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Japan's killing culture

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Protesters in Seoul carry out a representation of whale kill. But Japan argues that killing whales is part of its culture and, consequently, none of anyone's business. Yonhap
By Amanda Price

When backed into an intellectual corner, clinging desperately to the last remaining shreds of an argument, it is not unusual for people to play the "culture card."

Flipping this card on to the playing table effectively ends the game without winning it.

Players cautiously step back, debates disintegrate and everyone becomes aware that the playing field is no longer level.

This week, Japan, long proud of its modernization, returned to the outdated practice of hunting and killing whales for commercial use.

Of course, the Japanese have been shooting harpoons through the loopholes of lethal scientific research for years, but now, we are told, the resumption of whaling is motivated by Japan's pride in its little known whale-killing culture.

This culture received scant attention in Japan until last century.

As for the International Whaling Commission (IWC), Japan has contemptuously tossed its membership card overboard.

Japanese whaling ships have already triumphantly returned with their first kills and begun dividing up the pitiful profits they will make from the lifeless bodies of two aquatic giants.

But there are a few small glimmers of something resembling hope.

Japan, having left the IWC, will no longer be able to continue the deception of slaughtering whales for scientific research. It will no longer be able to use money pledged for overseas aid to bribe under-developed countries to vote with them.

And Japan will now have to stay in its own backyard.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe defends a culture of killing whales while a survey of Japanese citizens revealed that there was no demand for whale meat outside of a few fishing communities. At times, whale meat has been stockpiled in warehouses because it could not be sold. Kyodo News via AP
Ironically, Japan is taking this defiant stand against the international community without hungry hoards hankering for whale meat. The Japanese are also unhappy that money is being poured into an industry that benefits Japan in no substantial way, or rather, an industry that is likely to hurt Japan in several substantial ways.

Yet despite this lack of national enthusiasm, pro-whaling politicians and industry advocates are insisting that killing whales is their inalienable right and a much-loved and treasured tradition.

Pro-whaling bureaucrats, pandering to the demands of a few........

© The Korea Times