Japan's PM: "Pay no attention to that World Court behind the curtain!"
News out of Japan yesterday had Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe announcing to a parliamentary hearing that he will work towards restarting commercial whaling, despite the world’s highest court ordering that Tokyo must stop killing whales in the Antarctic.
Mr Abe states he will step up efforts to gain understanding from the international community, claiming that “it is regrettable that this part of Japanese culture is not understood".
If Prime Minister Abe genuinely seeks understanding from the international community, complying with the judgment of the World Court would be a good start. That judgment ordered Japan to end its “research” whaling in the waters of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary around Antarctica.
The Court found that Japan’s whaling was not for purposes of scientific research, elaborated objective criteria by which proposals for such whaling should be evaluated and called on Japan to “take into account the reasoning and conclusions contained in this Judgment as it evaluates the possibility of granting any future permits” for such whaling.
What is "regrettable" is that the respected leader of a great nation would suggest, in 2014, that Japan's cultural relationship with whales is defined solely by eating them.
Only last week, we saw precisely the opposite with Japanese whale watching operators joining together for the first time to create a whale and dolphin watching council, reflecting the burgeoning movement in Japan that is looking at whales in a whole new way.
Claiming an attack on one's culture in an attempt to preserve the narrow interests of a small cadre of government bureaucrats is beneath the stature of a world leader such as Prime Minister Abe.
In fact, it is an embarrassment for the Japanese people and friends of Japan around the world who appreciate the true beauty and aesthetic sensibilities that infuse Japanese culture to see Prime Minister Abe equate that beauty with the killing of whales and the eating of whale meat.
One wonders if the zeal with which Agricultural and Fisheries Minister Hayashi is now promoting the killing and eating of whales is simply a cheap political stunt to draw attention from his failure to adequately address the needs of Japan's agricultural and fisheries sector.
Efforts to somehow restore the glory of Japan's past or to remind the Japanese people of their great culture heritage by encouraging them to eat whale meat only underscores the bankruptcy of Minister Hayashi's broader policy agenda. The good people of Japan (literally) aren’t buying it, and neither are we.
As the world continues to turn away from whaling, photo ops such as the one showing Minister Hayashi chowing down on whale meat will only undermine Prime Minister Abe's goals to double the number of foreign tourists to Japan.
The "Cool Japan" that Prime Minister Abe so badly wants to sell to the rest of the world will fail if Japan continues to pretend that eating whales somehow protects and promotes its proud cultural heritage.
Learn more about IFAW efforts to protect whales around the world, visit our campaign page.