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Whaling

By David Leyonhjelm - posted Wednesday, 13 January 2016


Australian anti-whaling crusaders are again railing against Japanese whaling. It's an obsession and long past its use-by date.

There are many reasons for disliking whaling. Some do not like the killing of any animal, particularly if its death appears gory or painful. Some do not like the killing of magnificent animals. And some do not like how a modern whale hunt, in contrast to the battle between Captain Ahab and Moby Dick, is an unfair fight stacked in favour of humans.

Those who dislike whaling have every right to avoid whale products, to hold whalers in disdain, and to urge others to do the same. But they should not be free to force others to stop whaling. Such an imposition of one will on another is the hallmark of a dictator.

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To many, whales are both magnificent creatures and a bountiful natural resource. Whale meat fed seafaring populations for thousands of years. Whale oil is a renewable fuel, and whalebone can be shaped into art and tools. Whaling is part of the culture of many nations around the world, including indigenous.

Whales, like kangaroos, are icons for some and food for others, just as beef and pork are a blessing for some and a blasphemy for others. And while some have dogs and horses for pets, others have them for dinner.

I have eaten whale meat, although I admit to a preference for the Australian summer barbecue with the smell of beef steaks, pork sausages and roo burgers wafting across the suburban fence. But to help preserve our tradition, we should refrain from attacking the barbecues of others, even if they've got different meat on the grill.

We should also remember that Japan is not the only country that undertakes commercial whaling.

Some countries, including Canada and Indonesia, are not signatories to the convention underpinning the International Whaling Commission, and continue their whaling unimpeded. Norway and Iceland are signatories to the convention, but object to the convention's moratorium on commercial whaling and thus undertake commercial whaling regardless.

In fact, since the moratorium in 1985, more than 23,000 whales have been killed under commercial programs by signatories to the convention.

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The Japanese do not want to withdraw from the convention or object to the moratorium on commercial whaling, so they call their whaling scientific. While this legal contortion is peculiar, we waste money when we complain about it to international courts. And the harassment of Japanese whalers on the high seas, while others carry on their whaling unmolested, is unreasonable.

We should absorb a little science ourselves and recognise that humans can kill whales without threatening their extinction. Unsustainable catches were once a problem, but no species has become extinct at the hands of whalers (indeed, Minke whales are now in abundance) and a responsible approach in the future can ensure this record remains intact.

Restraint, not prohibition, is recommended by scientists in cases such as southern bluefin tuna. Restraint should also be the approach taken to whaling.

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This article was first published in the Australian Financial Review.



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About the Author

David Leyonhjelm is the Liberal Democrat Senator for NSW.

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