Thursday, November 29, 2007

Hate speech

My friend Paul Kingsnorth has kindly given a slot to Brendan O'Neill on his blog. So it should be clear what we think of him. But Brendan never ceases to fail to surprise, and in his latest contribution to the Guardian (Now racism is disguised as environmentalism - not available online at the time of writing) he accuses those concerned about the resumption of whaling approved by the Japanese government (and that includes me; see this) of one of the great unacceptables of our time.

But a contributor to a debate about the Japanese government decision at DotEarth wrote:
[The New York Times] Week in Review has an article on whaling in Japan that ends with, “Asking Japan to abandon this part of its culture,” the (Japan Whaling) association says, “would compare to Australians being asked to stop eating meat pies, Americans being asked to stop eating hamburgers and the English being asked to go without fish and chip.” This is totally false statement. I am a middle aged Japanese and I had whale meat once when I was about 8 years old as a sort of a “delicacy.” It tasted just like beef tenderloin so there is no reason to kill these animals for their so called unique taste. And even if it was it’s wrong. It saddens me to think that a very small minority view in Japan is holding up whale hunting and eating as some kind of sacred national ritual. Large scale commercial whaling was brought to Japan by the U.S. fishermen in the 19th century. So not only is whale meat NOT a staple food in Japan, it is not even a ancient ritual. The world should know this and we should pressure the Japanese goverment to ban this illogical, selfish and cruel practice.
The real question, therefore, is what warps people so much that they would rather encourage a greatly increased risk of the permanent eradication of a highly intelligent, unique species than face some basic truths?

That said, there are plenty of hazards for cetaceans that have nothing to do with the Japanese. Take three examples among many. The loss of krill in the waters of Antarctica is sharply reducing the food supply of some species. Noise from human activity could be having significant effects (and I count one of my best bits of radio journalism an investigation on this topic about ten years ago now). And fishing boats driving dolphins to exhaustion in order to hunt the tuna underneath them may be causing many mothers to abandon their young - the tragic downside to discoveries from an otherwise beautiful bit of science reported here: Another reason why infants need their mothers.

P.S.30 Nov: Kenny Young writes to say is trying to get a million people to sign a petition to stop whaling. At the time of writing more than 555,000 people have signed the petition.

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