The ban on Japan’s whaling programme ordered by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) is a credit to Australia, who brought the case. Indirectly, it is also a victory for the Sea Shepherd group, whose activism doggedly kept global attention focused on what Japan has been doing in the southern oceans, and the speciousness of its claims to be doing valuable “scientific” research. The courts have now agreed. In that sense, the whaling story is a classic example of how activists help to create a climate where diplomats and judges can finally feel able to do the right thing.
In this particular case, Australia chose to take Japan head-on, on its word. It asked the ICJ to examine the output of Japan’s ‘scientific’ research – which amounted to a grand total of only two peer reviewed papers, based on a study of nine dead whales – and weigh these alleged scientific gains against the thousands of whales that Japan has killed to produce them. The ICJ jurists were not impressed that the value and extent of the science was proportionate to the scale of the slaughter:
“In light of the fact the Jarpa II (research programme) has been going on since 2005, and has involved the killing of about 3,600 minke whales, the scientific output to date appears limited,” said presiding judge Peter Tomka of Slovakia.
Short term, Japan has said that it will abide by the ICJ ruling. This may, or may not mean that Japan will end its killing of whales in the Antarctic. Given that the ICJ ruling is based on a proportionality argument, Japan could always respond by beefing up the scientific output of its whaling programme. In which case, more whales may need to be killed under a newly concocted and more extensive scientific pretext, not less. If so, there will be more work for Sea Shepherd to do, until Japan can cease actions (against marine mammals) that the rest of the world regards as barbarous. Minke whales today, bottlenose dolphins tomorrow. And yes, it is selective morality on New Zealand’s part, given that so much of this country’s wealth and consumption habits are based on the slaughter of sentient mammals.
One of the ironies of the surveillance state is that while it is good at invading the privacy of people who pose no threat to society, it consistently fails to warn us about things that really matter. Thus, the spooks didn’t see 9/11 coming, or the coup in Fiji. They couldn’t establish beforehand whether Iraq really did possess weapons of mass destruction. Apparently, the intelligence agencies also couldn’t figure out whether Russia was going to invade Crimea – and were predicting it probably wouldn’t, even after Russian troops had already begun taking over the peninsula’s airports.
These failings have also been conceded retrospectively here. So, should we be feeling worried – or not – that the intelligence agencies are now advising President Barack Obama that it seems likely that Russia will soon invade the rest of eastern Ukraine?