This article appeared in the December 26, 2018 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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Why Japan is so determined to start whaling again

Tim Watters/Sea Shepherd Australia/AP/File
Three dead minke whales lie on the deck of the Japanese whaling vessel Nisshin Maru as it travels through the Southern Ocean in January 2014.

Today Japan announced that it would resume commercial whaling in 2019, breaking with a global ban in effect since 1986. The move brings international condemnation, so it is logical to ask: Why is Japan doing it?

That question is curious in light of a 2006 poll that shows the Japanese people don’t really like whale meat. Some 95 percent very rarely or never eat it. The move becomes even more curious when considering that Japan props up its whaling industry economically.

So why do it? An agronomy professor told Wired “The strong condemnation of whaling by the foreigners is taken as harassing the traditional values.”

Interestingly, that same argument appears to hold sway in Iceland, one of only two countries to permit whaling now. (The other is Norway.) “It’s a nationalistic thing,” a documentary filmmaker told National Geographic. “They consider whales their resources, and they don’t want people telling them what to do with their resources.”

These countries see whaling as a part of a cultural tradition. The rest of the world has concluded that it is barbaric and humanity has advanced beyond it. “Whaling is an outdated and unnecessary practice,” said New Zealand’s foreign minister. In short, the debate has become something more than the logic of economic or environmental arguments. It has become a statement of principle.

Now on to our five articles for the day, including a mounting pushback against authoritarianism in one corner of Africa, a different kind of religion story from the Middle East, and a question: What would Norman Rockwell paint today?

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This article appeared in the December 26, 2018 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 12/26 edition