Japan and the whale: A case study in how ideology wrecks ecosystems

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Seeing a government pursue bad policies is bad enough, but what is worse is when they do so for no good reason. Just pure ideology and pigheaded unwillingness of politicians to admit they might be wrong. Issues such as gun control in the US or climate change denial are good examples, as is brexit in the UK. However, there is perhaps no greater example of this sort of behaviour than Japan’s obsession with wanting to hunt whales. So much so, they’ve just announced their intention to resume whale hunting.

The Japanese will claim that whale hunting is a vital part of their culture and whale meat has long been a part of the Japanese diet. Neither is entirely true. While a handful of coastal communities in Japan have historically hunted whales, they did so only occasionally and usually opportunistically (e.g. if sick whales came close to land and often focusing on the smaller whale species rather than those in the deep ocean).

Large scale whale hunting by the Japanese only really started in the late 19th century, becoming a major industry only in the post-war period (ironically it was initiated by the Americans who were then occupying Japan at the time), until whale hunting was effectively banned some decades later by the IWC. So its a “tradition” with a relatively short and recent history, related to a period when the country was under military occupation.

Furthermore, it doesn’t make a lot of money, nor did it ever. Its heavily subsidised by the state, to the tune of tens of millions per year. And for the record, Japan never really stopped whale hunting. After the ban they took to hunting whales for the purposes of “scientific research”….which has concluded, after extensive research (again, funded by the state), that firing exploding harpoon’s into whales does in fact kill them.

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And whale consumption in Japan is tiny and has been in decline for some time now. Only a tiny fraction of Japan’s meat consumption is whale meat, less that 30g per person per year in fact (about 0.2% of average meat consumption per year….in a country where meat consumption is relatively low). Large amounts of it are actually left unsold.

Most whale meat in fact ends up being served to school kids….who don’t eat it! Either because they don’t like it, or they (or their parents) are aware how unhealthy it is, given that its loaded with mercury, pesticide residues, micro-plastics, and all sorts of other nasties. So in short, Japan is spending a lot of money, causing significant environmental damage and wrecking ecosystems just to feed kids toxic chemicals and fill lots of waste bins with discarded whale meat that nobody wants to eat (and probably shouldn’t be eating).

In short its a policy that makes no logical sense, beyond flag waving nationalism (celebrating the time they were under US occupation!). But, as is so often the case with politicians, whale hunting has become a totem for the Japanese, a blood-lust they must satisfy, regardless of the cost, be it to the environment, the government, or the health of their children.

About daryan12

Engineer, expertise: Energy, Sustainablity, Computer Aided Engineering, Renewables technology
This entry was posted in environment, Global warming denial, history, Japan, news, sustainability and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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