Whaling receives criticism in Japan

Background - 21 January, 2008
The Greenpeace Japan website has been attracting an extraordinary increase in traffic. Last week the number of page views jumped from 10,000 a day to 10,000 in one hour. Visitors to the web site are also signing up to an online petition asking Japanese government ministers to stop squandering tax payers money on whaling. Here are just a few examples of messages, translated from Japanese:

Greenpeace whale campaign director Junichi Sato from Greenpeace Japan.

Whaling is not a Japanesetradition. There is no need to conduct whaling under the name ofresearch when there is an oversupply of whale and the demand isunlikely to increase. It makes me angry that Japan goes against globalconvention (…). We should stop whaling immediately. Tokyo

It is simply unjustifiable that an endangeredspecies is not only killed but put on the market in the name ofresearch. (…) They conduct it under the name of "science" and insistthat whaling is a "traditional culture" to people around the world aswell in Japan. (…) Both the government and public who advocate whalingshould be awaken from their self-deceptive view of whaling as"traditional" or "scientific." Kochi

Whenyou say "research", what parts of whales are you actually"researching"? Aren't there other alternatives such as stool tests? (…)Please stop whaling as it is a waste of life, and we need to teach ourchildren the importance of life. Osaka

What is the purpose of whaling? We do not want to eat whale.If "research" is the real purpose, we can do it without killing them,can't we? Do not waste our taxes catching whales but instead protectthem. PLEASE!! Tokyo

Don't try to fool us(the Japanese citizen) about whales. The Japanese government shouldstop maneuvering its people to hold an erroneous public opinion bypreventing their access to accurate information. Here are three reasonswhy they should stop: The fact that all the companies in the fishingindustry no longer wish to start whaling again is being neglected. Evenif whaling is permitted, there won't be any companies willing toundertake it; Although there are whales that should be designated asendangered species by Ministry of the Environment, they aren'tdesignated because that is under the jurisdiction of the fisheriesagency; The view that whaling is our unique cultural heritage is overstretched and confused with the whale eating in post-war scarcity.Traditionally, whale-eating is a culture of coastal fishermen, noturban people in Edo, Kyoto, or Osaka, or farmers. It is an ignored factthat a vast majority of Japanese have never tastedwhales. Osaka

There is no nationalconsensus on wasting taxpayer's money to make whales a source ofprotein. Kumamoto

Food culture varies fromcountry to country, and it is often important for survival. Whaling inJapan once was undoubtedly important when food was scarce; however,regarding current food abundance in Japan and the environmentalconcerns in the world, there is no point in continuing whaling. I wish,from the bottom of my heart, that they would stop wasting our tax moneyon whaling and start protecting whales instead. Tokyo

I regret that I had been indifferent towards thewhaling problem for so long. It is the time to reconsider "researchwhaling". The government should be accountable to itspeople. Toyama

It is rare to observe suchan obvious act against national interests. I understand that Japan isunavoidably nervous about access to marine resources, but then weshould leave the idea of being advantageous over other countries,respect the international consensus, and approach the issue with thevirtue of modesty. Our urgent tasks are not whaling in the AntarcticOcean but the recovery of domestic environment and the restoration ofcoastal fisheries. Saitama

I am dead setagainst research whaling. I cannot see any point in causing antipathyin international society with research whaling that does not appear tobe important for Japan, only expensive. (…) There are plenty ofproblems in our nation. Please do not embarrass our people withshameless actions any more. (…) Osaka

Iate whale in extreme poverty after the war. I haven't eaten whale sincethen for almost a half century. We don't lose anything by not eatingwhale. Please stop eating whales and free them, as they are not aprolific animal. Mie

I am fifty yearsold. I was born in a mountain village in Akita and raised in a ratherpoor environment even for a peasant. During my childhood, whale meatwas a rare treat, but I do not wish to have it again. (…) Do Japanesepeople really want to eat whale? Let us have a national poll. I'magainst whaling. Is there any other country that kills such alarge-sized mammal like whale for research? Please stop. Shizuoka

I am a seaman. Most seamen that I know are againstwhaling (…). I miss those whales I used to encounter often during avoyage. (…) I can no longer see those whales in the areas where I usedto see them almost everyday. Research whaling is commercial whalingdisguised in an academic coat. They can conduct research withoutkilling whales. They gloss over things with the word "food culture",but it is a rather new culture born with the appearance of power-drivenvessels. In the first place, I can't understand the people who thinkwhale meat is tasty. It stinks! When whaling was in its full-bloom,they didn't appreciate it, but once the price of whale meat rose theyjumped on it like those upstarts do on luxury brand goods. Those abjectpeople are the shame of Japan. If whaling is a Japanese ancienttradition, we should ban the use of contemporary whaling technique andallow the use of ancient technique only. Ehime

Statements like whales are eating up other fish, and we needto protect marine resources are not good excuses for allowing researchwhaling. It is not they but we who are eating up the resources. It isalso important to clarify how much or on what our tax payment isallocated. Chiba

Environmental issuesgive Japan a chance to take a leading role as an advanced nation. To beamong the world leaders we should be the first to protect theenvironment. Please stop whaling. Osaka

Why are they "researching"? What has been the outcome so far?Food is abundant in Japan. Do we need whales on the table? Tokyo

I have never eaten whale nor felta need for it. Why do they kill an animal on the verge of extinction?We are losing precious life for something that is not important. Let'sbe courageous and take action! Japan should protectwhales. Aichi

Is this the Japanesemanner? Is our nation primitive? Science tells us we do not need tokill whales to understand the details of their biology. Don'trepeatedly commit crimes in the world seas, just because we cannot fishas much tuna as before. It's disturbing! Japan is the only "advanced"country that kills whale in areas that other countries preserve or inthe Antarctic Ocean. Can you imagine? How do you feel if others intrudeon our commitment with problems in the same manner? Internationalcooperation and compliance with U.N. resolution sound so empty. Don'tmake us and our children live in shame in the international society. Wedidn't know our taxes were used on such a thing. It must bedisclosed! Tokyo

Living overseas, I seehow those negative acts [such as whaling] by Japan draw internationalattention outside of Japan, and feel terribly ashamed and pathetic.Recognize this: Although the world respects and admires Japanese artand culture, it is concerned and distrusting of the behaviors andmeasures of its government. If Japan makes a successful turn fromwhaling to protection of whales, it will be a wonderful appeal to theworld. Out of my love for Japan, I sincerely ask the government toregain international credibility. Overseas

The following is from a letter by a Japanese citizen living in Australia, sent to Junichi Sato, the whales campaign director for Greenpeace Japan:

This year, actions undertaken by young American actresses, Australian actresses, surfers, and others and your article published in the newspaper have helped to dispel the notion that there is ill will against the Japanese and to convince some of us albeit in small numbers that the Japanese government and whaling industries (I apologize for not having a formal name for the latter) have been withholding the truth from the Japanese people as a way to protect their own interests and highlighting only positive points for the media. However, in this critical year, I feel that unless we Japanese act appropriately, we may be forcefully crushed by other nations. If we do not take advantage of the opportunity that this year represents, I fear that we will, at the very least, be unable to stop Antarctic whaling while retaining our pride as Japanese people.

Read the entire letter here