Most Australians are rightly appalled by Japan’s plans to increase the number of whales they kill each year and it is pleasing to see that Australia’s Environment Minister, Ian Campbell, appears to have convinced the Solomon Islands not to support Japan’s aims at the next meeting of the International Whaling Commission. Whaling is an undeniably cruel activity and also often environmentally damaging. It is an area where the Australian Government has consistently made some good noises over a reasonably long period time.
However, you have to wonder about how many of those noises were just hot air, when the Government opposes a Court action by the Humane Society International (HSI) against a Japanese whaling company for breaching Australian law by slaughtering whales in Australia’s whale sanctuary. I wouldn’t have thought there’s much point passing good laws when the Government is not interested in enforcing them.
I am totally opposed to whaling and believe it is an abomination which should be outlawed globally. However, there is one aspect of the whaling debate where I have some sympathy with the Japanese (and the Norwegians and the Icelanders) – the apparent anomaly of a lot of Australians getting outraged by the slaughter of a whale, but seeming to have no problem with the wholesale slaughter, on a much wider scale, of kangaroos, cows, sheep or pigs (just to name a few).
Whilst some would say that the endangered status of many whale species is what makes the difference, I doubt many Australians would say it’s OK to slaughter whales as long as you can demonstrate it’s a sustainable ‘harvest’. Some argue that, unlike the other creatures, there is no humane way to kill a whale. Even if one were to accept that (and there is plenty of evidence that the killing of wild kangaroos generates a lot of suffering for the joeys and for the many who are not killed instantly with the first bullet), many other animals suffer far more over the term of their lives, even if the final kill might be more humane.
To me, the arguments against killing whales should also apply to all sentient beings – unless there is a clear need to slaughter them for our own survival, then we have no right to kill them. I don’t suggest this is a principle that should be enforced overnight, but I do think there should be more consistency in our logic and our compassion on this issue.