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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Whales and Whaling

The whales in the Sacramento River are still about 45 miles from the open sea and experts worry that they will be impeded by encounters with large ships as they move toward San Francisco Bay.

In other whale news, Japan has angered anti-whaling groups and nations by insisting on including humpback whales in their Antarctic hunt. I was a little miffed after hearing some very angry Japanese people on the news last night, loudly and aggressively decrying their right to hunt and eat whale meat as it was a part of their culture. That, to me, is a lot like a Southern American white man declaring his right to enslave people for work on his plantation - after all, it's part of his "history."

But then I remembered that Alaskans are allowed to hunt whales and I thought there just might be a double-standard. That's before you take into account simple geography.

Japan may have a cultural history of whaling and eating whale meat, but Japan is a major superpower. They also have a cultural history of hara-kiri, but you don't hear many of them insisting on the right to practice that, now do you? Alaskans, on quite the other hand, are very limited as to what they can do. Japan can have pretty much anything it wants or needs delivered within hours, Alaskans do not have this luxury. Further, Alaskans who reserve the right to whale are far fewer than the Japanese who want the same rights.

The very simple fact of the matter is that the world has changed: many species of whales are endangered, so the social responsibility we should all take is clear. Were these whales readily-available and numerous, I would have no problem with them whaling all day long; since there is not and this is not the case, Japan has to step up to the plate and accept that this is yet another piece of their cultural history that they must let go of in favor of modern concerns.

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