Friday, November 17, 2006


They say its for 'research,' for example into such subjects as how much political support can be obtained from the remnant whaling industry, but their killing of whales in order to save them (where have I heard that before?) includes fin whales, which the World Conservation Union has included on its list of endangered species. To say nothing of 850 11-meter Minke whales, which like all other creatures on earth are here for deeper reasons than we can ever scientize.

Surprisingly, this predation has been criticized by the US, whose current administration has been about as eco-conscious as a cluster bomb (btw, the annual buffalo-slaughter-to-save-the-cattle began November 15).

We don't have to kill to live.


david said...

One may not agree with the idea of killing whales, but from a scientific perspective it's both unproductive and unfair to pass such criticism on the research just because one doesn't agree with the ends, for which the research is the means.

Japan's goal is protecting depleted whale stocks so that they can recover and making for a resumption of commercial whaling for stocks that are abundant, and moreover, optimal use of those whale resources for human consumption.

Currently Japan hunts less than 1,000 whales in the Antarctic each austral summer in it's scientific programmes. Prior to the moratorium, commercial catch limits upwards of 5,000 minke years were set annually. Through it's research Japan hopes to reduce scientific uncertainties surrounding biological paramters of these target whale stocks so that whaling of a commercial scale is once again possible.

They have had quite some success in this regard. The results of Japan's JARPA research have been praised by the IWC's Scientific Committee, as noted by the IWC in it's Resolution 1997-5: "WHEREAS the Scientific Committee also notes that these results have the potential to improve management in some ways; and that the results of analyses of JARPA data could thus be used to increase catch limits of minke whales in the Southern Hemisphere without increasing the depletion risk indicated by the RMP-trials for these minke whales;"
(The IWC Scientific Commitee will hold another review of the completed JARPA programme in a few weeks time in Tokyo, the results of which will be publicly available next May at the time of the IWC plenary)

But science doesn't tell us what people should do, only what they could do.

People who oppose whaling on ethical grounds must make their arguments on ethical grounds, not easily disproved attacks on the science, for then they will lose all credibility and fail to win the debate.


PS - The fin whale in the Antarctic has been observed to be increasing in number quite quickly in recent years, as with the humpback which has been displaying increases of around 10% a year for at least the past two decades in some areas such as western and eastern Australia. This has seen these populations rebound strongly from the overhunting they suffered up until they were protected by the IWC in 1963.

Japan plans to challenge the IUCN assessment of the fin whale as "endangered". This assessment was conducted 10 years ago in 1996:
Apparently the IUCN will review this assessment in early 2007.

nancymaus said...

I'm thinking you would have been within reason to say that in all caps, Robert. We don't have to kill to live, but we might have to yell to be heard.

Winston said...

David's argument is quite convincing that he has much to gain from the killing of whales.

Robert Brady said...

Yes, judging by these comments and his "blog," seems like David is more than just a Western whalemeat fan in Tokyo for the seafood... a whalehunting lobbyist?

"Japan plans to challenge the IUCN assessment of the fin whale as 'endangered.'" Guess that makes it ethical to kill them now.

"...optimal use of those whale resources for human consumption."

We don't need to kill to live.

Trace said...

All I have to say to David up there is, whatever you want to believe to ease your own conscience about such a science that endorses killing of these wonderful sea creatures, you go ahead and believe it. However, there is another killing going on in Japan; the killing of our wonderous dolphins--watch the films about it and then tell us what you think. I have read and watched the films about the torture dolphins are put through before they are murdered by the japanese and it sickens me. Explain that to us David!!

David said...

As I said in my first comment, "science doesn't tell us what people should do, only what they could do". In that I quite agree with the sentiment here that "we don't have to kill to live".

Whether we do kill or not, however, is another question.

My point is that if your grounds for opposing whaling are ethical, oppose whaling on ethical grounds. The ethics of animal killing is quite a reasonable area for debate. But don't discredit your argument by molding in frivolous criticisms of Japan's research programmes.

The scientific debate about whale management is only worth having in an arena where the participants do not have ethical issues with us human animals killing and consuming other animals for food. Japan's scientific arguments are not directed at people who oppose whaling on ethical grounds. It's directed at people who are concerned that whales might be driven to extinction because of whaling. Many people are only opposed to whaling because they fear this.

You need to convince not only the whalers, but the people who oppose whaling only on conservation grounds (i.e., beef eaters), of your ethical views.

Good luck.

PS: Robert, I'm flattered that my blog gives you the impression that I am a whaling lobbyist.

Trace said...

If the Japanese can kill the wonderous dolphins for profit, then what is to say they are not doing the same with the whales? What the hell does this have to do with science?
Either way, whether people have ethical views on the killing of these creatures for food, or whether they are afraid of them becoming extinct because of the killings, the creatures are STILL being killed! What does it matter about the views a particular person has on the subject--both are legitimate arguments against the killing. What of the mentality of a soul who would do such a thing?

David said...


The Japanese whale research programmes currently run at a loss financially - the sale of whale meat by-products covers around 85% of the costs, and the government (taxpayers like me) pay for the rest.

Ultimately, you are right - their ultimate goal is to make for the development of whaling industry that could profit financially from the exploitation of these natural whale resources. But they are not there yet - the current research programmes are just a stepping stone.

The research certainly isn't just for the hell of it - they want to obtain more knowledge about the populations - better understanding of natural moratality rates, better understanding of natural rates of productivity, better understanding of the boundaries between distinct populations of whales (even within a single species there are seperate biologically distinct stocks, which need to be conserved at that granularity).

A lot of people think that Japan is killing a lot of whales right now. They are in for a big surprise.

The fact is that with the results of their research they aim to provide enough scientific certainty that would allow for 2,000, 3,000, 4,000, 5,000 Antarctic minke whales to be caught commercially - as many as is possible, within the bounds of scientific certainty (and of course without saturating the market with meat - prices are still relatively high right now though, with supply very limited). Such levels as several thousand Antarctic minke whales should probably be sustainable, as there are hundreds of thousands of minke whales in the Antarctic and our basic knowledge tells us that they could probably sustain an annual harvest of 1% or 2% quite easily - but this has to be based on scientific knowledge. That's what Japan is working towards, and as I noted in my first comment, the IWC Scientific Committee has backed them on this point.

You're right that the ethical argument against whaling could be considered fair grounds for debate, but arguing that whaling may drive whales to extinction is a very weak argument given the fact that whales reproduce, and the suggestion here is only to harvest whales at levels within their productive capacity. Whaling perse won't drive whales to extinction - only overhunting would. In the past we've seen overhunting and it did deplete whale stocks to low levels. No one wants a repeat of that, least of all the people who want to eat whale meat or make profit out of selling it.

> What of the mentality of a soul who would do such a thing?

The mentality is simply that some humans see it fit to kill animals and eat them to help sustain their existence. This doesn't fit well with some people, but is basically the norm here in Japan.

Trace said...

David ~ I have some final thoughts and then, you may visit my blogsite and email me on the subject further if you wish. I don't want to use Robert's site for corresponding on the issue further.
Please know that I understand that you are trying to explain the difference in the research the Japanese are doing, from people's ethical views of killing the whales. I also understand that there is a difference in people being against the killing of whales for food, and the killing of whales because of the fear they will become extinct. I say, both of these reasons fall within ethical viewpoints. They are both legitimate reasons for people to become outraged at the killing of these wonderful creatures.
Some cattle is owned, bred, and raised for the purpose of providing beef for markets. However, these sea creatures are not owned by anyone. There is a distinct difference. These creatures are being killed and sold for profit when they are not owned by anyone in the first place. Thus, my question, "what of the mentality of a soul who would do such a thing?" If a man goes into the wood, hunts down and kills a deer, and then goes home with the deer and sells it to others, this is not legitimate. I am in agreement with the folks who are afraid of these creatures becoming extinct; and, I am also in agreement with the folks who believe these animals don't have to be killed for humans to eat and survive.

Zen said...

"We don't have to kill to live"

I agree with the concept of this as a vegetarian...However as I vegetarian I see to it that, many plants die so I can live. In fact live Plants/foods are better. Unless you only eat fruits & nuts, we do have to kill.

I agree with the anti-whaling stance, but for ethical reasons, same as for cows, sheep, chickens...

Just thought I'd give some balance to the discussion.

Trace said...

Thanks Zen. I respect your values. All I'm saying is I feel that folks' concerns that these creatures might become extinct are also legitimate ethical reasons for speaking against the killing.
Also, you are correct. Technically, something dies in order for us to have some foods. We would have to eat very little in order to keep from killing. I admit I haven't assessed my food intake in this light. Perhaps it wouldn't be a bad the meantime, the killing of these whales, and dolphins as well, will always remain horrible in my mind. There are plenty of options for food without disturbing the glorious creatures of the sea who are not ours to begin with. I think this is probably what the others also mean when they say, "you don't have to kill to live."

david said...

I have no problem with the idea that it is wrong to unnecessarily drive whales (or any species for that matter) to extinction.

The problem I have with this specific argument in the case of whales is that whaling today is not a serious threat to whale populations. The serious threats are "accidental" such as ship strike, entanglement in fishing gear, etc. Whaling is not a significant threat at all. That is why I reject people who get outraged at whaling "because they will go extinct".
I think if you had seen the information that I have, you would probably not fear any whale species going extinct because of modern whaling activity, although you may have concerns for the Northern Right Whale and Western Pacific Gray whale - neither of which have been targetted by whalers in many years.

Japan does not plan to make for a whaling industry which will subsequently lead to the extinction of whale species. The plan is to make for a sustainable industry, which provides economic benefits to people of Japan as well as helps contributing to increasing Japan's very low rate of food self-sufficiency, and so forth. Having healthy populations of whales is a condition for all of this.

I have no problem with people using natural resources (that are not decreed to be 'owned' by us because we don't keep them penned up on farms) for food so long as the use is sustainable. This is particularly true where people live in environments where land-based agriculture like in Australia and the USA is not possible (islands, peninsulas, polar regions). People developed in those regions because of their methods of natural resource use, and I support those people to the extent that their use of their natural resources is sustainable.

I appreciate the offer for continuing this on email, but I'm happy to clarify my comments here, and call it a day. Best regards!