Friday, March 19, 2010

That Asahi Shimbun Whaling Editorial

Just in case The Asahi Shimbun's editorial on Japan's stance towards whaling and those who oppose it confused you with its seemingly self-critical reasonableness...
EDITORIAL: Anti-whaling activists
The Asahi Shimbun

Should Japan pick up the gauntlet thrown down by anti-whaling activists? It might feel good, but to do so would mean falling for a provocation.

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which operates from Australia, is really an annoying bunch of people.

The Japan Coast Guard has arrested a member of the anti-whaling group, which has been trying to disrupt Japan's whaling activities for research purposes.

Peter Bethune, a New Zealander, was arrested on suspicion of "vessel invasion" after he boarded without permission a Japanese ship conducting a whale hunt in the Antarctic Ocean.

Japan has every right to take legal action against such a violation. But it would be detrimental to the nation's interests if the action is used to turn this activist into a hero and drum up anti-whaling sentiment aimed at Japan in many countries.

The whaling debate should focus on how to use and protect marine resources based on scientific theories and evidence. It could get sidetracked if issues concerning cultures and values emerge as major flash points... assured, reasonableness and respect for science are not actually on the table.

Indeed, the text is not an op-ed at all. The original Japanese title, "Whale frictions: do not contest this on culinary culture grounds" (in J. - Kujira masatsu: shokubunka ni tairitsu suru na) indicates that this is more of an open letter to the local officials of Taiji Township and the bureaucrats of the Fisheries Agency, advising them to cool it on the "suppression of our food culture" line of argument.

If I follow line of argument in the March 14 Japanese original, the folks at the Asahi seem to think that too few citizens eat whale in sufficient quantities for the GOJ to mount an argument that eating whale is an ineluctable part of Japanese culture. Indeed, pushing the food culture argument will somehow hamper the Australian government's ability to go along with the tentative IWC negotiations over the resumption of a limited commercial whale hunt.

But...if the killing of whales is not a culinary culture matter, then there is no reason for a non-subsistence level population to hunt whales at all, except perhaps out of a nihilist "we kill them because they are out there" (Caution: Not Work Safe) ratiocination. And while the consumption of whale flesh may not be a matter of significance to national culinary culture, whale hunting is certainly a part of local sub-cultures. I am sure far fewer Japanese have venison on the table each year than have whale or dolphin meat. However, this is scarcely an argument for shooshing down the discussion of the legal hunting of deer for food in mountain communities.

No matter how you slice it, the arguments of the folks at The Asahi Shimbun sometimes just do not make sense.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Japanese Fisheries bureaucracy reminds me of the embedded Latin American interests in the US state department. The whaling industry to the Japanese fisheries policy is the ex-pat Cuban influence to US foreign policy. The results are not with the times, stupid and against broader national interests. Bringing the notion of cultural exception (culinary or industrial) and becoming chauvinistic about it does have the effect of rallying support as the message somehow gets through to the taste buds. I'm not that concerned about whales as matter of extinction but with blue fin it is a different story. (Australia and Canada siding with Japan as well as the shark fin lovers) I believe there at one time was a culture that thrived on Dodo's in the Pacific.

Thanks for the South Park link.