Japan will never stop whaling: fisheries chief

by

AFP-JIJI

Fisheries minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said Japan will never stop hunting whales despite fierce criticism from other nations and violent clashes at sea with militant conservationists.

“I don’t think there will be any kind of an end for whaling by Japan,” he said Tuesday.

Hayashi, who took the ministerial post overseeing the country’s whaling program in December, said criticism of the practice is “a cultural attack, a kind of prejudice against Japanese culture.”

There is “a long historical tradition about whaling” he said in his office, graced with portraits of the Emperor and Empress.

“Japan is an island nation surrounded by the sea, so taking some good protein from the ocean is very important. For food security, I think it’s very important,” he said. “We have never said everybody should eat whale, but we have a long tradition and culture of whaling. So why don’t we at least agree to disagree? We have this culture and you don’t have that culture.”

Unlike Norway and Iceland, which openly flout the 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling agreed through the International Whaling Commission, Japan hunts using a loophole that allows for lethal scientific research. But it makes no secret of the fact that the mammals ultimately end up on menus.

Hayashi, a graduate of the prestigious Kennedy School at Harvard University who first entered the Diet in 1995, considers the whaling port of Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi Prefecture, his hometown. The 52-year-old said Japan is tired of being lectured by nations whose own culinary cultures can seem a little off-color.

“In some countries they eat dogs, like Korea. In Australia they eat kangaroos. We don’t eat those animals, but we don’t stop them from doing that because we understand that’s their culture,” Hayashi said in fluent English.

“Whaling has long been part of traditional Japanese culture, so I just would like to say ‘please understand this is our culture.’ “

Australia and New Zealand in particular voice outrage over Japan’s annual expeditions in the Antarctic in an area the IWC considers a sanctuary for the ocean giants.

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has chased the Japanese fleet off Antarctica for several years in an attempt to stop the mammals being slaughtered.

In the latest clash Monday, veteran antiwhaling campaigner Paul Watson claimed the factory ship Nisshin Maru rammed the Sea Shepherd vessel Bob Barker.

On its website, the Institute of Cetacean Research said several Sea Shepherd boats had slammed into the Nisshin Maru as the vessel attempted to refuel from her supply tanker.

“It was five hours of intense confrontation,” Watson said from the Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin.

“We took up our positions to block their approach to the (fuel tanker) Sun Laurel and they rammed the Bob Barker twice, causing considerable damage, and then they pushed it into the side of the Sun Laurel,” he said.

Watson said the Japanese threw stun grenades and fired a water cannon at his boat and damaged another Sea Shepherd vessel, the Sam Simon, but there were no injuries to Sea Shepherd crew.

The Institute of Cetacean Research said the Japanese vessels were “again subject to sabotage by the Sea Shepherd ships Steve Irwin, Bob Barker and Sam Simon.”

“During their obstruction to refuelling operations, the Sea Shepherd vessels rammed into . . . the Nisshin Maru and the supply tanker,” it said. “During the attack, the Nisshin Maru used her water pump as a preventive measure to make Sea Shepherd vessels refrain from further approaching, and repeatedly broadcast a warning message to stop them.”

  • phu

    The US has a strong automotive tradition as part of its culture, but that doesn’t mean they can’t or shouldn’t change it because of the harmful environmental effects of emissions. “This is our culture” is not an excuse to hunt endangered or at-risk animals into extinction.

    It’s too bad the loudest voices against this behavior are the Sea Shepherd lunatics. It takes a valid message and makes all of its proponents look similarly insane.

  • WithMalice

    Ok… the bias present here is pretty interesting.

    “There is “a long historical tradition about whaling” he said in his office, graced with portraits of the Emperor and Empress.”
    – What the… how does what portraiture he has up in his office have anything to do with this, other than being a fairly transparent attempt to tie the whaling stance to Japanese culture? Come on…

    “Unlike Norway and Iceland, which openly flout the 1986 moratorium on
    commercial whaling agreed through the International Whaling Commission,
    Japan hunts using a loophole that allows for lethal scientific research.”
    – Really? How is what Japan is doing any less “flouting” than Norway/Iceland”? Scientific research? Oh please.

    “‘In some countries they eat dogs, like Korea. In Australia they eat
    kangaroos. We don’t eat those animals, but we don’t stop them from doing
    that because we understand that’s their culture,’ Hayashi said in
    fluent English.”

    – Err… so? First of all it’s not “cultural” that Kangaroo meat is eaten in Australia. I’m aghast at the mindset that Hayashi is presenting when he makes a comparison of the three animals (dogs, kangaroos and whales). He might have a point if the dogs/kangaroos were hunted down with harpoons and cruelly slaughtered. Additionally… who gives a proverbial if his archaic and confusing thoughts were presented in “fluent English”?

    “Whaling has long been part of traditional Japanese culture, so I just
    would like to say ‘please understand this is our culture.’ “
    – This is flat-out obnoxious. Stop pretending this has anything to do with “culture”.

  • Daniel Oliver Jost

    Oh yes Japan WILL stop whaling, and sooner than you think, my dear Honorable Minister Hayashi…

    1) First of all, fierce criticism has already started to form WITHIN Japan. Can it be that in your function as Minister you have not yet heard of the recent protests organized by groups such as Action for Marine Mammals? Or are you just (rather unskillfully) ignoring this aspect?

    2) Now to the “long historical tradition about whaling”: regarding small scale coastal whaling, certainly. Wasting tons of fuel and taxpayers’ money to go all the way to the Southern Ocean to whale however only started rather recently, in the 80s. So not too much history and tradition there…

    3) “Japan is an island nation surrounded by the sea, so taking some good protein from the ocean is very important. For food security I think it’s very important.”

    A typical argument of the baby-boomer generation. Piling up tons of whale meat in freezers because nobody wants it is CRIMINAL in today’s overpopulated world!

    4) “In some countries they eat dogs, like Korea. In Australia they eat kangaroos. We don’t eat those animals, but we don’t stop them from doing that because we understand that’s their culture.”

    You’re comparing farmed animals that are slaughtered in a controlled environment, to wild animals slaughtered in the wild Mr. Hayashi – not the same thing.

    5) “Whaling has long been part of traditional Japanese culture, so I just would like to say ‘please understand this is our culture’.”

    No, we shall not understand it, because it is not your culture. And let me know if you need some help on Japanese culture. (Perhaps you spent too much time at Harvard and have forgotten…)

    Kind regards from Switzerland,
    Daniel Jost.

  • YY

    If you live outside Japan, you would already have been exposed to this load of BS from Joji Morishita, who also incidentally happens to be fluent. Now the Minister fluently proceeds to unload this bogus set of arguments supporting an idiotic policy. The less “inscrutable” the presentation the more transparently bogus it becomes. Calling out other “cultures” on their canine or marsupial diet, aside from being gratuitously provocative, has nothing to do with the Japanese government sponsoring of whale hunting that does not involve wooden boats, spears, within sight of land, but rather requires heavy marine equipment with refueling tankers on the other side of the earth. The “shimaguni” with no resources (protein no less) argument is a bad traditiononal meme, and I would have thought, would be before the minister’s time. As would the diet, best exemplified in school lunches (kyushoku) which used to feature the mystery meat of whale.

    This is almost as idiotic as US policy for Cuba. The parallels being a very small interest group hijacks the entire agenda to the detriment of overall interest.

  • Aaron

    Dear Daniel:

    You fail to understand the history of Japanese whaling when you criticize its historical context. Japan hunted whales in its littoral waters for centuries until American whaling fleets came along and removed all of these whales. Hence, the Japanese have to continue their cultural tradition by moving farther afield to the Southern Ocean. In fact, the country was forced to open up by Admiral Matthew Perry so that Japan would be obliged to refuel American whaling ships and provide maritime assistance when required, similar to today’s Convention of the Law of the Sea.

    Moving on to your point about farmed animals, which is morally righteous:

    1. Inflicting pain on a wild animal for a few hours that results in its death.
    2. Keeping an animal captive for all of its life in what another species
    considers to be humane to it and then slaughtering it by what the other species considers to be merciful means.

    I suggest that you are a hypocrite if you think that the former is better than the latter.

    On your point about piling up whale meat in freezers as being criminal, it is a mere fraction of a percent of the food that is wasted annual by the hotel industries in Europe and North America. So, if you’re out to lecture people about food being wasted, try applying some standard economic theory by starting with those in your own backyard before you go after diminishing returns farther afield.

    Finally, with respect to your last point that “we shall not understand
    it”, rest assured that based on my experience of having lived in Japan for years, nobody there gives a which-way whether or not you “shall understand it”. So kindly put your energy into something more productive rather than wasting it on producing unsubstantiated, historically and factually incorrect vitriol against another culture that you clearly have no understanding about.

    Sincerely,

    Aaron

  • Aaron

    Dear Daniel:

    You fail to understand the history of Japanese whaling when you criticize its historical context. Japan hunted whales in its littoral waters for centuries until American whaling fleets came along and removed all of these whales. Hence, the Japanese have to continue their cultural tradition by moving farther afield to the Southern Ocean. In fact, the country was forced to open up by Admiral Matthew Perry so that Japan would be obliged to refuel American whaling ships and provide maritime assistance when required, similar to today’s Convention of the Law of the Sea.

    Moving on to your point about farmed animals, which is morally righteous:
    1. Inflicting pain on a wild animal for a few hours that results in its death.
    2. Keeping an animal captive for all of its life in what another species
    considers to be humane to it and then slaughtering it by what the other species considers to be merciful means.

    I suggest that you are a hypocrite if you think that the former is better than the latter.

    On your point about piling up whale meat in freezers as being criminal, it is a mere fraction of a percent of the food that is wasted annual by the hotel industries in Europe and North America. So, if you’re out to lecture people about food being wasted, try applying some standard economic theory by starting with those in your own backyard before you go after diminishing returns farther afield.

    Finally, with respect to your last point that “we shall not understand
    it”, rest assured that based on my experience of having lived in Japan for years, nobody there gives a which-way whether or not you “shall understand it”. So kindly put your energy into something more productive rather than wasting it on producing unsubstantiated, historically and factually incorrect vitriol against another culture that you clearly have no understanding about.

    Sincerely,

    Aaron

  • Ben

    whaling is a loss-making venture in japan, funded by the japanese taxpayer. as soon as japanese citizens learn that their money is being handed over to the people to go get food that they can’t even sell well below cost price, the whaling will end.

  • Mike W

    Tradition or culture should never be a justification to kill anything. Traditionally…. if your neighbouring country believed in a different imaginary being, you would invade them, kill all their men, rape their women, enslave their children and burn their villages to the ground. Doesn’t mean it’s right, and it doesn’t mean those of us who are more evolved shouldn’t do whatever we can to stop it from happening again. With regards to Australia eating kangaroos… They are at least plentiful. I personally am vegetarian however and don’t believe anyone should eat any kind of meat. It is not necessary and so many of our planet’s problems would be solved if our species moved on from its carnivorous, barbaric, ‘traditional’ past.

  • Stephen Kent

    Many countries have a tradition of whaling but don’t do it anymore, so I don’t see why the Japan government gets so touchy about this particular “tradition”, especially since it is loss making and funded using public resources despite there being no demand for it.
    No mammal should be consumed if you can’t farm it humanely.

  • Frank Thornton

    I say it will stop. Leaving the right or wrong, culture or not
    out, it’s just not profitable. I’velived in Japan for a total of over 25 years and have not once ever heard anyonesay “Hey, let’s go out and have some whale!”
    I do see it on the menu at a few places but not often where the younger
    people would go. I see it at thesupermarkets but just a few packs at the most.
    Nothing compared to any of the other fish on the shelves. I say that the only reason it’s being sold atan affordable price is because of the government funding. If it were strictly a supply and demandsituation, then I say there is no future to whaling. I really think that they should end the “research”game and say openly that it’s commercial whaling. If it’s strictly commercial, then the governmentfunding should end. Then we will see how willing the whalers are to go to the southern seas to catch whale for a profit.

  • Stephen Kent

    A brief history of whaling in Japan as Mr. Hayashi probably sees it:

    “Archeological evidence in the form of whale remains discovered in burial mounds suggests that whales have been consumed in Japan since factory ships were introduced in 1500B.C. when the population was exactly the same as it is today and every last person ate whale meat all the time. As whale catches diminished in coastal waters through no fault of their own, Japan whalers looked to Antarctica for traditional and not economic reasons. Refrigerator ships hand crafted from bamboo were sent along to freeze and transport the meat back to Japan who would have had absolutely no source of protein were it not for this whaling operation. This tradition has continued in its original form, unchanged and highly popular, from ancient times until today. “

  • http://www.facebook.com/johnspiri John Spiri

    To me, it comes down to territory: Neither the Japanese whalers, nor the environmentalists, own the whales. Neither has the right to say that it’s fine to kill them (due to “culture”, under a smoke screen of research, or whatever), or it’s “wrong” to kill them because they’re intelligent, or the method is cruel, or whatever. Well, they have the right to say it, but it’s just an exchange of viewpoints even tho both sides try to make it sound like God talking for Eternity. It is a point to say, for example, Australians kill kangaroo whether foreigners like it or not–but with one crucial difference. Roos are in Australia, but the whales are in neutral waters. I think of it like a public park. If some people want to cut down public park trees for firewood, and others want them preserved, it’s a problem, a conflict, but in the case of public lands, I think the value of preservation outweighs the desires of a small group of people to kill that publically shared resource. For whatever reason the whales around Japan disappeared (and it seems dubious to simplistically blame Americans of over 100 years ago for decimating them when so many Japanese supposedly so busy hunting them) so to the extent Japanese (better said small groups of Japanese coastal fishermen) had a whaling tradition, the tradition has ended. Of course, by this argument, I have to admit that Japan has the right to kill dolphins in Wakayama. Regrettably, they do have that right, however barbaric we may think it is.

  • Phillip

    The minister is ignorant of history.

    In all Australian colonies, whaling was a very important industry contributing to the wealth of the growing populations. The City of Melbourne, for example, still has on its Coat of Arms: the fleece, the bull, the whale and the ship; representing wool, tallow
    and oil, the chief exports of 1843, and their means of transport from
    Port Phillip.

    Australia stopped whaling in the 1970’s, with no ill-affects on their cultural identity or heritage. Instead, they built for themselves a multi-billion dollar industry in whale watching.

  • taytelbaum

    It has nothing to do with culture and this poor defense should modernize the Japanese culture to higher standard of humanity.

  • taytelbaum

    Additional to previous post. If man hunted animals or sea animals of deeper and more obscurer nature, like in the perils of the seas, that may have been a different debate. And brave too! Culture in Japanese may sound a strong term, but in the English language that is similar to weakness or something in constant change/ trends.

  • Karina1

    You only have to see the videos to see that the Japanese whalers rammed the Sea Shepherd ships claiming the contrary is pathetic.

    This insistence of slaughtering whales in the Antarctic makes Japan look barbaric in the eyes of the rest of the world.
    Fine, they don`t care but they cannot ignore that we, the people of the world
    love whales and dolphins and will never give up saving them from people like
    the Japanese, Norwegians, Danes and Icelanders etc.

    Cetaceans are as intelligent as humans, in fact, they are probably much nicer beings too.

  • WithMalice

    Well… according to reports coming through now, Japan’s stopped whaling. At least… for this season.
    http://www.theage.com.au/national/japanese-whalers-end-hunt-says-sea-shepherd-20130302-2fdcz.html

  • Koji

    This is not an argument about cultural or gastronomic taste. People eat much stranger things than whales all over the world. It is about conservation of the whale. Dogs and kangaroos are not endangered species. Whales are.

  • Piripi

    To put it simply, they are hunting whales in a sanctuary. Hunting them in other waters would not raise such a problem. Why can’t they come to a compromise? I thought the Japanese dislike going against the “group” opinion.

  • gnirol

    According to the minister, whaling, because it is a Japanese tradition from hundreds and thousands of years ago, must be preserved, all Japanese traditions, apparently, being good ones, while those of Korea or Australia can be bad. One certainly wouldn’t want to preserve bad traditions simply because they are traditional, would one? We must, then, bring back other traditions to make Japan a better place. Restore the aristocracy! How about moving the capital to Kyoto or Nara? How about isolating the “island nation” from most of the world? This tradition argument, used by conservatives everywhere, but only to support their pet projects, perfectly happy to crush tradition when it serves their purposes (is the minister for keeping women in the home and out of the workforce to preserve Japanese tradition) is totally unsupportable as it is employed inconsistently. It is not traditions Minister Hayashi seeks to preserve, but this tradition alone for totally different reasons than he proffers, which he prefers to obscure.