Ever wonder why landlocked nations such as Mali, Mongolia and Laos with no tradition of whaling are members of the International Whaling Commission (IWC)? According to Jun Morikawa, the Japanese government sponsors the membership of third-world countries in the IWC to boost support for Japan's pro-whaling initiatives. This vote-buying, however, has done little for Japan's image.
Whaling has become Japan's diplomatic scarlet letter, doing significant damage to the nation's international standing while alienating some of its closest allies. No other single government policy provokes such international opprobrium, and it is puzzling why the government harpoons its own green credentials and undermines national interests over such a marginal issue, one that most Japanese have long stopped caring about. Since 1986, Japan has killed more than 12,000 whales in the name of its research-whaling program.
Morikawa explains the politics of whaling and how elite bureaucrats sustain an industry that is out of touch with global environmental concerns and what he calls Japan's "silent majority." Whaling, he argues, is partly about budgets and discretionary authority, but even more so about the creation of amakudari (sinecures for retired bureaucrats). The Ministry of Agriculture, Forests and Fisheries (MAFF) actively cultivates a whaling lobby in the Diet to ensure continued appropriations. Since even before the moratorium on whaling in 1986, the industry has depended on government subsidies. So too does the Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR), the organization responsible for conducting scientific research through whaling, which also engages in marketing and public relations and establishes international pro-whaling networks.