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Humpback whale underwater

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Japan once again claims that whaling will bring health benefits

coffee cupSeveral years ago, after a late night IWC negotiation session, I found myself sat outide a coffee house with a WDC colleague, when a member of the Japanese delegation ran past on his nightly jog.

Seeing us, he paused and decided to sit down, upon which he took out a packet of cigarettes and proceeded to light up. My colleague was trying to give up smoking at the time, so we were not sure if it was some form of unique torture, but they managed to resist when offered and buried themself into their still steaming coffee.

The conversation turned to the previous hours discussions and a comment made by one delegate about the diversification of the whaling industry into pharmacueticals and cosmetics. In fact, this is a return to these indutsries rather than a new venture, but for the delegates present, many who were new to the subject, it was a worrying trend.

In talking with our Japanese counterpart, the impression we got was that this did not seem to believe that this strategy was a real move to gain some advantage, but that it helped keep the dying industry in his country alive for a little while longer. A tactic of desperation one could say. 

I had met this same Japanese delegate in Tokyo in the 1990s when he had made similar claims, but also noted that it was maybe only a tactic to save a ‘zombie’ industry in the last vestiges of life. Whether it had now become a declared strategy of Japan again, one could not tell, but it seems that every now and again the pro-whalers have to find something to prop up their whaling for as long as the Japanese taxpayers are willing to accept the subsidies they have to annually plough into the whaling industry.

Well it seems that this tactic has again raised its ugly head. The Japan Times is reporting today that “Whale meat as a health supplement or as a potential weapon in the fight against dementia — these are two of the novel ideas conjured up in Japan in a desperate attempt to keep alive the whale meat business with an eye to the future resumption of commercial whaling”

WDC produced a report on this area of concern a few years ago called Reinventing the Whale, in which we warned pro-conservation countries that this was a sham, promising pharma-jam tomorrow.

It seems Japanese whaling interests are once again trying to reinvent their industry and are being inventive in how to subsidise not only the cost of the whaling, but how to prop up their public image. It’s especially interesting that with an ageing population, the whalers are cynically addressing this publicity about dementia cures when the older members of Japanese society were the last generation to really eat whale meat.