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Thursday, 6 June, 2002, 09:59 GMT 10:59 UK
Should whaling be permitted?
Pro-whaling countries, led by Japan, are attempting to have a 15-year ban on commercial whaling lifted at this year's meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC).

Anti-whaling campaigners scored an unexpected victory in the first vote to be taken at the conference, but support for the pro-whaling lobby is said to be building.

The result of the vote meant that Iceland, which wants to see a return to commercial whaling, will now be excluded from joining the IWC.

The UK Fisheries Minister, Elliot Morley, said the result was better than expected and a very good sign, but he cautioned that anti-whaling countries could face tougher resistance in their effort to maintain the existing global ban on whaling.

Should whaling be permitted? What do you think will be achieved at the IWC meeting?

This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

You've convinced yourselves that hunting is wrong. Hunting is nature.

Anonymous, USA
Most of you people have been raised on too many Disney movies, assigning human traits to animals and then becoming so out of touch with nature that you've convinced yourselves that hunting is wrong. Hunting is nature. You'll never truly understand and appreciate the environment until you understand all facets of the predator/prey relationships. Now we have the ability to monitor populations and prevent extinctions AND hunt. Nature is not your personal zoo, it is there for us to participate in responsibly in various ways. No one is advocating the whale's extinction. It seems tolerance only goes so far.
Anonymous , USA

As for Japan's using culture as defence, I want to say that culture is not a static thing, but changes according to our new knowledge that informs our new ethics. Polygamy and cannibalism have long gone. The culture that like to test the effect of killer germs on living humans has also been censored. As a civilized culture, we have to recognize the pain of others, and move on for a better world, instead of indulging on sadistic pleasures.
Rosabella Tai, Hong Kong, China

As commercial whaling has not been permitted for decades, can someone please inform me how a whaling industry big enough to require protection still exists in Japan at all? Surely we have learned all we can by slaughtering whales to examine their stomach contents etc? Far better to observe them in the wild.
Mark Walsh, UK

I don't think the way whales are slaughtered is particularly inhumane.

The ark sakura, Japan
Yes it should be allowed, but only at a sustainable rate. I think people who are saying "Killing whales is wrong because it's not necessary" are stupid. There is no type of food that is really necessary. After all we don't have to eat cows or pigs, as there is always a alternative. But people have the right to eat anything they want to maintain their quality of lives as long as it doesn't destroy the environment. And notion that whale meat is luxury food in Japan is wrong. It was relatively cheap food before banning. It was popular as a cheap protein source especially in the post war period when we were poor. I don't think the way whales are slaughtered is particularly inhumane. The words cruel or inhumane are more suitable to describe the way those livestocks like cows and chickens are raised.
The ark sakura, Japan

I support a continuation of the ban on whaling. If whale populations recover to the point where it becomes obvious that sustainable commercial whaling under strict supervision is possible , then I see no reason why it should not be re-introduced
Chris Dodson, South Africa

The need to slaughter whales is unnecessary and cruel. In this day and age we have the ability to duplicate any product that is removed and sold during the commercial whaling process. However this is big business and when there is money to be made, industry is bound to ignore the alternatives.
Todd Schatzman, USA

There is no humane way of killing a whale

Nick Dodson, Australia
The rights or wrongs of killing animals other than whales are entirely irrelevant. The killing of whales is wrong. Many excellent reasons have been given by other visitors to this site. A couple of others:

(a) There is no humane way of killing a whale, as I understand the process. They do not readily lose consciousness, in contrast to the more usual "meat animals" which can be stunned before death.
(b)Overpopulation by whales is an absurd concept. When I can't swim at the beach for whales getting in the way, or they are causing major environmental problems the way rabbits do in Australia, then talk to me about overpopulation!
Nick Dodson, Australia

I'm having trouble understanding all of this. I'm really neutral on the issue personally. In my home country, Iceland, scientists and government are saying it is safe to start whaling again, at least for certain types of whale. They even say it is needed to protect us from overpopulation of certain types. I am lost in all of this. I feel Greenpeace has through the years been a responsible organization, but now they seem at odds with recognized research. I cannot find any hard data on their website on the issue, only sentimental stuff. Where can I find scientific data to support the demand for a continued ban on whaling?
islander, Iceland

Many of the Japanese correspondents say they will take whales at a sustainable rate. As someone who has dived in a remote area of Indonesia I have seen the destruction of coral reefs caused when large fish are caught for the Japanese market. I certainly isn't sustainable! I have also spoken to divers who remember the large numbers of sharks that used to be found in the same area but which are now vanishing because they have been almost eliminated by over fishing. Don't trust countries which say they will only take what the environment can sustain. It won't happen with whales any more than it has happened with cod in the North Atlantic. Eating whales is a luxury indulged in at the expense of the moral repugnance of the majority of the informed world. The arguments used to justify it smell of the same self-centred attitudes that powerful interests always use to get their way at the expense of others.
Jon Parsons, UK

It is incredible how people can say that whales are only a food source. Whales are important creatures that help keep the balance of the oceans' ecosystems. There are so many thing that we still don't know about them. They don't harm us in any way and what do certain people do in exchange torture and slaughter them for their own egocentric and greedy reasons.
Lisbeth, Sanchez, Honduras

There are things vastly more important than the honouring of tradition

William, UK
Many defenders of the Japanese position on whaling have reacted angrily, claiming that to attempt to destroy the whaling industry is an attack on Japanese culture. Perhaps it is, but there are things vastly more important than the honouring of tradition. Hopefully the UK will soon act to bring about an end to fox hunting, and the world should act similarly to bring about an end to whaling. The slaughter of a living being cannot be justified by "tradition".
William, UK

As a former fisherman on the Atlantic coast, I have seen many whales. They captivate us with their moods that can be felt even though they are only momentarily above water. Their elegance is known throughout the world - not their meat. Animals that are capable of making beautiful music ought not to be killed for mere oil.
Jason d'Eon, Montreal, Canada

During former whaling seasons, whale populations have been conducted close to extinction. Some populations are slowly recovering, however, they face other threats, such as contamination etc. I doubt that populations are well enough to be commercialized. Therefore I am against re-enacting whaling in order to conserve marine mammal biodiversity.
Dr. Judith Denkinger, Ecuador

We Japanese are really tired of the fact that some people are trying to impose their opinions on us

Mona, Japan
Honestly, we Japanese are really tired of the fact that some people are trying to impose their own customs and opinions on us without listening to us. They never change their minds , even if we show them the results of the scientific survey and ask them to think about whaling logically. For me, they seem to believe their judgements are always right and their cultures are superior to other ones. I hope someday they will understand that every cultural group has different way of thinking, "So many countries, so many customs."
Mona, Japan

The whale does not need structure or clothing to survive in a sane and intelligent way. With the size of its brain, it can concentrate it's intelligence on areas of thought that are beyond mankind's conception. We have no standard or context with which to measure whale intelligence. Based upon humanities current and past history man is living an insane and irrational life. I think it is a sin against the universe to eat a fellow species that may be more intelligent than we are!
Alan MacHardy, USA

I think that a life is equivalent. An insect, a plant, a cow, a pig, and the whale of a life are equal. Human beings can survive by consuming other lives. After all, every human being's crime is the same. I despise those who attach superiority or inferiority to the weight of a life. It is only pride. I consume other lives and am alive in appreciation of the life.
Ohmae Mona, Japan

Most of these countries who wish for a return for whaling claim that they wish to do so as it is a traditional meal/delicacy. If this is the case then whaling should be permitted using traditional methods only. ie. Wooden boats and men with traditional spears. This will give the whales a fighting chance which they do not have against the factory ships. To enforce this all factory ships should be destroyed.
Craig Goodwin, UK

Give us something that cannot speak, and that cannot fight for its own rights and we exploit it to the hilt

Ree James, Australia
Today, in the western world we are concerned with reducing poverty, racism and, discrimination. We are now strong on the belief that everyone has rights, and every persons' life is important. All signs of a "compassionate", evolving society. And yet this is our dark side. Give us something that cannot speak, and that cannot fight for its own rights and we exploit it to the hilt. I don't understand how we can justify choosing what we will or will not protect. And how on one hand we can get all gooey and protective over the cute and cuddly (e.g koalas), and using that same hand cut, maim, "eat" and cause countless amount of suffering for other animals who I am sure, think their life is pretty important too.

As a scientist I guess I was suppose to write something scientific, but instead I wrote something from the heart, - something we have sadly forgotten about. We are not by nature evil people, we are beautiful and caring and compassionate. Let's remember what its like to use the full force of our heart and "SAVE THE WHALES".
Ree James, Australia

Since minke, sperm, and a few other whale species are robust populations, whaling within the limited quota by IWC should be allowed by any country that wish to adhere to the Whaling Convention.
Sally Brydes Pomeroy, Japan

The possibility of whaling being reintroduced is disgusting. Hasn't the human race come to terms with the fact that we are only one element of what makes this planet beautiful? The thought of these beautiful creatures being slaughtered in the most inhumane and despicably cruel way is heartbreaking.
Pat Rayner, Australia

It is impossible to kill these creatures quickly and painlessly, they suffer torture for hours on end before their suffering is finally ended. These deaths are totally unnecessary, and so is the suffering.
Gill Cook, England

The unnecessary slaughter of any animal is wrong. It pains me to see this barbarity in a so called civilized society. We should look to the future and stop living in the past. Slaughtering whales is not a viable plan for the future and soon it will be extinct.
Hannah, UK

Our perceived interests in whaling are painfully short-sighted

Fransje de Waard, Netherlands
It is such a disgrace to think of the tens of thousands of whales that lived in the oceans, say, over a century ago. This is not even a blink in the life of the universe. Our perceived interests in whaling are so painfully short-sighted, that any kind of belief of our own species being the crown of creation or evolution is proof of the contrary. Let the oceans live.
Fransje de Waard, Netherlands

It's very strange, that a highly industrialized country like Japan is so keen on barbaric things like whaling. Japan can buy votes of poor nations at the congress, but they cannot force customers to buy their products. Think about it!
Burkhard Pietz, Germany

Yes, those small-scale whaling communities must be allowed to hunt small numbers of minke whales which they can sustainably catch to sustain their humble economy.
Jan Pearsall, Japan

There is no moral ground in seeing whaling as a cultural right. These magnificent creatures don't belong to particular country or culture. We are just one among the millions of species and we should learn to co-exist. But we take it for granted and plunder this planet and I don't see why other creatures should pay for our greed. This high time that we keep a moratorium on commercial whaling before these magnificent creatures are extinct. These creatures are not just created to be a part of our delicacies they are worth more than that. Let us give them a chance to live because it is their right.
D Balu, India

It is easy to be critical of Japan and Norway. Their wish to restart commercial whaling represents a obvious threat to a specific species. But in reality the greatest threat to all species comes from loss of habitat and environmental change. Maybe some of the contributors from countries not signed up to Kyoto should remember that they pose a greater risk to many more forms of life through their governments protecting their Jobs
Zeb, UK

We Japanese do not want to put whales in danger, if they become extinct, we can not eat them anymore.

Itteyoshi, Netherlands
I am a Japanese researcher in the EU. Don't misunderstand, we are not asking to catch every whale. We are asking to catch few whale species that have enough populations. They are not in danger as a result of scientific whaling in Japan. Some people say, "whales are different from pigs or cows". Yes, it is true, but how about white tailed deer in the US, Kangaroos in Australia or Rabbits in UK? They are "wild" animals and killed because their population is going too high and causing lots of problems. We kill them to control their population. Why not can we control whale population? We Japanese do not want to put whales in danger, if they become extinct, we can not eat them anymore.
Itteyoshi, Netherlands

I see no difference between eating Whales and other animals like Cows and Tuna. I don't see any special value in whale like some people do. They are just food resources. I think it's false to force someone's value on others for only sentimental reasons. To ban Whaling is simply wrong because we have no intention to exterminate Whales. Many people consider that Japanese are the most knowledgeable about Whales and have done more research than any other country.
Yosuke, Japan

My main concern with whaling is not economic and is not directly related to depletion, but purely in relation to the extreme suffering caused to an incredibly intelligent and placid species. I am always amazed that supposedly intelligent people can justify killing other sentient beings. We lock up (or worse) people for killing one another but choose to turn a blind eye to the slaughter of many beings who have existed on this planet many times longer than we have had the arrogance to call ourselves the dominant species.
Steve Fowkes, England

There are more important things to deal with.

Jeff, Japan / UK
Taking whales from a sustainable population is OK. I am a Brit living in Japan and I eat whale once a week. Tasty and I feel more "green" than eating a breast of chicken taken from a hormone garnished battery hen. There are more important things to deal with. Here in Japan in my local supermarket sweet potatoes and carrots are individually wrapped in plastic! - plastic which is destined for a land fill site 24 hrs after purchase. Lights are left on 24hrs, driving 500m to the local circle K (great for more non-recyclable rubbish) is normal. It's time energy was spent on the real issues facing our planet from logic not emotional stand points. I eat whale, I turn of all unused lights, I use public transport and I refuse to buy foods excessively packaged. Only protesting about "cute" whales does not make you an environmentalist
Jeff, Japan ex UK

It is said that eating whale is a part of Japanese culture, a tradition, however, in Australia we used to abuse the rights of the Aboriginal people, we learnt and changed our ways. There is no reason to say because we have done this for a long time we need to keep doing it. Times change, people learn from their mistakes and evolve. Eating these beautiful creatures is just not necessary to live, there are plenty of alternatives!
Karen Lancaster, Australia

Japan does not intend to expand whaling as a major industry, but just protect a minor old-style traditional industry which relates for food culture and art works. Even the industry itself is small, it is not really fair to judge other country's culture or custom by other country's emotion: sushi is acceptable as it seems healthy and exotic, but eating whale meat is disgusting. I feel sorry for the honest workers of the whale industry always made to feel guilty because their job is not simply legal and put in a grey zone.
Emi, Japan (UK)

Introducing whaling again is only going to escalate the problems our oceanic ecosystem is already facing

Carina, Australia
In the light of UN's current report that one-quarter of the planet's vertebrae species will be extinct in the next few decades let's not start whaling again. As a scientist I do believe the scientific reports documenting that most whale species are rare and threatened. Obviously not because of whaling which has been banned for 15 years but from mismanagement of our oceans. Introducing whaling again is only going to escalate the problems our oceanic ecosystem is already facing.
Carina, Australia

We have one earth, one chance! This planet belongs to everyone, generations lived and those to come too. So I ask what right do people of this generation have to ruin this planet for their own greed? I am privileged to live in one of the most amazing places with abundant wildlife - these creatures, the whales are a privilege, how dare people take advantage of them and for what. Whales are magnificent, massive creatures, yet so endangered. Please conserve these beauties, let them be.
Bec Blakemore, New Zealand

I can't believe how naive some of you can be comparing cattle and pigs to whales. Cattle and pigs outnumber whales many times over, livestock were made for a food source for a great many people. Whales are not! They only have young every five or so years which means there are less whales then ever before. Whales can be wiped out overnight if whaling continues. Thanks to all who are against whaling, we will make a difference!
Cyborg, USA

Why should we as humans get to decide whether or not the whales get to survive? If the shoe were on the other foot, and whales were making the decision on whether humans were to be slaughtered how would we feel? And as for the numbers of minke whales left in the world's oceans there seems to be some discrepancies - with Japan claiming over 100,000 and the rest of the world's scientists estimating 40,000. Put either way, that's not enough whales for my liking.
Jacq, Australia

These magnificent beings have as much right to live as we do! Let them be!
Margaret Anne, Australia

Touch a whale, and then see how you feel about killing one. Kiss a whale, and catch your breath at what you have just done. Reach inside the mouth of a baby whale and touch its tongue. Look into its eye. Caress its snout. Listen to it. You will understand why all whales should be saved from all whaling, scientific and otherwise. I have done so, two months ago in San Ignacio Lagoon in Mexico. The experience is incomparable. Why? Because, simply put, whales are incomparable, and the purposeful taking of their lives is a wanton demeaning of the human spirit.
Jim Lunsford, USA

If Japan and Norway want to hunt whales. I say go for it, but do it in your own waters. But Japan and Norway can't do that, because they have killed all the whales that live in their waters. So they are trying to force other countries to let them use international waters. Which might be ok if the other countries agree, but we don't. Well over 90% of South Pacific nations are against whaling, so understandably they want a whale sanctuary in the South Pacific. But Japan and Norway keep voting it down. Now is it any wonder that Australia and New Zealand keep voting down a return to hunting, when they refuse to even negotiate on hunting in the South Pacific.
Daniel Warner, Australia

Why are we letting two tiny countries like Norway and Japan dictate to the world they are going to kill whales while the majority of the countries are against whaling? The Japanese and Norwegians are killing our oceans. The whales play a vital part in the ocean ecosystem. If we let Japan and Norway get away with killing all the whales, they will not stop there, soon, other species will be vulnerable too. Stop the whaling now. What is going to happen to the billion dollar whale watching business? We environmentalists and animal activists have begun boycotting Norwegian and Japanese products here in the United States in protest to those countries whaling
JC United States

While I believe that whaling should remain banned, I do not think that we should be so quick to point the finger at countries such as Japan and Norway without having a good look at some of our own policies. For example, we have over fished the North sea to the extent that the numbers of some species are on the verge of collapse. Not content with that, European fishing fleets are devastating the waters around West Africa too. As for claims of cruelty, some of our own farming practices, for example battery hen farming, are nothing short of abominations, and we should be thoroughly ashamed of them. Yes, we should fight hard to keep the ban on whaling, but we should also take a good look at some of our own practices too, otherwise countries such as Japan and Norway can rightly say that we are preaching double standards.
R Hill, UK

All products obtained from whales can now be synthesized. There is no more need to slaughter these animals. The methods used to kill whales are unspeakably cruel and must be stopped.
Martine Ferguson, US

An overwhelming majority of people would rather watch whales that eat them.

Kaija, Finland
In my opinion, an overwhelming majority of people would rather watch whales that eat them. In many countries fishermen and travel agencies have already seized the opportunity and started to arrange whale watching tours for tourists. There is nothing to stop the current whalers from doing the same - the even have the boats ready. Whales are worth a lot more alive than dead.
Kaija, Finland

I see no difference between killing whales for food and killing livestock, poultry etc etc. Whales are a natural resource no different to any other. You don't see such sentimentality when ordering a burger or Sunday roast, and you can guarantee that the whale has led a better life than the "factory farmed" animals we all consume.
Steve, UK

Like many other Norwegians I am ashamed of my governments long and determined work - often by dirty means - to reopen the killing of whales. Unfortunately this is just a small part of the Norwegian overall disrespect for animals. I hope that people and nations will do their utmost to impose more civilization to our country. Today we must realise that the world is one, and that we all share the responsibility for what's going on everywhere.
Bent Ellingsen, Norway

It is equally wrong to kill any animal - be it one of millions or the last of it's kind.

David, UK
I'm a vegetarian and I don't believe in the needless killing of any animal. But I see no difference in killing whales as opposed to cattle or pigs. In fact, it's probably better to destroy one life for all the meat on a whale than it is to kill dozens of cows for the same amount of flesh. I don't buy the whole extinction argument at all. It is equally wrong to kill any animal - be it one of millions or the last of it's kind.
David, UK

Click on the numbers to read more of your comments.

Should whaling be permitted?



30261 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

See also:

20 May 02 | Asia-Pacific
20 May 02 | Science/Nature
08 May 02 | Science/Nature
20 May 02 | Asia-Pacific
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