We are three 9th grade students from New York and are in the process of
completing a research project on whaling. For part of the project we must
interview an expert on the topic we are studying. We found your website and
we were wondering if you would be able to answer questions for our project.
Please respond with your answer to SaraBerri2@aol.com as soon as possible.
Thank you for considering our request.
Dear Sara, Lauren, and Alex,
I have copied an article below about whaling that I hope answers your
questions but I also urge you to search WhaleNet
http://whale.wheelock.edu/howtofind.html to find more information about
Good luck and happy holidays!
The Whaling Controversy between Japan and the U.S.
Kaori Nakai Anthropology 202Professor Ferro
March 10, 1997
The Whaling Controversy between Japan and the US
There is a dispute between whaling countries and anti-whaling countries.
Whaling countries argue that it is possible to take whales while preventing
them from becoming extinct. Anti-whaling countries assert that thereıs no
possibility of taking whales without extinction, and that all whales are
endangered. This dispute has continued for more than two decades (Misaki,
1994). What has made this issue so persistent? What is behind this issue? To
examine this subject, I will compare two nations. One is Japan and the other
is the U.S. Japan is one of the whaling countries, and the U.S. is one of
the anti-whaling countries. To make this paper clear, I will argue this
issue from the following points of view:
1. Outline of the controversy on the whaling issue.
2. Japan and the U.S.ıs stand points on whaling.
3. IWCıs inconsistency
4. Japan and the U.Sıs historical aspects on whaling, and how whales were
used and valued.
5. How Japan and the U.S. educate their own people about whales.
Let us take a look at the outline of this issue first.
1. Outline of the Controversy on the Whaling Issue
First of all, let me introduce some general information about the nations
and organizations who play roles on this dispute. They are divided into tow
groups, whaling nations and anti-whaling nations. Animal rights activists
and environmentalists are on the side of anti-whaling nations. Whaling
nations include Japan, Norway, Iceland, Russia and the U.S. The U.S. has
indigenous Inuit people who are practicing whaling (Misaki, 1996).
Anti-whaling nations include the U.S., the U.K., France, Australia,
Switzerland, Monaco, New Zealand and others (JWA, 1997).
Although whaling nationsıpolicies vary, the fundamental component is the
same, which is that it is all right to take minke whale stock because of new
scientific evidence. Anti-whaling nationsıpolicy is uniform, which is that
no commercial whaling can be allowed no matter what happens (Skare, 1994).
As of 1996, there are only six whaling nations left out of thirty-nine
member nations in the IWC. All decisions are made by the majority of
three-fourth votes in the IWC (JWA, 1988).
The International Whaling Commission (IWC) was established in 1946. This was
the operating institute for the International Convention for the Regulation
of Whaling (JWA, 1981). Its goals are ³to provide for the conservation of
whale stocks and thus make possible the orderly development of the whaling
industry² (McKee, p.9, 1996).
In 1972, the UN Conference on the Human Environment passed a resolution of
³a ten-year moratorium on commercial whaling.² This resolution placed
pressure on the IWC to adopt this idea, however, the IWC turned it down
because of no evidence found to support the moratorium by its own Scientific
Committee (Donovan, 1993).
In 1982, the IWC adopted the moratorium on commercial whaling without the
recommendation of the Scientific Committee which asserted that the
moratorium was unnecessary (Nagasaki, 1995). A number of non-whaling
countries joined the IWC before the vote for this moratorium. A big campaign
was conducted by environmentalists and animal activists to let non-whaling
countries join the IWC (Skare, 1994). This resolution should have been
reevaluated based upon the best scientific evidence by 1990 (McKee, 1996).
However, the ban was renewed without the base of the best scientific
evidence in 1990 (Skare, 1994).
After the IWC passed the moratorium, Japan, Norway Iceland and other
countries filed objections to the IWC under the Article V of the
International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (Misaki, 1994). The
U.S. placed pressure on Japan using the Packwood-Magnuson Amendment to make
Japan accept the moratorium. This domestic Law prohibits fisheries within
the U.S. 200-mile coastal zone in case any country diminishes the
effectiveness of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling.
Japan withdrew the objection from the IWC and terminated the whaling
operations under the agreement between the U.S. and Japan. Japan was
concerned about its own $650 million fishing industry and its $40 billion
trade surplus toward the U.S. at that time (JWA, 1988). In spite of the
U.S.ıs promise to refrain from imposing sanctions on Japan, the U.S.
executed the Packwood-Magnuson Amendment on Japan in 1988 (Washimi, 1991).
Since Japan cannot resume commercial whaling, it has been practicing
research whaling in the Antarctic Ocean since 1988 (Brownell, Ralls, &
Perrin, 1989). Animal activists and environmentalists regard this practice
as ³commercial whaling² because whale meat as a by-product of research
whaling is sold to expensive Japanese restaurants (Greenpeace, 1997).
Japanıs justifications on this issue are following:
1. Japan has a permit to conduct research whaling authorized by the
International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW) (Tsurumi,
2. All data on this research is submitted to the IWC every year (ICR,
1994), and acknowledged by the IWCıs Scientific Committee (Tsurumi, 1996).
3. Under the Article VIII of the ICRW, the whale meat of the by-products
from research whaling is evenly distributed to the market throughout Japan.
This distribution is inspected by the Japanese government (ICR, 1994).
4. Due to the commercial whaling ban, the short supply of whale meat
creates its high price in Japan (Misaki, 1996).
5. Eating whale meat has traditionally been a Japanese custom since
B. C. (ICR, 1996).
In 1991 and 1992, a revised management procedure on catch quotas was
recommended by the Scientific Committee. However, the majorities of the
parties of the IWC turned down this recommendation both times. This proposal
observed that a limited harvest of non-endangered minke whales wouldnıt
deplete the stock (Boyton, 1994). In response to this IWCıs decision, the
Chairman of the Scientific Committee, Phillip Hammond, resigned from his
position in protest (Skare, 1994).
2. Japan and the U.S.ıs Stand Points on Whaling
Japanıs standpoint on whaling is unstable. Japan has concentrated on the
Japan-US Security Treaty agreed in 1951. Under this treaty, Japan as a
country of renunciation of war is supposed to be protected by the U.S. in
case of war (Shueisha, 1976). This treaty has always been a threat for Japan
whenever any disagreement has occurred between Japan and the U.S. I suspect
this is one of the reasons why Japan easily withdrew its objection to the
moratorium on commercial whaling from the IWC. There was fear toward the
U.S. in Japan. Japan takes following stand:
1. Minke whale stock is abundant (760,000 whales in the Southern
Hemisphere), therefore Japan can take minke whales without depleting their
2. Japan wants to conserve traditional whaling communities that are
collapsing because of the ban on commercial whaling (ICR, 1995).
The U.S.ıs stand is paradoxical. Its policy is anti-whaling. It asserts that
any commercial whaling cannot be allowed even if the whale stock condition
and humane killing practices are improved (High North Alliance, 1994). On
the other hand, the U.S. allows the Alaskan Inuit to take truly endangered
bowhead whales. The Scientific Committee of the IWC ruled that bowhead
whales cannot stand hunting at all (Misaki, 1996). Even President Clinton
acknowledges that the bowhead whale species is endangered in a warning
message to the Canadian government. He states:
The (bowhead) whale in the eastern Arctic was taken from a highly endangered
stock. The IWC has expressed particular concern about whaling on this stock,
which is now known to be recovering (Clinton, 1997).
3. The IWCıs Inconsistency
The IWC has a paradox, too. As it was mentioned earlier, its twin goals
are²to provide for the conservation of whale stocks and thus make possible
the orderly development of whaling industry²(McKee, p.9, 1996). According to
this charter, the IWCıs aim is not to stop whaling. Its aim is to develop
the whaling industry while conserving the whale stock. However, the IWC is
only banning whaling. Clearly, the IWC is violating its own policy.
The Scientific Committee acknowledged that there are 900,000 minke whales in
the world ocean (Westneat, 1996). Even the secretary of the IWC, Dr. Ray
Gambell, asserted that commercial whaling can be practiced without allowing
minke whales to be extinct (Blichfeldt, 1994). Nevertheless, the IWC itself
has rejected commercial whaling for minke whales (Misaki, 1996).
Japan has four traditional small coastal whaling communities. The Japanese
government has been requesting a quota of 50 minke whales as an interim
relief allocation to the IWC. The IWC has been rejecting this proposal since
1988. The point is that the IWC recognizes the value of those small
communities, yet it doesnıt allow them to take a small amount of whales. The
following is the acknowledgment by the IWC:
Japanıs small-type coastal whaling, though having some commercial element,
culturally constitutes the core of whaling communities, and as such is close
to what the IWC recognizes as subsistence whaling. Therefore, it should be
allowed to meet the local demand to the extent that the minke whale
population is not endangered (Misaki, p.7, 1996).
While knowing the whale meat would be shared and distributed in a
non-commercial context, the IWC doesnıt allow those four coastal communities
to take whales (High North Alliance, 1994).
4. Historical Aspects on Whaling
The American people in general seem to have a strong sense of affection for
marine mammals. Not only ordinary people but also highly educated people
have such affection. The followings are several examples.
After the so-called whale trial between Japan and the U.S., the presiding
judge quoted, ³While this trial was being carried out, the precious life of
whales has been taken away.² (Misaki, p.23, 1994). My friendıs sister who
has a BA Major in Biology quoted, ³Whales are higher developed animal with a
great deal of intelligence.² (Fleming, 1997). Naomi Rose, a marine mammal
biologist with the Humane Society of the United States, stated the following
about killing whales, ³Iım sorry, but things that are this cruel have no
place in the modern world.² (Westneat, p. A14, 1996).
On the other hand, the majority of the Japanese donıt think that way. To
examine this difference, let us take a look at the historical aspects on
whaling between Japan and the U.S., and also how Japan and the U.S. educate
their own people later.
(1) Japan on Whaling
According to the evidence of hand harpoons and porpoise skulls found in
Jomon burial mounds, it is said that Japanese has practiced whaling since
10,000 BC (ICR, 1996). Bones of whales were discovered in the shell mound of
the same period. This indicates that whales were consumed for food by the
Japanese people since then (JWA, 1981).
The Japanese always have taken whales for food. Due to the Buddhist beliefs,
people didnıt eat meat of the ³four-legged animals² until the middle of the
19th century. However, since whales were regarded as fish by the Japanese,
they took whales and ate whale meat. Whales have no legs and swim in the
ocean (Misaki, 1996).
Whales for the Japanese were special fish which provided valuable protein
and every part of the body was utilized (JWA, 1987). The Followings are the
examples of utilization of whale parts:
The (whale) oil was mixed with vinegar to make a highly effective pesticide
for use in rice paddies*E*E*E The baleen was used from the tips of fine
fishing rods, to beautifully polished dishes and combos, to the springs that
worked the mouths of ³bunraku² pappets*c Bones are sawed up, cooked and
pulverized to make excellent fertilizer*c Entails were used in miso soup or
were broiled on charcoal. Absolutely nothing was wasted (Nicol, 1983?).
Since Japanese whaling bean, the whales were not only used as food but also
had a long time association with Japanese tradition. The description of
whales appears in the Kojiki,ı which is Japanıs oldest written record (712
AD). The Manyoshu,ı a collection of ancient poems, has a description of
whaling and whalers (770 AD). In the Heike Monogatari,ı chronicle of the
Heike samurai family and its fight for supremacy, there is a description of
2,000 porpoises that terminated the Heike military forces in the sea of
Dannoura (JWA, 1981).
According to Buddhism, every object has a soul. Due to thi s belief, whalers
in old days recited Buddhist prayers to eliminate whales*fcurses as they
killed whales. At the same time, whalers had blessings for the whales. We
can see their blessings by whale memorials in many coastal regions in Japan.
Thereıs even a whale grave in Tokyo (JWA, 1981).
(2) The US on Whaling
In the first place, the Westerners have been practicing sheep herding for
11,000 years rather than whaling (Ferro, 1996).
Americans had been chasing whales for oil and baleen all over the world.
Before petroleum was found, Western people valued whale oil for high-quality
lubricant, machine oil, lamp oil or candles (Misaki, 1996). Its baleen was
used for skirt hoops. Westerners valued whale oil for machinery the most
The American whalers began whaling in the early 18th century by the
discovery of the superior quality of sperm oil (The Columbia Encyclopedia,
1993). They expanded their whaling grounds from the Atlantic to the Indian
Ocean, from the south Pacific all the way north to the Arctic Ocean. Because
of the decreased demand for whale oil, the American whale industry was in
the decline by the 1850s (JWA, 1981).
In the 20th century, Western nations, as well as America, sent their ships
to Antarctic waters, the last area that had rich whale stocks. The
Westerners needed whale oil to develop modern machinery industries (Misaki,
1996). They depleted many of the large species in the Antarctic Ocean before
W.W.II (Misaki, 1996; JWA, 1981).
The Americanıs aim for whaling was primarily oil. They never have eaten
whale meat. As Euller (1970) describes, ³In the old days of (Western)
whaling, most of the whale was wasted.² (p.93-94).
Due to the development of petroleum products in the 1960ıs, Americans donıt
need whale oil anymore (Misaki, 1996).
5. How Japan and the U.S. Educate Their Own People about Whaling
I am Japanese. I was born in Japan and raised in Japan. As I recall my own
childhood, I remember many of the memories related to whaling and whales. My
mother used to say, ³Whale meat is good. It is cheap and nutritious. Most of
all, thereıs nothing to waste.² In her words, there was a blessing for whale
meat and her feeling of a pride as a Japanese who utilize every parts of a
In a social study class of elementary school, we learned whaling procedure
and how whales were brought to the land. There was some description and
pictures on whaling in a textbook.
In a Japanese class, we read a story about a whaler. I donıt remember the
story in detail, but I remember his bravery and my impression from the story
that whale meat was beneficial.
I was never told whales were smart or intelligent. However, I had an
impression that dolphins were cute and smart because of an American TV show,
(2) The US on Whaling
Information on whales and whaling in the U.S. is very imbalanced. The major
libraries in Washington State, including University of Washingtonıs library,
donıt carry information on the history of Japanese whaling even though Japan
has the longest whaling history of the world (Iwai and ³Class of the Moon,²
Children are educated with inadequate information on whales through media,
propaganda of animal activists and possibly their parents. Kim (1993) states
following inadequate information for children in a picture book. ³Whalers
from Japan, Iceland, and Norway continue to kill minke, sei, and fin whales.
They claim it is to study whales, but often they sell the whale meat.² This
text teaches children a negative image of taking and eating whales by
exaggerating commercial whaling and not telling all the facts.
People in the U.S. have easy access to see whales movies, such as ³Free
Willy,² or to get education on marine mammals at various institutions, such
as ³The Whale Museum² in Washington State, and ³The Intersea Foundation.²
Magazines and newspapers often have advertisements for whale watching
programs. I saw one ad of whale watching in the Seattle Times and a one-page
article about dolphin research in the Christian Science Monitor on the same
day. On the Internet, one can find more than 200 whale-watching sites in one
search engine. It is very easy to get information on whales or marine
mammals in the U.S. In this way, American people are educated that ³Whales
are the most specialized of all mammals. They are sentient, they are
intelligent, they have their own community, and they can suffer.² (Skare,
As we see previous statements, there is a big difference between Japan and
the U.S. in education about whaling.
First of all, there is a difference of diet between the Japanese and the
Americans behind this issue. This difference comes from their histories. The
Japanese have been practicing whaling for 12,000 years. It is impossible for
them to get rid of a notion why they cannot eat whale meat. On the other
hand, the Westerners have been practicing sheep herding for 11,000 years
rather than whaling. It is impossible for Americans to accept the idea that
eating whale meat is no worse than eating land mammals.
If both of these nations keep their autonomy, there shouldnıt be any
problems between them. However, the whaling dispute continues even today.
There must be some other things in addition to the difference of diet behind
When the Japanese captured five orca whales in February 1997, the American
media and animal activists immediately reacted. Orca whales are not
endangered (The Seattle Times, 1997). What is the problem for them? Their
ideology is that intelligent mammals must be conserved (COMO TV, 1997).
Let us examine this ideology thoroughly.
If we take the Americanıs ideology, ³Intelligent mammals must be conserved,²
this indicates, ³The American donıt care about non-intelligent mammals.² If
they were concerned about non-intelligent mammals, it would be impossible
for them to get one hamburger for 99 cents. Even if non-intelligent mammals,
such as cattle, are destroying the rain forests in Latin America, the range
land in the U.S., and the atmosphere of the whole world (Frank, 1992), it is
all right for the American people to get cheap beef because cattle are
non-intelligent mammals. On the other hand, Americans think the Japanese
cannot eat whale meat because whales are intelligent mammals. Even if Japan
has culturally valued traditional whaling, they donıt want to value it
because ³Intelligent mammals must be conserved.²
Behind this argument, there is clearly an ethnocentrism in the U.S. The U.S.
forces its own values on Japan.
Lastly, let me add one analysis on this dispute.
What we are puzzling is why the U.S. has two inconsistent policies, which
are that it allows the Alaskan Inuit to take endangered bowhead whales while
it doesnıt allow whaling countries to take abundant minke whales. I regard
this inconsistency as an indirect ³Japan Bashing.²
Japan is portrayed as a cruel and greedy country to the U.S. citizens.
Stories about the whaling of the Alaskan Inuit show pure and innocent images
of them. They are aborigines. They hunt a modest amount of whales to
conserve their culture. On the other hand, Japan7s image is dark. Its
whaling is seen as commercial whaling. Activists insinuate that Japan sells
whale meat at $25 for 1,000 grams (JWHALE, ?). Even President Clinton
implied Japanese whaling as an inappropriate activity. His letter to the
Japanese government states that Japan stopped commercial whaling though they
still continue whaling activities in the name of the ³research
I analyze this subject that the U.S. is using the Inuit as a tool to make
its own people view Japanese whaling worse. Otherwise the U.S. shouldnıt
have let the Inuit take endangered bowhead whales. This indirect²Japan
Bashing² by the American public encourages the U.S. politiciansı move to
suppress Japanese whaling through threats of economic sanctions.
I suspect the American politicians and animal activists are gaining from
this whaling dispute. The American politicians can win elections by the
peopleıs will. Animal activists can gain peopleıs will and money power to
move politicians by showing inappropriate information on Japanese whaling.
[Animal activists have money. It is said that they spend $10 million a year
on their advertisement (Misaki, 1994). Some of the scientists on the
Scientific Committee of the IWC had been financed by Greenpeace and the
International Fund for Animal Welfare (The International Harpoon, 1996).]
The victims on this issue are innocent American citizens and the Japanese
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