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A Whale of a Problem

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Negotiations are underway to create new rules for the whale-hunting industry. As protesters, organizations like Greenpeace, and documentaries like “The Cove” illustrate, the topic is inflammatory. Since 1986, there has been an international moratorium on whale hunting. In spite of the treaty, the number of whales killed each year has risen steadily in the past couple decades, as Norway and Iceland have opted out and Japan has claimed to be taking whales for scientific study. The current negotiations address the treaty’s failure and search for a more effective compromise.

The current talks have yielded a deal that would allow the three whaling countries to continue whale-hunting, at reduced numbers, for the next decade. Pro-whale activists criticize the deal, claiming it amounts to international approval for the continued illegal  slaughter of whales. Within the 88-nation International Whaling Commission there is also intense controversy. Those who support the compromise

Currently, whaling nations have no incentive to cease the hunt, because there are no real consequences, While documentaries like “The Cove” drum up support from the usually ambivalent, apathetic masses, will that spark a real change? This is one of those cases where ethics must be put aside in lieu of pragmatic compromise. Inevitably, change must come from within the whaling nations. Japan’s youth present a hopeful opportunity. Whale meat, as a cuisine, is typically unpopular among young Japanese, in contrast with their elderly counterpart. Is it possible, then, that the whale hunt could be phased out through decreasing popularity in the next half-century? Legislating and protesting have proved unsuccessful. Anti-whaling activists need to get more innovative.

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