Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will fight to resume commercial whaling in light of a UN court order to halt lethal whale research, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reports.
Commercial whaling has been illegal throughout much of the world since a 1982 moratorium passed by the International Whaling Commission, an international body set up in 1946 “to provide for the proper conservation of whale stocks and thus make possible the orderly development of the whaling industry,” (by which they meant kill it, apparently).
Japan, however, had continued to kill whales under a series of “scientific permits” that allowed whaling for research purposes–until Australia, once a huge whaling country itself, got suspicious and dragged them to court in 2010. The Aussies accused the Japanese of killing far more whales than were necessary for their research projects–a reasonable fear, given that the meat was routinely sold to markets and restaurants.
It took two years, but the UN’s International Court of Justice sided with Australia in March, ordering Japan to halt all Antarctic whaling operations. While the Japanese government originally agreed to abide by the decision, on Monday Abe told Parliament that he wants to “aim for the resumption of commercial whaling by conducting whaling research in order to obtain scientific data indispensable for the management of whale resources,” — in other words, it was about the whale meat all along. (RELATED: Japan’s phony, wasteful whale research must end)
Japan has repeatedly accused those seeking to ban whaling of cultural imperialism. “The small-scale whaling carried out today is sustainable whaling,” reads an official statement from 2012, “which is deeply rooted in tradition and distinctive culture that make effective use of the entire whale for food and other useful purposes. To reject this type of whaling … is to deny these people their legitimate cultures and traditions.” Joji Morishita, a Japanese Fishery Agency official, was more blunt: “Singling out whaling is cultural imperialism–some people would say it’s racism. Norway and Iceland are also whalers, but the criticism of Japan is stronger.” (RELATED: The Pleasures of Whaling)
Russia, Denmark, and the United States also engage in commercial whaling.
“I will step up efforts further to get understanding from the international community,” said Abe. “It is regrettable that this part of Japanese culture is not understood.”