According to a report just in at Reuters, the Australian Prime Minister (and new ESPP hero!), Kevin Rudd, has set Japan a November deadline to cease all whaling, or face an international legal challenge. Saying that he fist preferred a diplomatic solution to the complete cessation of all Japanese whaling, Prime Minister Rudd issued this statement on Australian television:
"If that fails, then we will initiate court action before the commencement of the whaling season in November 2010. That's the bottom line and we're very clear to the Japanese, that's what we intend to do,"
Despite the fact that experts say that Japan's whaling violates international laws, such as the Antarctic Treaty System, the country has continued to cull whales, claiming that it is for scientific purposes, though this has been challenged as to its veracity by multiple parties.
This issue has been seen as extremely controversial, as Japan argues that it's continued whaling is based on cultural differences and has suggested that other countries' desire to end the killing of whales is based on emotional anthropomorphism.
I myself, when in Japan in the summer of 2008, spoke to a Japanese friend of a friend who insisted that whaling was a Japanese right and that Westerners didn't understand, and didn't have a right to interfere. She also explained something that really upset me, which was that almost no one likes whale meat, except for old men, and that much of it becomes meals for school children...basically grade F meat that no one wants. Now this was just one person's point of view, but it lead me to understand that whaling has become an issue of national pride --- becoming a symbol more than an act, standing for Japanese national and cultural independence.
While I deeply respect Japanese culture, I must respectfully disagree with this course of action. In my mind, the need to end whaling does not have to do with anthropomorphizing whales or cultural values, but instead rests in scientific logic, which (hopefully) bridges all cultures. The fact is that many of the whales culled for 'research' end up being eaten, and considered low-grade food, in a wealthy country that has no need to rely on whales for sustenance. Moreover, many of those dinner-plated whales are endangered.
To quote Wikipedia:
"In 2009, published DNA analysis of whale meat from Japanese markets suggested as many as 150 large whales, from vulnerable coastal stocks were taken annually as bycatch. Japan legally allows the commercial sale of whales caught, incidentally, entangled in fishing nets designed to catch coastal fish. Market surveys also detected migratory whales such as Humpbacks, Fin whales, Bryde's whales and Gray whales some of which are endangered species."
Not to be hyperbolic, but slavery was a 'tradition' in many cultures, but most countries now agree that the practice is barbaric, and work to end it in other nations. The principle is the same for Japanese, Icelandic and Norwegian whaling --- especially the killing of threatened and endangered whale species. It's time for these countries to all to move forward. Thanks to Prime Minister Rudd for helping this to happen.