The Times says it has uncovered dubious practices by the Japanese in their quest to get the ban on whaling lifted.
The Times cites representatives of landlocked countries and those countries whose waters do not contain whales admitting that they vote with the Japanese because of what they receive in return.
Their undercover operation identified representatives of six countries willing to sell their vote on the International Whaling Commission (IWC). In return is said that money changed hands and prostitutes were offered.
The Japanese have denied this but The Times says it has video evidence of pro-whaling officials admitting to the practice. They admit to receiving 'brown envelopes' at IWC meetings and having their travel / hotel bills paid.
Reporters from The Times posed as representatives of a rich conservationist who wanted to buy votes for aid. The governments of the Marshall Islands, St Kitts and Nevis, Grenada, Kiribati, Republic of Guinea and Ivory Coast all expressed interest in the deal.
Many people will be alarmed by this alleged Japanese practice. But would they be as alarmed if conservationists bought the votes of these countries to prevent whaling?
Traditionally whaling has been used to gather more than just a source of food. Although the primary use for whales was meat, the entire whale was utilized in a variety of products including lamp oil, soaps, fertilizer, folding fans from baleen (the mouth structure that whales use to strain seawater for food) and pet food.
The most disturbing aspect to this whole story is that there is no humane method for killing a whale (Whaling in context: animal welfare in the 21st century – www.wdcs.org/submissions_bin/WSPA_WDCS_whaling_briefing_2008.pdf).
There is also the argument that international waters belong to all countries, landlocked or not. So what goes on there is of interest to us all.
The conclusion from the 'Whaling in Context' report reads:
"It is evident from this simple comparative exercise that the slaughter methods used in 'modern' whaling would fall outside the OIE's guidelines for humane slaughter of animals. The purpose of commercial whaling, as with the purpose of slaughter in abattoirs, is commercial meat production. However, whereas the international community increasingly recognises its responsibilities to protect the welfare of farmed animals, the inhumane slaughter of whales remains 'out of sight, out of mind'. It is time to re-frame the whaling debate: the question for the IWC at its 60th meeting should be not 'how many whales can be killed sustainably?' but 'since whales cannot be killed humanely at sea, should they be hunted at all?'"