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.

Jennifer Marohasy touches on some of these issues in two pieces on whaling at her blog.

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  1. Andrew
    I hate the thought of whaling but at the end of the day they are just BIG mammals and really aren’t a lot different to cows and the other animals you identified.
    Whenever the federal government is criticised on environmental issues they can always say “look, we object to whaling”. Never mind tree clearing, murray darling and all those other issues that actually affect people in australia and would require taking tough decisions that might alienate the rural socialist party (the nationals).
    I get the feeling objecting to whaling is the easiest and least problematic environmental issue for the federal government to pursue. And then all those doctors wives don’t have to feel so bad when voting at the next election. At least they tried to save the whales!
    Also, never mind that, after all my trips to japan, i have found the japanese to be THE MOST environmentally respectful nation on earth. They put us to shame in terms of litter and forestry practices. Their cultural difference, and especially their semi buddhist beliefs at least instill respect in their citizens – unlike ours who simply see our planet as a resource to exploit.

  2. Agreed that a ban on whaling is nonsensical if it’s sustainable, but it’s a women’s issue, despite the fact most of them eat meat like blokes. That’s what you get when you buy meat in neat plastic packages from the supermarket I guess. Antarctic Krill might be pretty keen on lifting whaling bans, but apparently they’re not so cute and don’t vote. What is it with sheila mentalities like crystals and aromatherapy. The whale thingy is a bit like magnetic therapy. Feel good stuff unless it’s caused by those nasty overhead power lines. Some magnetism’s more equal than other magnetism it seems.

  3. Alphacoward, How is it that the Japanese can be so ‘environmentally respectful’ and yet hunt, kill and eat whales? How is it that our Environment Minister can go overseas and campaign against whaling while he condones the hunting, killing and eating of dugongs in Australian waters?

  4. Jennifer you have missed the point. Why are whales or dungongs any different to other animals such as cows? Why should they not be eaten if it is done in a sustainable fashion?

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