Japan has announced that it is going to leave the International Whaling Commission and thus resume commercial whaling this coming July. This is a blitheringly stupid decision – as there is no commercial market for the products of whaling. No, not even in Japan where they’ll eat pretty much anything that comes up out of the sea. Leave aside all the other stuff that alone makes it that damn stupid idea.
The reason they’re doing it is the same as our maintenance of entirely uneconomic coal mines for far too long – and the reason London lesbians descended upon socially conservative pit villages in order to “help” and stand in solidarity with those who’d be horrified if they tried to chat up their daughters. It’s just a manifestation of social conservatism, a harking back to a world that used to be. Plus the idea that the Japanese are no more eager to be told by soft foreigners what to do than stout Northerners ever were.
It’s also true that the amount of such whaling is going to be trivial but it’s going to be this very insistence upon going back to the old ways which will kill it off in time. The economics just don’t work and humans do stop doing things which don’t work economically.
So, yes, there will be marches, petitions, chainings to gunwhales and the most public shouting and screaming and yet this isn’t going to have any long term effect:[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””] Japan says it is to restart commercial whaling in July in a move that is likely to draw international criticism. It said it would withdraw from the International Whaling Commission (IWC), the body tasked with whale conservation. Commercial whaling was banned by the IWC in 1986 after some species were driven almost to extinction. Officials in Japan, an IWC member since 1951, say eating whales is part of the country’s culture. For many years Japan has hunted whales for what it calls “scientific research” and to sell the meat, a programme widely criticised by conservationists. [/perfectpullquote]
Yes, true, chowing down on whale bacon is indeed a part of Japanese culture. As it was for Basque, as it still is in some, say, Alaskan communities. It’s, other than the occasional fishing village, also a pretty new one, it being the incredible poverty of the place post-WWII that turned it into anything widespread. As with our own munching on whale meat a few years earlier, during the actual war.
The thing is though, it’s not commercial in any sense of the word. There’s no large untapped market. Much of what is caught under that scientific programme is in fact given away as a taste tester – one which most of it doesn’t pass.
What’s actually been happening is that some nostalgic conservatives – as with our coal mines, conservative can come from any part of the political spectrum, depends upon what people are being conservative about – have been insisting that this vital part of Japanese culture must be maintained whatever the damn foreigners say. So, it has been maintained. The fleet, the sailors, the hunting itself.
Now it is to move to an entirely commercial basis. Or, at least, because we’ve not got the foreigners doing any insisting upon “science only” the subsidies and costs will become apparent. And given the fact that no one really wants to eat whale, or at least certainly not enough people to cover the costs of a whale fishing fleet, it’ll stop. Stop for entirely economic reasons, not cultural or even environmental. And that’s going to be the really interesting thing to come out of this, isn’t it?
Japanese whaling will leave the IWC and resume commercial whaling. Something which I insist will mean the end of Japanese whaling on the simple grounds that it’s an entirely uneconomic activity – no one actually likes eating whale meat.