Environment Forum

Emotive debate resurfaces as whale meat exports resume

Thar she blows! An emotive and familiar but very important debate.


News that Iceland and Norway have resumed whale meat exports to Japan for the first time since the early 1990s despite a U.N. ban is the latest twist in a saga that stirs passions in the conservation and animal welfare communities like few others.

The bottom line: Norway, Iceland and Japan hunt and eat whales despite a 1986 International Whaling Commission moratorium on these practices and condemnation from many countries.

There have been predictable howls of protest from various green and animal welfare groups.

The United States has also voiced its displeasure and urged Iceland and Norway to cease exporting whale meat to Japan. 

Most countries are officially opposed to the practice of whaling. But critics like the United States also allow the trapping of wild fur-bearing mammals for the fashion trade; non-whaling Canada has an annual and controversial annual seal hunt.

A sting in the whale tale?

whale.jpgAsk many Japanese about whaling and they explain it’s part of their culture. After all, Japan is surrounded by the ocean and whaling and fishing have been part of Japan for many centuries.

During a recent visit to Japan, several Japanese friends and colleagues were puzzled, indeed annoyed, by Western media coverage of Japan’s scientific whaling in Antarctic waters earlier this year and thought the stories were hostile and uninformed.

To them, stopping whaling would be akin to Australians being forced to stop summer barbecues, Inuits from hunting seals, or Germans from drinking beer during Oktoberfest.