Monday, 30 November 2015

Japan's "scientific" whaling

So the Japanese government has announced that it's going to permit further whaling for "scientific" purposes even though the ICJ reportedly ruled that all Japanese whaling should cease.

Whilst I don't really know enough to comment on the legality or otherwise of Japanese whaling, the one thing that anyone who has spent a while living and working in Japan can easily comment on is the claim that this whaling is scientific: put simply, it's very hard to believe that any scientific purpose is served by this whaling. Instead the whale meat harvested for supposed "scientific purposes" is actually sold throughout Japan in specialist restaurants as well as from stalls at events.

I found this out first hand when I went to a company banquet back in 2010 in Kochi, on the south coast of Shikoku island, and was served what appeared to be a thick, layered, rubbery-looking substance with tiny bits of meat in it. It looked, smelt, and tasted foul, and even before discovering what it was I felt sick - it is hard to understand how anyone would eat such whale meat by choice.

The day after the banquet we went on a tour of a local museum dedicated primarily to local hero Sakamoto Ryoma. Whilst the museum was interesting enough, it had a section given over to "local cultural practices", with dioramas showing the hunting of walls by the locals in ill-defined "ancient times".  It was easy to connect the dots - like similar practices elsewhere in the world, this appears to be one maintained in the face of outside opposition primarily because the opposition to it comes from outside the community in which it occurs and is defended as "traditional".

[Picture: a detail from a painting showing whaling off the coast of Wakayama. Via Wiki]