Living in Japan, it is often hard to detach oneself from the inward perspective and look at things on a global level. Sometimes it can feel like Japan is almost being singled out when it comes to certain issues, from WWII to smoking to murderous manga fans.
But when it comes to the matter of whaling, is Japan being “picked on”? Or is it just hard to see how much criticism is levied at other countries when we are being inundated with our own?
The 60th International Whaling Commission (IWC) annual meeting will take place next Monday in Chile, and much controversy, anger and even danger is expected. According to Australia’s ABC News, Japan’s Foreign Ministry have warned its citizens in Santiago to take care during the IWC conference, warning them not to draw attention to themselves and to stay home at night.
As the BBC reports, Japan attracts most of the attention over the whaling issue. But factually speaking, Norway hunts just as many whales as Japan—so why does Japan attract more attention? Norway completely objects to the moratorium, counting itself exempt from restrictions. It also openly hunt for commercial reasons, albeit that a lot of it is imported into Japan. On the other hand, Japan’s claims to the legality of whaling are on a scientific basis. Some countries such as Greenland are given whaling permits on an aboriginal basis—namely for subsistence food.
So what types of criticism have been directed at those other countries recently?
Norway has been widely criticized for exporting whale meat to Japan. There have also been passing references to their objection to the IWC quotas, enabling it to choose its own numbers. The country has also vexed anti-whalers over cruel hunting methods. However, perhaps their savior is in that the majority of Norwegians are opposed to whaling (1 out of 40 under 30-year olds.)
Greenland has recently faced criticism and anger over moving from subsistence whaling towards commercial whaling as well as being grilled for its requests to hunt hump-back whales.
Japan has been attacked over the number of whales hunted, inhumane methods, and the lack of a need to hunt whales for scientific reasons. Australia plays a large role in rallying anti-whaling sentiments against Japan and Greenpeace has been planning rigorous campaigns to stop whaling (including arrests over stealing meat from the hunting ships). It also have a bad image with the media constantly reporting that Japanese public does not oppose whaling.
Just a simple search online reveals a tremendous amount of Japan-whaling related news, compared to other whaling countries. Although the scientific legality approach is highly contested, Norway is clearly objecting to the moratorium as a whole, even choosing their own quotas for the amount of whales they can hunt. But why are they not receiving the same amount of criticism as Japan? Not to say that Japan shouldn’t be criticized, but surely Norway should be held to account just as much?
Unfortunately, the media cannot really explain why they choose to focus more on Japan instead of its counterparts—could it be that Japan is an easy target to demonize? Or is Japan really worse than all the others?
Other posts by Anna: