Japan, I Love You, But What’s Up With the Whaling?

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One might think we don’t have to hunt and kill the most majestic creatures on earth to make golf balls, detergent and hair color anymore…but no! One of America’s greatest sins in harvesting animals for food and other products is the intensive confinement of chickens, pigs, cows and other livestock in what is called CAFOS or Confined Animal Farming Operations.

We crowd our animals by the thousands in small confines and fill them full of growth hormones so we can maximize production in the shortest amount of time possible. We inject them with antibiotics as a preventive measure so that they won’t get sick from other animals in close proximity. Many times their pens are so small that the animals can’t even turn around or lay down in comfort. It is inhumane, and it’s the main reason I became a vegetarian.

I will write more about factory farming and Big Food in the future and recommend seeing the movie Food Inc. to gain a greater understanding of America’s industrial food and agriculture woes—and what we can do about them.

However, I’d like to focus this post on what I consider to be the other great sin—the continued hunting of whales for meat and to make products like golf balls, detergent and hair color.

It is a fact that Japan, Iceland and Norway—the three main hunters of whales despite a 1982 global moratorium on their slaughter—are still applying for patents for the use of whale parts. The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society reported in June that it had found thousands of approved patents that list whale oil and other parts of the marine mammals for use in goods such as golf balls, hair color, detergent, candy, bio-diesel and health drinks—all products that can be readily manufactured without ingredients taken from these majestic, intelligent creatures.

One would think that in 2010 we would have moved beyond brutally hunting down these amazing animals with harpoons. But, like Captain Ahab in the mid-1800s, that vengeful, dogged character in Melville’s allegorical opus Moby Dick, Japan stubbornly pursues its single-minded hunting and slaughtering of whales in the name of “research” despite international protests.

Well, call me Ishmael, but I hope that we can save what whales we have left. The Right Whale, so named by whalers of old because it floated when harpooned and was thus deemed the “right” whale to hunt, is down to just 30 living animals in the entire eastern Pacific Ocean, according to researchers at NOAA's Southwest Fisheries Science Center. These same scientists express concern for the long-term survival of the species.

Japan, Iceland and Norway have used loopholes in the whaling moratorium to continue to hunt whales, to the tune of more than 30,000 whales killed for commercial use in the past 25 years. Japan has even threatened to withdraw from the International Whaling Commission (IWC), which oversees the ban, so it can hunt whales more freely. This year, the Japanese plan to harvest up to 1,000 whales in the Antarctic for “research” purposes. Yet, whale meat continues to show up on the shelf in Japanese food stores and in sushi restaurants.

Whale activists all over the world breathed a sigh of relief when the global whaling ban established 28 years ago was not overturned despite efforts to do so at a recent meeting of the IWC. However, given the loopholes in the ban that are so big you could sail a modern-day Japanese whaling ship through them, we must continue to be vigilant and speak up for our giant sea-faring cetacean brethren, for they cannot speak in a language we understand.

A recent study estimated that whale watching is a $2 billion-plus industry, growing by 10 percent a year. Perhaps it is time that these whaling nations still clinging to outmoded ways will realize that live whales are more valuable than dead ones.

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