Captain Paul Watson Responds to Japan’s Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada
Japan's Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada
* From: The Australian
* December 11, 2009 12:00AM
Edited transcript of an interview on Thursday between Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada and The Australian and ABC
Question: The most frequent cause of diplomatic tension between Japan and Australia is over Japan's scientific whaling program. What is the Hatoyama government's policy view of scientific whaling and of supporting it by government subsidies and public loans and having the programme providing positions for former bureaucrats?
Katsuya Okada: First of all, with regards to this issue, I think we should try to discuss this issue in calm, not emotional way. Because our ancestors, we have a tradition here in Japan where we have been eating whale meat. Of course it would be a different story if it were endangered species which are on the verge of extinction. But if not, I think the average Japanese would like to consume whale meat into the future.
Meanwhile in the West you might not have a culture to consume whale meat, but I think food is an important element of cultures and therefore there is a need to mutually respect and recognize each others' culture.
There might be some things that the Australians would eat but the Japanese don't, so this again is the culture of yours and European nations that should be respected. I think we should mutually respect that point and from there start this type of discussion.
Captain Paul Watson: Mr. Okada admits with this statement that the real reason whales are being killed is for consumption and not so-called scientific research. I do not believe that it is wrong to be emotional about the slaughter of a magnificent sentient being. This kind of attitude is what allowed for the atrocities against human beings in the second world war. When emotions are denied then all sorts of horrors become allowable. Mr. Okada is wrong when he says there is a Japanese tradition of eating whale meat. A few villages did eat whale for centuries but the average Japanese did not. Shore based commercial whaling was set up in Japan in 1911 by the Norwegians and it was the American General Douglas MacArthur who established the modern Antarctic pelagic whaling fleets.
The West did have a culture of killing whales. The Yankee whaling fleet was the largest whaling fleet in the world yet America is now passionately opposed to the killing of whales. Australia gave up whaling in 1978 and is now the most passionate nation in the world in opposing it.
Japan does not respect our passion for living whales so why would we be expected to respect their so-called tradition of killing whales?
Japanese whaling is barbaric and a ruthless legacy of the past and has no place in the 21st Century.
Question: So there is no policy review (by the new government)?
Katsuya Okada: We do not think that there is a need for a policy review at this point of time.
Captain Watson: I believe the way to end whaling is to bankrupt the industry and that is why we interfere with their killing operations. Because of Sea Shepherd, Japan has registered financial losses for three years in a row. We are cutting their kill quotas and thus their profits.
Question: What about the structure of the whaling industry, government support and subsidies and amakudari (jobs provided to former government bureaucrats)?
Katsuya Okada: I think there might a bit of exaggeration to what you just described. You mentioned amakudari and we are opposed to amakudari. It is not my understanding that there are many amakudari cases in regard to scientific whaling. There might be some but is not my understanding there are many. But if there are some things that need to be corrected it needs to be corrected.
As I mentioned we should respect the food culture of each other, and just because it's whaling and "everything regarding whaling is no good" is unacceptable, that is my thinking.
When I met with your Foreign Minister Mr. Smith, I said to him when I described the situation: 'For the Japanese, whaling is equivalent to the Australian beef’. I may have overstated, maybe I shouldn't have said that.
Captain Watson: I think it would be more accurate to compare Australian beef to Japanese Kobe beef. No abattoir in the world would tolerate the cruelty to cows that the Japanese inflict upon the whales. Last year we filmed a Minke whale thrashing about in the water and its own blood, in agony for twenty-five minutes as the whalers fired round after round into its convulsing body with high-powered rifles. Mr. Okada has obviously not seen footage of the horror that his harpoons inflict upon these creatures. Our position is that yes, everything about whaling is no good. It is a barbaric tradition as outdated as other economic activities like slavery.
What Mr. Okada is ignoring however is that Japanese whaling is illegal. His whalers are nothing more than poachers. They are targeting endangered whales in an established whale sanctuary in violation of a global moratorium on whaling and in violation of the Antarctic Treaty. They are also in contempt of an Australian Federal Court order for continuing to kill whales in the Australian Antarctic Territory.