Japanese whaling explained

If Japan is a traditional whaling country, why do they have to send their ships all the way to the South Atlantic?

First of all, there a tenuous link at best between modern Japanese whaling and the few villages that have had this industry for hundreds of years. The technology for modern whaling came entirely from the West and it was Western countries,ironically, that hunted most of the whales in Japanese waters close to zero. It was also, by the way,the American occupation authorities that gave the biggest boost to postwar Japanese whaling

Why does Japanese whaling continue despite international isolation?

Well, international isolation actually tends to stiffen resolve and increase nationalism- see the Blitz spirit etc, which might explain its support by people who don’t even like the taste of whale (Norway, of all countries, is indentical in this regard). 

The best explanation I’ve heard (from a Japanese academic on BBC Radio a couple of months ago) of why it still exists and so gets that public support is simply that the relevant bureaucrats in the ministry will do anything they can to make sure their own influence- i.e. nothing exclusive to Japan there either. The Japanese attitude to animal rights vs. the right of people to exploit nature is also fairly typical in the world, the Anglo Saxon eco terrorists who will knock a person off a horse to save a fox being the minority.


  1. courtney said,

    June 17, 2008 at 2:24 am

    whaling is just cruel and stupid =( it should stop!

  2. Jude said,

    August 3, 2008 at 12:34 pm

    I’ve written a paper on this issue

  3. Jude said,

    August 3, 2008 at 12:37 pm

    I’ve written a paper on this issue a couple of years ago, then my conclusion was indeed that the bureaucrats at the ministry that ministers the whaling industry indeeds just want to keep their jobs and influence. However, since I digged deeper into the matter, I have the feeling there’s much more to it. Important international relations, Japanese yakuza etc.. all have their part in it too. It’s a very interesting matter and it’ll be the subject of my master thesis in Japnology this year. If anybody has information on the matter you can contact me: woutersjudith@hotmail.com

    • Lacey said,

      July 13, 2009 at 2:15 pm

      I am doing a paper aswell! i need information tho, can u help me?

    • higanbana said,

      December 28, 2009 at 1:54 am

      I’ve been to a small whaling town many, many times, and there certainly is no thinking about international relations or even Yakuza or stuff like that. It’s a job that has been done for centuries, that has been handed down from fathers to their sons. And the people there are only irritated and confused why they cannot go on the way it’s always been. And why suddenly all these foreigners come, intrude on private properties and make such a fuss about something that has been a normal part of the daily life there.

      I certainly agree that it simply cannot go on the way it always has been. Times have changed, and even if people don’t want to, they have to accept that. Dumping one’s garbish in the forest has also been a part of daily life, but then it was not plastic and not these huge amounts of trash. Why not kill dolphins or whales if it’s the most natural resource of meat (i.e. protein) in that area? You can’t really keep pigs or cows there, it’s simply too mountainous and the soil too bad to grow food for them. But since dolphin and whale meat got so polluted with mercury and other stuff, children’s health should be valued more important than the protection of old traditions. The meat is sometimes used in the school lunches to let the children know about their old ways.

      Happy new year

  4. higanbana said,

    June 15, 2009 at 1:28 am

    Why is whaling “cruel”? And even more “stupid”? In what way is the slaughering of pigs more humane? And why does a cow have less right to be pitied than a whale? Isn’t a life a life and has got the same value?

    If there were a reason to stop whaling for the time being, it is that we simply cannot be sure how many of them are really left. There is simply too little known about them. But just to be on the safe side that our grand children still can do some whale watching, it really should be stopped for the time being.

    • AZNdude said,

      August 18, 2010 at 12:10 am

      You mean the same cows, pigs, and chickens that Japanese people also eat? The problem with your arguement is farm animals like those are raised and will never be endangered, they are also the main food source of many counties. Those animals are also killed within country boundaries so it doesn’t become a problem with certain countries like India. This culture arguement that you pro-whalers like to shove down are throats is a fiasco as well. Japan practiced Coastal Whaling not whaling in the Antarctic. At least Norway actually respects laws enough to keep their hunts inside their own country

      • Higanbana said,

        August 18, 2010 at 1:39 pm

        You didn’t understand my argument correctly. I was argueing against the “killing of dolphins is so cruel” and “People doing so are cruel and stupid”-argument. If one comes with that argument, I’d like to know why pigs and cows have less right to live and not to be killed than dolphins and whales.

        There might have been some changes I might not have been aware of I had been told that seas outside the 200 km zone are international waters which are usually free for any country to use. If you could inform me of the changes, I’d be really obliged.

        To make it clear, I don’t approve of whaling NOW. But that’s not because of some “poor animals”-thinking but because nobody really knows how many whales are left and are needed to leave when doing sustainable hunting. So if there’s a risk that my grandchildren might grow up seeing only whale skeletons in some museums, I personally think that that should be a reason to prefer sustainability over no-matter-how-old traditions. If I were asked, I’d think that one should rather put the money used on whaling now to real research before considering using this meat resource again.

        And it might be some consolation for whale lovers to hear that the times of eating whale meat on a daily base are over. I live in a bigger city and I have only seen whale meat once in one of these expensive department stores in
        Fukuoka. And even in Taiji whale meat has become something special reserved to very special holidays or for special guests or expensive presents or souvenirs for tourists. And I have been to Taiji so many times but I have never been offered dolphin meat just once.

        And personally spoken I’m not a friend of whale meat. It’s really tough and hard to chew and I don’t really see how that fits into the Japanese’s perception of “good meat”. “Good yummy meat” is so tender and soft that it virtually melts on the tongue – that’s the description they use to describe it in cooking programmes. Whale meat is the total opposite. It might be the reason why whale meat has lost a lot of popularity during the last 20 years. And when it comes to taste my husband and I thought the same i.e. that there is hardly any difference in taste and texture between whale sashimi and sakura sashimi (horse meat sashimi). Both is not really what I like to eat. But if one can’t live without the taste, then slice the horses. At least for the time being.

        And frankly talked I’m really fed up of the blood-red sea and poor intelligent animals talk. People how complain about the blood in the sea have probably never seen how a pig or other bigger animals are butchered. There IS a lot of blood in big animals, and if you kill a big marine animal (fish, reptil or mammal), you can’t just take a bucket and catch the blood as you do with cows and others. And taking the sea-living animal out of the sea and kill it on land is even more cruel.

        And when it comes to the often quoted “intelligent animals”-argument, I do really wonder how these people could easily eat a pork stew when pigs are more intelligent than the “intelligent man’s best friends”. Maybe they should start eating them, it would help to solve the unwanted dog problem.

  5. Glenn said,

    December 23, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    Japan has every right to hunt whales its there traditon Australia has never been good at respecting the traditions of others..As an Australian I’m ashamed our country supports these criminals I hope japan takes even a stronger approach and boards the sea shepard and holds there crew accountable in a japanese court.

    • colleen said,

      February 13, 2010 at 7:27 am

      Glenn, you have got to be the biggest idiot i have ever heard of in my life. WHALES ARE GOING TO BE EXTINCT FOREVER BECAUSE JAPANESE PEOPLE ARE MURDERING THEM! would it be ok if i find 25,000 people, harpoon them and say “oh, sorry, that was for SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH purposes.”

    • Upeoplearemorons said,

      August 7, 2010 at 1:55 am

      Tradition is the worst reason I’ve ever heard to continue behavior. Just because somebody at some point decided it was a good idea and it has perpetuated since then doesn’t by itself legitimize behavior. History is littered with bad ideas which became tradition and are now widely recognized as reprehensible.

    • AZNdude said,

      August 18, 2010 at 12:16 am

      Japan has a right to cull whales in their own waters for Culture or whatever reason they want to justify it for. But they do not have the right to cull whales were they neither have territories and were it is illegal to whale. And what do you mean Australia was never good at respecting other cultures? In case you havn’t noticed Japan STILL discriminates other Asians culture/ethnicities and have even desimated their own aboriginal peoples like the Ainu…using such arguements is hypocritcal for Japan

  6. radar said,

    March 4, 2010 at 8:09 pm

    Check your facts. (and your spelling). It may be a ‘tradition’ to kill whales in Japan. However it has a very short history. Previously only enough whales were killed to support a community. Now they are being slaughtered by heavy equipment and in large numbers. The quantities cannot be confirmed under the guise of ‘research’. Is it ok for Japan to harvest whales in Australian waters? Check out maritime law. The small boat was not under power and had the ‘right of way’. There are so many facts to contradict your statement that I cannot list them all.

  7. Ky Stevns said,

    May 20, 2010 at 9:34 pm

    Having lived in Australia I never take their comments with a grain of salt. The people, particularly the men are childlike in their thought processes and lend themselves to being absurd. Whales are not livestock and cannot be bred in captivity. The japs are brutal people as their history indicates. It is truly a shame that we cannot blow whaling ships out of the water. japan is a sick and highly bigoted nation.

  8. Higanbana said,

    May 26, 2010 at 11:48 am

    If that’s a reason not to eat a wild animal, then why on earth dare people to eat wild herrings, wild boars, wild antilopes, wild hares etc.? Not that you couldn’t breed herrings but never to the extent they are consumed nowadays. You have to leave it to nature.

    Furthermore if not being able to breed an animal should be a reason for not eating them, why on earth do you eat eel? They still cannot be breed nowadays because the way to feed and breed baby eels has been a big, long-lasting mystery. Only last year in winter the first wild baby eels were discovered, and science has made its first small progress in decades.

    And most of the whales the Japanese hunt (or would love to hunt) are the smaller fish-eating varieties. It’s possible to breed dolphins and orcas in captivity, why shouldn’t it be possible to breed other whales in captivity, too, if you bothered to do any research into the area?

    What history? Except for the 20th century when the Japanese tried to modernize and KEEP UP with the ever expanding, colonizing Europeans and Americans to get their piece of the world cake, they never did any warfare on other countries. They copied OUR cruelty far too well. And they can be proud of having had 250 years of internal peace while Europeans and Americans fought a war against Indians, Aborigines, Maoris or against each other every second weekend. So which is the crueller one?

    And if that sentence referred to the near extinction of whales, it was not the Japanese but ships of rising industrial nations in Europe, America and for that also Australia that hunted the big whales only for their fat and pushed the gentle animals to the brink of extinction. The Japanese for example in the ill-famed Taiji used ALL of a hunted animal including the bones which became tools or toys and sometimes really amazing KARAKURI NINGYOU (automated figures). (Instead of demonstrating and embarrassing people there all the time, I really suggest you and your kind visit the local museum once.) Whereas Caucasians just wasted them. And the same people dare to call Japan “sick” and even worse names. Unbelievable! That is what should be called bigott.

    As a German saying says: Don’t cast stones when you sit i a glass house (=hot house). Or as Jesus said: If you’re free of sin, cast a stone.

    • gary said,

      July 18, 2010 at 12:04 am

      comparing whales and other marine mammals to herring and wild boar? your education seems out of the 19th century when ignorance about mammal and primate intelligence mislead many to exploit these species. but to sanction this practice now with all that has been discovered about these wonderful and intelligent creatures would truly be an act of a depraved culture. there may be many aspects of western culture’s history i wish could have been written differently, but at least we accept and embrace the increased knowledge this century has brought and change our ways to adapt to a growing world.

      recently hearing that the goal of Japanese whaling (as you say, the fish eating kind) and dolphin slaughter is to cut down the competition for the rest of their fishing industry has to be the sickest statement by the most ignorant government on earth. find a new business or suffer the consequences i say. my annual check to Sea Shepherd is in the mail.

  9. Madison said,

    August 21, 2010 at 6:36 am

    Why do they have to kill these beautiful creatures ?.
    im writing my speech on whaling and i have recently seen this movie called the cove about the Japanese slaughtering whales and dolphins it changed my life as they risked their own lives to make this movie they caught some horrifying things that most of the people dont even know about . Alot of people should watch this movie i reckon and there is a website so yeaah thanks.

  10. Doranne Vega said,

    June 2, 2012 at 1:29 am

    What will they hunt when there are no more whales? Humans? This is an antiquated and barbaric “custom”. The IWC is an ineffective organization. Their members are corrupt and rather than enforcing the ban they are basically approving of the slaughter. Is there no way to stop this atrocity?

  11. Wendy said,

    July 16, 2012 at 3:23 am

    Apparently Japan hunts and kills whales for scientifical research. That’s the loophole in the U.N’s anti-whaling law. But for some extremely odd reason, whale meat happens to appear in some Japan’s top restaraunts? How stupid does Japan think we are? They’re obviously whaling for money. I reckon if someone had enough authority to completely ban whaling all around the world, we could stop whaling! I just wish someone would!

  12. Matt said,

    November 10, 2012 at 11:10 pm

    Wendy, when you say for “some stupid reason whale meat ends up on Japanese tables” …… Well yeah of coarse it does the IWC ( International Whaling Commission ) states in the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (1946) part VIII 2. Any whales taken under these special permits shall so far as practicable be processed and the proceeds shall be dealt with in accordance with directions issued by the Government by which the permit was granted.”

    Ok so you might ask what scientific research calls for the the killing of whales , well have you bothered to look at the reason japan is doing lethal scientific research ?
    They aim to establish what is acceptable commercial whaling and not in terms of what the green movements accept but terms of sustainability. Unless you are vegan/vegetarian you must accept that meat is a resource, whales are meat therefore whales are a resource.

    Here comes the interesting part, I am a 30 year old Australian. I have opposed whaling since i was a child. Until my current girlfriend joined sea shepherd to go on an whale saving campaign, and as it appears like most other people who are anti whaling I had taken what the green movements said for granted. It was only when I started hearing some of the absurd propaganda coming from my girlfriend that I decided it was time to do some actual research into this issue and form an educated decision. Instead of basing it on what can only be described as sensationalist media which is basically what the anti whaling movements use hence my use of the word propaganda. When has sensationalist media or propaganda ever been the basis for good scientific decisions ?

    Having read and continuing to read information on both sides of the argument I can only come to the fact that the anti whaling movement is driven by nothing more than a warm and fuzzy feeling that people seem to get by being part of a cause. And the vast majority of information spread by the anti whaling groups if false and misleading to better their cause.

    I strongly urge anyone who wish’s to voice an opinion on this matter or get behind these types of movements to not blindly follow the anti whaling organisations but to research the matter in an unbiased manner and form a realistic well founded opinion

    What I find more disturbing than IWC sanctioned whaling is the fact that an organisation like sea shepherd can have so many people blindly following and supporting it without any thing other than the information that organisation gives to form their opinion on the subject.

    Even the alleged legal basis for Sea Shepherds presence in the Antarctic is almost idiotic when viewed in an unbiased manner. They claim to work under the World Charter for Nature which was established in 1982 while Sea Shepherd started campaigning in 1977. They appear to be using this charter very loosely to continue their actions, actions which are not based on scientific research that appear to need misinformation to gather support. While the Japanese are well within UN and IWC regulations to do what they are doing, even within international law. As Australia’s claim to the Antarctic region and its implementation of a marine sanctuary or conservation area amounts to nothing more than Australian domestic law. Hence not legally binding international law. Which is why the Japanese can hunt whales there and not in Australian coastal waters.

    Again I strongly urge anyone who supports or is thinking of supporting these types of conservation groups to do some unbiased research on the topic and for an opinion based on fact not emotion. An organisation like Sea Shepherd is a scary prospect, they are undeniably vigilantes. That alone is something that should scare any educated person, Vigilantes have no place in our society. They undermine the very fabric that holds our national and international society together with no regard for anything other than their own interests.

  13. firefly1152 said,

    December 4, 2012 at 9:29 am

    Rather than trying to prevent whaling, I think it would be better to have permits on how many whales can be taken. This way, there can also be regulations on how the whales are killed.

    It’s hunting.. or fishing (?) and the whale is a source of food. What’s the difference between hunting other animals?

    BTW I forget who posted about eating horse meat…just a little info about American horse meat.: I wouldn’t eat it. We have no regulations on the medications our horses can get, unlike with our production animals. So…I don’t think I have to go into detail about how much medications (like dewormers and nsaids) are still in the horse meat when people eat it.

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