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Whaling is
the act of hunting and killing whales, this is usually for their meat, oil, and
bones. Different communities hunt whales for different reasons, there are three
standard types of whaling; commercial whaling, where the whale’s parts are sold
for profit; scientific research whaling, this requires a permit, the whale is
examined to learn more about the animals; and finally, aboriginal subsistence
whaling, which allows aboriginals to complete traditional hunting practices
which keep their heritage alive as well as giving them a source of food and
income.                                                                                                                                                                                     The
International Whaling Commission (IWC) temporarily banned commercial whaling in
1986, this prohibition is still in place. This committee is a voluntary union
of currently 40 countries that provides limits on whale hunting as well as
statistical records and reports on the mammals, monitoring their populations.
The IWC itself cannot enforce any of the laws it creates; but the ban forced
member countries to completely stop hunting whales for profit, and meant that
anybody caught doing so in their waters could be placed in prison and faced
with large fines.                                                                                                                                                                                     The
ban was introduced due to rapidly declining and unsustainable whale populations
to allow them to replenish, as well as the increased pressure from growing
animal rights movements. However, Norway and Iceland brazenly continue
commercially whaling despite the bar, and Japan kills large numbers for its
‘scientific program’, between them over one and a half thousand whales are
killed each year. Whaling is a particularly heated topic between international animal
rights groups and certain governments, both campaigning for opposite agendas
and producing conflicting evidence which supports their own claims. I am
investigating this topic as I’m personally very interested in animal rights,
but also how far we should be allowed to push our own beliefs on others, especially
when it’s such a large majority against a small minority, as well as the role
and enforcement of international law. The literature will be presented
thematically to explore the different key elements of debate over this topic
and to analyse the opposing arguments and evidence for each area.

Due to whales being such large animals, the hunting method is “just barbaric”, “they’re hit
with an explosive harpoon sending shrapnel and hooks through their bodies”
-Jess Hansen (Sea Shepard’s director). Animal rights groups argue that it’s needless cruelty to make intelligent,
emotional beings suffer, that “all whales have the right to life,
liberty and wellbeing” -WDC (Whale and Dolphin Conservation). Hansen, who has been witness to many whale
hunts states “it takes a long time for them to die”, completely obverse to Setsuo Izumi (a
Japanese whaler) who argues this is completely false propaganda, and thanks to
this modern technology the whales “usually take 2 and a half minutes to die,
but sometimes pass instantly from the shock”.                                                    Sea
Shepard and the WDC actively campaign and publicize to end whaling, they share
very strong and similar views on the subject and produce alike research.
Hansen’s claim that the whales take a long time to die is also supported by a
veterinary scientist Dr. Kestin, he says there is evidence showing that
nearly half the animals hit by Japanese whalers are struck in a region which
would not lead to rapid death and he “can’t visualise a humane way of killing
whales.” This data came from a report Kestin collated on his findings from the
data on Minke Whale deaths from 1983-2001, published by the British Veterinary
Association which supposedly “support transparent, evidence- led findings”.
Although you could argue his findings may be outdated and doesn’t consider the modern
technology Izumi sited, and that the BVA may not actually be completely
unbiased considering their job is to look after the wellbeing of animals. Izumi
on the other hand is actively for whaling, and has been actively hunting them
for over 40 years, giving him lots of first-hand experience witnessing the
deaths. While you could reason this makes his claim more reliable, he is undoubtedly
biased so going to counter anti-whaling arguments, and perhaps his first-hand
experience isn’t actually as straight and truthful as the data collected by
Kestin. Nevertheless, the only way to completely stop the supposed cruelty
would be to ban all forms of whaling, no matter the motivation.

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Many view a
complete whaling ban as unjust, as various small coastal communities have long
histories and heritages
of subsistence whaling, where only relatively small numbers are killed. The
Faroe Islands especially still practice community whaling events known as
grinds, Bjarki Dalsgaro, a Faroese who takes part in the proceedings says his
people “feel a real cultural attachment” to the events, as they’re a major
tradition to maintaining cultural ties with ancestors, “everybody comes
together”.  Not only this, but the grinds
are for “food primarily”, and the aboriginals eat the meat themselves due to
the apparent health benefits. Currently the IWC allows for the aboriginal’s cultural practices,
and they are permitted to kill a set number of whales each year.        Dalsgaro
is a whaling advocate, having grew up on the islands with the tradition around
him, he argues the hunt should be allowed for the traditional and communal
benefits, however this is very one-sided and does not take into account the
damage the island could be doing to the environment. Sea Shepard who attended
the 2017 summer grinds said they witnessed at least 200 dolphins and over 400
whales killed, an arguably excessive number considering the small island
population and number of other food supplies available. Not only this, but under
the IWC guidelines, aboriginal communities should consume the meat locally,
although due to lose restrictions it can, and has been “sold to supermarkets
and even exported as surplus” -Chris Butler (a BBC News associate) notes. This
is almost certainly true as the BBC is a reliable producer of truthful unbiased
research; I believe it could be viewed as unfair and hypocritical to ban
commercial whaling but allow this solely because it’s performed by minority
groups.                                                                                                                                           Norway
and Iceland also view hunting whales as part of their histories and cultures, having
done so since at least the early 13th century. However, their
populations are too large to be allow them to hunt under the aboriginal whaling
clause. Their reasons are the same as the aboriginal groups throughout Canada
and Russia, to honor their “long traditions” -Genevieve Desportes (of the North
Atlantic Marine Mammal Conservation), he himself admits “it’s sustainable in
the long term”. Yet some may try argue that the aboriginal groups are most
likely taking in much smaller hauls, as it is intended for just self-consumption,
the Faroe Island 2017 hunts took in 400 whales, whereas Iceland only captured
under 200. You would expect Desportes to put down pro-whaling arguments because
of his position, so the fact that he’s saying it’s sustainable must be the
truth as it’s his job to analyze the figures and ensure the maintenance of this
wildlife.

Similarly, before
1986, countless whale species were becoming endangered and on the verge of
extinction due to larger whaling efforts and advancements in technology which
made the hunting easier and more efficient. The over 30-year suspension has
allowed the majority of the species to grow strongly and more than recover. The
minke whales, at an estimated population of “760,00” -IWC; Joji Morishita,
deputy director at Japanese Fisheries doesn’t understand why there “are more
than minkes ever, and they say we cannot take one”. The scientific department
of IWC estimated Japan could safely “take up to 2,000 minke a year” however the
40 members rejected this suggestion, due to each associate country’s strong
anti-whaling public opinion. Morishita argues “International law has to be
based on science, which is the bridge between different cultures. It can’t be
based on one group trying to impose their values on another.” I agree with him,
as the IWC was set up with a primary goal of ensuring our whale populations are
sustainable, and if this valued tradition can be continued at maintainable
rates with set quotas in place, the other member states have no reason to
object other than for personal reasons. Greenpeace argues that even a limited
resumption would unleash forces leading to a return to wholesale and
uncontrolled exploitation, however if the IWC’s own scientific program has
decided on a safe rate for the whaling, I find this a more reliable estimate
due to it being their primary concern and having all the figures to accurately
judge the situation.                                                                                                                                              Even
a former US whaling commissioner admits “they will no longer object on
conservation grounds, they will object on ethical grounds” -The Guardian, which
particularly angers the pro whalers. Despite sound, neutral scientific
evidence, agreed upon conservation terms and good motives, they are still
denied due to the west’s ethics. Setsua Izumi (a Japanese whaler) maintains
this objection is completely unfair and “cultural imperialism”, “the west is
trying to force their values on us”, he even compares it to “banning killing
cows for the sake of Hindus”. The former US whaling commissioner’s statement
agrees with what the pro-whalers like Morishita and Izumi have argued, it is
only still outlawed for ethical reasons.

There are two sides to this argument, as westernization
has already changed countless cultures, some believe we should try preserve and
encourage any original traditions and beliefs that remain. In this situation,
this would result in us removing the ban and allowing for commercial whaling,
as we allow many of our own desirable species to be hunted.  However, it could be argued that we have had good
reason to interfere, as the majority stance of the world, and us doing so has
saved countless whale species from going extinct. Not only this but many
societies have had “barbaric” ceremonies as part of their history, but as we
the world developed we have moved on and put these behind us to be more
considerate of our surroundings

Whaling is not for the money, in a year it produces “£70
million” (-The Guardian, a well-known, neutral and reliable source), a
relatively small figure when compared with the annual “£2 billion” whale
watching generates. This is perhaps a reminder of how the public values conservation
efforts and believes in protecting our wildlife as it has grown alongside us.
When I first started this essay, I was very against whaling as a supporter of
animal rights and especially having seen the particularly cruel nature of the
hunts as well as knowing how complex and intelligent whales can be. However,
having read into how certain people view the hunts as a way to bond with their
ancestors, and are willing to hunt at low levels they’ve proven are sustainable
yet are denied by other cultures, even demonising them, I can understand how
frustrating it must be and why they actively campaign against them, and
sometimes even continue hunting regardless. Despite this personally I believe
there should be a global, enforced ban on whaling, the scientific research has
been proven to be able to happen while they’re alive, and the aboriginals could
just try eating something else . Overwhelming public opinion supports this, and
other cultures before have been encouraged to stop killing endangered animals
needlessly, if not to preserve diversity, to minimise unkind human interference
with the natural world.                                                                        My
conclusion may be bias due to the majority of resources on whaling being
charity websites, actively campaigning to end it.

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