By Graham Land
Australia’s recent anti-Japanese whaling appeal to the International Court of Justice in The Hague has resulted in diplomatic tensions between the two countries, with representative lawyers trading verbal barbs.
Australia’s claim that Japan’s whale hunt in the Southern Ocean in the name of scientific study is illegal and dishonest met with a rebuke from Japan’s legal representation, labeling the Australian argument as “an affront to the dignity of the nation”. Japanese counsel Payam Akhavan also hinted that Japan might leave the International Whaling Commission (IWC).
From The Australian:
"The session was the first of two days allowed for Japan to rebut Australia’s central claim – that Japan’s whaling program is commercial rather than scientific.
Australia has argued that it is not necessary to kill whales for research and the fact that the meat from the program is eaten is proof that it is commercial whaling in disguise."
Japan’s diplomatic response is that it cannot carry out the necessary research by non-lethal means. Its lawyers have furthermore accused Australia of imposing its own culture and culinary preferences on the rest of the world. Australian Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus maintains that it’s all about what is legal in terms of the IWC treaty of which Japan is a signatory
Is this an issue of Western neo-colonial attitudes and moral posturing or simply the law? Honestly, I think it has elements of both. Three Western European countries, Iceland, Norway and the Faroe Islands (technically a self-governing territory of Denmark), continue to practice whaling, but they are not signatories of the IWC treaty and therefore only a moral, not a legal, argument is relevant. This also downplays an Eastern vs. Western dichotomy regarding the morality of whaling. More....