man is living an insane and irrational life.
I think it is a sin against the universe to eat a fellow species that may be more intelligent than we are!
I think that a life is equivalent. An insect, a plant, a cow, a pig, and the whale of a life are equal. Human beings can survive by consuming other lives. After all, every human being's crime is the same. I despise those who attach superiority or inferiority to the weight of a life. It is only pride. I consume other lives and am alive in appreciation of the life.
Most of these countries who wish for a return for whaling claim that they wish to do so as it is a traditional meal/delicacy. If this is the case then whaling should be permitted using traditional methods only. ie. Wooden boats and men with traditional spears. This will give the whales a fighting chance which they do not have against the factory ships. To enforce this all factory ships should be destroyed.
As a scientist I guess I was suppose to write something scientific, but instead I wrote something from the heart, - something we have sadly forgotten about. We are not by nature evil people, we are beautiful and caring and compassionate. Let's remember what its like to use the full force of our heart and "SAVE THE WHALES".
Since minke, sperm, and a few other whale species are robust populations, whaling within the limited quota by IWC should be allowed by any country that wish to adhere to the Whaling Convention.
The possibility of whaling being reintroduced is disgusting. Hasn't the human race come to terms with the fact that we are only one element of what makes this planet beautiful? The thought of these beautiful creatures being slaughtered in the most inhumane and despicably cruel way is heartbreaking.
It is impossible to kill these creatures quickly and painlessly, they suffer torture for hours on end before their suffering is finally ended. These deaths are totally unnecessary, and so is the suffering.
The unnecessary slaughter of any animal is wrong. It pains me to see this barbarity in a so called civilized society. We should look to the future and stop living in the past. Slaughtering whales is not a viable plan for the future and soon it will be extinct.
Fransje de Waard, Netherlands
It's very strange, that a highly industrialized country like Japan is so keen on barbaric things like whaling.
Japan can buy votes of poor nations at the congress, but they cannot force customers to buy their products. Think about it!
Yes, those small-scale whaling communities must be allowed to hunt small numbers of minke whales which they can sustainably catch to sustain their humble economy.
There is no moral ground in seeing whaling as a cultural right. These magnificent creatures don't belong to particular country or culture. We are just one among the millions of species and we should learn to co-exist. But we take it for granted and plunder this planet and I don't see why other creatures should pay for our greed. This high time that we keep a moratorium on commercial whaling before these magnificent creatures are extinct. These creatures are not just created to be a part of our delicacies they are worth more than that. Let us give them a chance to live because it is their right.
It is easy to be critical of Japan and Norway. Their wish to restart commercial whaling represents a obvious threat to a specific species. But in reality the greatest threat to all species comes from loss of habitat and environmental change. Maybe some of the contributors from countries not signed up to Kyoto should remember that they pose a greater risk to many more forms of life through their governments protecting their Jobs
I see no difference between eating Whales and other animals like Cows and Tuna. I don't see any special value in whale like some people do. They are just food resources. I think it's false to force someone's value on others for only sentimental reasons. To ban Whaling is simply wrong because we have no intention to exterminate Whales. Many people consider that Japanese are the most knowledgeable about Whales and have done more research than any other country.
My main concern with whaling is not economic and is not directly related to depletion, but purely in relation to the extreme suffering caused to an incredibly intelligent and placid species. I am always amazed that supposedly intelligent people can justify killing other sentient beings. We lock up (or worse) people for killing one another but choose to turn a blind eye to the slaughter of many beings who have existed on this planet many times longer than we have had the arrogance to call ourselves the dominant species.
Jeff, Japan ex UK
It is said that eating whale is a part of Japanese culture, a tradition, however, in Australia we used to abuse the rights of the Aboriginal people, we learnt and changed our ways. There is no reason to say because we have done this for a long time we need to keep doing it. Times change, people learn from their mistakes and evolve. Eating these beautiful creatures is just not necessary to live, there are plenty of alternatives!
Japan does not intend to expand whaling as a major industry, but just protect a minor old-style traditional industry which relates for food culture and art works. Even the industry itself is small, it is not really fair to judge other country's culture or custom by other country's emotion: sushi is acceptable as it seems healthy and exotic, but eating whale meat is disgusting. I feel sorry for the honest workers of the whale industry always made to feel guilty because their job is not simply legal and put in a grey zone.
We have one earth, one chance! This planet belongs to everyone, generations lived and those to come too. So I ask what right do people of this generation have to ruin this planet for their own greed? I am privileged to live in one of the most amazing places with abundant wildlife - these creatures, the whales are a privilege, how dare people take advantage of them and for what. Whales are magnificent, massive creatures, yet so endangered. Please conserve these beauties, let them be.
I can't believe how naive some of you can be comparing cattle and pigs to whales. Cattle and pigs outnumber whales many times over, livestock were made for a food source for a great many people. Whales are not! They only have young every five or so years which means there are less whales then ever before. Whales can be wiped out overnight if whaling continues. Thanks to all who are against whaling, we will make a difference!
Why should we as humans get to decide whether or not the whales get to survive? If the shoe were on the other foot, and whales were making the decision on whether humans were to be slaughtered how would we feel? And as for the numbers of minke whales left in the world's oceans there seems to be some discrepancies - with Japan claiming over 100,000 and the rest of the world's scientists estimating 40,000. Put either way, that's not enough whales for my liking.
These magnificent beings have as much right to live as we do! Let them be!
Touch a whale, and then see how you feel about killing one. Kiss a whale, and catch your breath at what you have just done. Reach inside the mouth of a baby whale and touch its tongue. Look into its eye. Caress its snout. Listen to it. You will understand why all whales should be saved from all whaling, scientific and otherwise. I have done so, two months ago in San Ignacio Lagoon in Mexico. The experience is incomparable. Why? Because, simply put, whales are incomparable, and the purposeful taking of their lives is a wanton demeaning of the human spirit.
If Japan and Norway want to hunt whales. I say go for it, but do it in your own waters. But Japan and Norway can't do that, because they have killed all the whales that live in their waters. So they are trying to force other countries to let them use international waters. Which might be ok if the other countries agree, but we don't. Well over 90% of South Pacific nations are against whaling, so understandably they want a whale sanctuary in the South Pacific. But Japan and Norway keep voting it down. Now is it any wonder that Australia and New Zealand keep voting down a return to hunting, when they refuse to even negotiate on hunting in the South Pacific.
Why are we letting two tiny countries like Norway and Japan dictate to the world they are going to kill whales while the majority of the countries are against whaling? The Japanese and Norwegians are killing our oceans. The whales play a vital part in the ocean ecosystem. If we let Japan and Norway get away with killing all the whales, they will not stop there, soon, other species will be vulnerable too. Stop the whaling now. What is going to happen to the billion dollar whale watching business? We environmentalists and animal activists have begun boycotting Norwegian and Japanese products here in the United States in protest to those countries whaling
While I believe that whaling should remain banned, I do not think that we should be so quick to point the finger at countries such as Japan and Norway without having a good look at some of our own policies. For example, we have over fished the North sea to the extent that the numbers of some species are on the verge of collapse. Not content with that, European fishing fleets are devastating the waters around West Africa too. As for claims of cruelty, some of our own farming practices, for example battery hen farming, are nothing short of abominations, and we should be thoroughly ashamed of them. Yes, we should fight hard to keep the ban on whaling, but we should also take a good look at some of our own practices too, otherwise countries such as Japan and Norway can rightly say that we are preaching double standards.
All products obtained from whales can now be synthesized. There is no more need to slaughter these animals. The methods used to kill whales are unspeakably cruel and must be stopped.
I see no difference between killing whales for food and killing livestock, poultry etc etc. Whales are a natural resource no different to any other. You don't see such sentimentality when ordering a burger or Sunday roast, and you can guarantee that the whale has led a better life than the "factory farmed" animals we all consume.
Like many other Norwegians I am ashamed of my governments long and determined work - often by dirty means - to reopen the killing of whales. Unfortunately this is just a small part of the Norwegian overall disrespect for animals. I hope that people and nations will do their utmost to impose more civilization to our country. Today we must realise that the world is one, and that we all share the responsibility for what's going on everywhere.
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