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Whales are many things – but they are not a resource to be ‘harvested’

Whales are not 'stocks' in the sense in which we as a country may have 'stocks of coal'. Nor are they resources to be harvested like a field of wheat. They are individual beings, with lives of their own.

PETER SINGER: ‘On Dec. 26, Japan announced that it was leaving the International Whaling Commission (IWC). Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, emphasized the cultural significance of the whaling industry for local Japanese communities and said that the IWC had focused too much on conserving whales and not on its stated goal of developing a sustainable whaling industry… That is how the IWC operated for its first 25 years. From the 1970s on, however, attitudes toward whales began to change…

In 1986, the IWC passed a moratorium on commercial whaling, which has been maintained ever since, even though it is today difficult to argue that all stocks of all species of whales are so imperilled that no commercial hunting could be sustainable. Japan has not openly breached the moratorium; instead, it has got around it by exploiting a loophole allowing the killing of whales for scientific research. Each year, Japanese whaling ships have killed about 300 whales, allegedly for this purpose. The carcasses of the whales were taken to Japan and their meat was sold to the dwindling minority of Japanese who continue to eat whale meat…

We have learned a lot about whales since 1946, we know that they are social mammals with big brains, capable of communicating with each other by various sounds. They bond with their children and with their social group. They live long lives – bowhead whales live much longer than any other mammal; some have been found with 200-year-old ivory spear tips embedded in their flesh. Many other whales live at least 40 years. They appear to be capable of both pleasure and pain – and not only physical pain, but very likely also distress at the loss of a child or one of their group.

Whales are therefore not stocks in the sense in which we as a country may have stocks of coal. Nor are they resources to be harvested like a field of wheat. They are individual beings, with lives of their own that may go well or badly… In modern commercial whaling, whales are killed by an explosive harpoon fired from a moving vessel at a moving target… If we needed to eat whales to survive, inflicting that kind of death on a sensitive social mammal might be defensible. For well-fed people in Japan or other affluent countries, it is not’. SOURCE…

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