Old habits die hard — in Japan’s case, this means continuing their infamously bloody hunts of whales, despite international opposition … and really, a complete lack of a legitimate rhyme or reason as to why they wish to keep this practice up. In 1986, the International Whaling Convention (IWC) instituted an indefinite ban on commercial whaling –  a ban that is still in effect, with certain exceptions. However, Japan has repeatedly ignored the ban in order to conduct “research” i.e. kill whales and sell their meat and parts.

Last year, the IWC’s Scientific Committee reported that Japan claimed they hunt whales for “lethal research.” But under what circumstance does anyone need to kill thousands of whales in the name of science? Josh Coates, from the Australian Marine Conservation Society, told The Sydney Morning Herald that “so-called ‘scientific’ whaling is nothing more than commercial whaling in disguise.” We buy that. The website for the Institute of Cetacean Research in Japan provides a number of whale meat recipes – even though Japanese citizens seem to be losing their appetite for whale meat. 

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For decades, Japan has been actively recruiting developing countries to join the IWC by incentivizing them with its Official Development Assistance (ODA) program, which provides aid to nations in need. Why? So they can overturn the international ban on whaling. According to a recent article by the Whale and Dolphin Conservation, Japanese government officials have said that they plan to “dispatch experts in the fisheries sector to countries that can be expected to join the IWC and anti-whaling nations that are likely to turn to the Japanese side, in order to advocate for support and promote ‘making friends’.” This is clearly coercion so that Japan can continue to carry out its brutal practice of hunting and killing whales. The same article states that the countries in question have “admitted that they voted in support of whaling due to the large amounts of aid they receive from Japan.” Really, the officials behind the push to secure whaling practices in Japan have reached a level of cartoon villainy that would place them right at home with the eco-villains of Captain Planet like Looten Plunder and Duke Nukem.

Regardless of whether or not Japan is able to secure enough allies to get their way at the next IWC meeting, they have, and will likely continue to violate international laws. In 2014, in response to a case brought by Australia and New Zealand, the International Court of Justice concluded that Japan “failed to provide a legitimate scientific justification for its lethal whaling, and that its whaling under JARPA II [their previous whaling program] was thus in violation of the international commercial whaling moratorium.”

It is during moments like this that we should remember, not only how similar whales and humans are, but also how ecologically irresponsible it is to kill these keystone species. Whales play an important role in combating global warming and ensuring the survival of the planet. Everything on this earth is connected and for countries like Japan to continue the slaughter of whales is frankly, dangerous, illogical, and a gross display of hubris. Icarus’s wax wings melted when he flew too close to the sun. When will Japan realize that their hunting practices are doing more than just hurting cetaceans?

To conclude, here are some words of wisdom from Captain Paul Watson, founder of Sea Shepherd: “Japan cannot demonstrate any new science to the IWC to justify their illegal activities for the simple reason that the science does not exist; it never has and no matter how much they dress it up, the plan is flawed scientifically.”

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So please, share this article and encourage others to do the same. With increased pressure on the Japanese government, we may stand to see a change in their ways.

Image source: Tomas Kotouc/Shutterstock

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