Spotlight Australia: We do indeed need a sane and calm debate on whaling

This is an yet unpublished letter to the editor of Australia’s The Age in response to the March 2nd opinion written by Mr. Peter Bridgewater. - ED

Dear Sir

Peter Bridgewater is right, we do need a sane, calm debate on whaling but that debate, like any on animal welfare or conservation issues has to be one that reflects our values.

Mr Bridgewater implies opposition to Japanese scientific whaling is futile as it is allowed under the International Whaling Convention (IWC) and in some ways his piece suggests it is also legitimate.

While Australia and other governments have committed significant funds to research in the Southern Ocean, Japan has chosen not to participate but instead pursue lethal research that has provided nothing of scientific value and is a pretty blatant excuse to avoid compliance with the international community’s decision for a commercial whaling moratorium.

So how should Australia and the international community respond when a government exploits the wording in an agreement in order to get around clear decisions of the majority? Should this go unchallenged? If you think 10,000 whales aren’t important it might seem a small point but even so, where does that leave us in dealing with other contentious international issues? 

The Japanese Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs’ request for an unemotional debate is understandable but should apply equally in Japan – a cold hard look at the economics of whaling in Antarctica shows there is no sense in it.

Contrary to being emotional placard wavers Australians see the value in whales alive, not cruelly harpooned for questionable research and a commercial market that is in decline. The Government is rightly reflecting those values

Mr Bridgwater implies that our opposition to scientific whaling is really ‘only’ a matter of animal welfare and this opens Australia up to allegations of hypocrisy. But instead of questioning our good record on whaling issues surely this is an argument to improve our record on domestic issues too.

Our standards of ethics both in how we treat animals and our respect for internationally agreed decisions should be moving higher rather than lower – and perhaps Japan and Australia should be working together on these issues as well as Antarctic science.

Yours sincerely

Isabel McCrea

Oceania Regional Director

International Fund for Animal Welfare

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