Whalers in Norway, Iceland and Greenland have called Australia’s attempts to ban commercial whaling “ridiculous”, according to a report on ABC Online.
Federal Environment Minister Senator Ian Campbell is lobbying in Europe and the Pacific to get an international ban on whaling. But the whalers are suggesting that Australia’s environmental record and opposition to the Kyoto protocol leave it in no position to argue.
Anthropologist Ron Brunton wrote an insightful piece on the subject for the Courier Mail in 2001. Extract follows:
They (governments of Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain and the United States) become indignant when they are accused of cultural imperialism by people who wish to continue eating whale meat, like the Japanese. As these governments and the anti-whaling activists who support them see it, they are fighting for a universal ethical principle, not a recently developed cultural preference. And they are angry about Japan’s success in thwarting a proposal for a South Pacific whale sanctuary at the recently concluded meeting of the International Whaling Commission by using aid to bribe Caribbean members of the IWC.
There is a considerable amount of effrontery in their response to Japan. The IWC was established in 1946 by fourteen whaling nations to assist the orderly development of the industry by encouraging the proper conservation of whale stocks. But as whale devotion gathered momentum in the 1970s, the United States and environmentalist NGOs induced a number of non-whaling nations to join the IWC, intending to create a majority in favour of ending the whaling industry, in contravention of the IWC’s own charter.
In 1982 this expanded IWC instituted a moratorium on all commercial whaling, to take effect from 1986. Japan and its pro-whaling allies such as Norway have merely used tactics that are little different from those that the anti-whalers earlier used against them.
Despite various attempts by animal rights and conservation organisations to obfuscate the issue, only a few whale species, such as the blue and the humpback, can be portrayed as endangered. Most of the other commercially valued species are abundant, and would face no threat of extinction under a properly controlled resumption of the whaling industry.
A good illustration of the kind of humbug that often characterises the anti-whaling forces came from New Zealand’s leftist Minister of Conservation, Sandra Lee, at last year’s IWC meeting. Vowing that she would never stop seeking to protect whales, Ms Lee told delegates that in Maori legend the great whales were portrayed as guides and guardians of humans on the oceans, ‘treasure, to be preserved … the chiefly peoples of the ocean world’.
This is true. But Ms Lee, who is a Maori herself, seems to have omitted a crucial fact from her impassioned speech. Their legends did not prevent the Maori from being avid consumers of the meat, oil and other products of cetaceans. Beached whales were butchered and became the property of the local chief, who would share the carcass with his group. Smaller cetaceans were actively hunted with harpoons and nets.
Furthermore, the official Maori position, as expressed by Te Ohu Kai Moana, the Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commission, is opposed to the New Zealand government’s backing of the South Pacific whale sanctuary. Te Ohu Kai Moana supports the right of ‘indigenous and coastal peoples’ around the world to engage in sustainable commercial whaling, and condemns the New Zealand government for not consulting properly with Maori about the whale sanctuary proposal.