The Japanese whaling fleet will soon arrive in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, off Antarctica. It pretends to be conducting scientific research there. The International Whaling commission’s (IWC) scientific committee has rejected this cynical subterfuge several times. In 2007 the full IWC formally asked Japan to stop its lethal research (Resolution 2007-1, attached). Japan has said no.
For the 2011/12 season Japan has unilaterally decided to take 935 Minke and 50 Fin whales, in an ‘objection’ to IWC rules. A dead whale is worth about $200,000 on the meat market. This is actually a commercial operation, an industrial scale slaughter for profit.
Japan has also sent an armed Fisheries Agency patrol vessel to ‘protect’ this floating slaughterhouse from nonviolent activists defending the integrity of the Sanctuary. That is a breathtaking assertion of jurisdiction over the Southern Ocean, 6000 away. Its threat of deadly force in support of an illegal enterprise constitutes armed aggression.
Japan claims that its patrol vessel is there to ensure safety of navigation. This too is false. Whether one likes the Sea Shepherds or not, one fact is clear: in 30 years they have never caused a serious injury to the whalers or themselves. Their safety record is perfect. The real motive is to shut down these highly effective marine conservationists once and for all. To do so Japan will have to use violent tactics that put human life at risk and make injuries probable.
The possible use of armed force to suppress opposition in a protected conservation zone takes the whaling issue to a new level. This is no longer simply about the whales. It challenges the very concept of international law. Can one nation violently impose its will on the global commons in defiance of the recognized regulatory body (IWC)?
There are good reasons for the Sanctuary’s existence. The health of the oceans is vital to our planet’s overall ecology. Antarctica itself is a frigid, desolate ice sheet. The cold nutrient rich ocean surrounding it is spectacularly alive. Whales are its dominant life form. Yet most species have been hunted to the brink of extinction. Now Japan is going after the last and smallest survivors.
This issue also has an ethical dimension. All whales have bigger brains than ours, and some seem to be as complex. We cannot prejudge beings so high on the evolutionary scale as mere natural resources. Real scientists would wait to determine the truth about their intelligence before butchering them for food.
Another ethical aspect is whaling’s extreme cruelty. An exploding harpoon rarely kills outright. The wounded whale is winched to the killer ship’s side, stuck with a probe and electrocuted with thousands of volts. It often takes 15-20 minutes for the whale to finally drown. Such prolonged agony would not be tolerated in any slaughterhouse.
Few people care about the ecology of the remote Southern Ocean. Or the possibility of advanced consciousness in marine mammals. People do care about a stable world order governed by the rule of law.
In this case Japan has explicitly stated that it is exempt from the rule of law. It asserts the right to exploit the oceanic commons as it sees fit, regardless of others’ interests. And to physically eliminate anyone who stands in its way. That’s why it has sent a patrol ship.
The United States, with many other nations, has long voiced opposition to Japan’s illegal whaling. However, it has tolerated some state sponsored poaching in the Sanctuary because Japan is a major creditor that finances much of our deficit. Now its military deployment presents a direct challenge. It cannot be evaded. The threat of deadly force in support of a criminal enterprise constitutes armed aggression on the high seas.
By sending an armed escort Japan has announced its willingness to kill over whaling. It has invested its national pride in a resort to violence. Japan has deliberately created a situation in which either it, or the world community, has to lose face. There can be no win/win outcome here. We must put the rule of law above the intense drive of a proud nation to have its way.
Japan is unique but not privileged. It cannot make its own rules and enforce them by violence. The oceans are not Japan’s for the taking.
Hunger Strike Against Aggression
Japan has sent its whaling fleet to the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary in defiance of international law. It has also sent an armed Fisheries Agency patrol vessel with them to suppress nonviolent activists upholding the law. The threat of deadly force in support of an illegal enterprise constitutes armed aggression.
I will fast until Japan withdraws its patrol vessel without engaging the Sea Shepherd activists.
About Tom Falvey
Tom Falvey, 62, is an environmental activist and writer from San Diego, Ca. He is not affiliated with any organization. He does not represent the Sea Shepherd activists. This is a personal statement of conscience.
You can contact Tom Falvey at:
Tel: (619) 618-5713
You can follow this hunger strike at:
About This Fast
A healthy person in comfortable surroundings can survive for at least 40, but not more than 60, days without food. I do not expect the public to take this fast seriously until I have entered that zone. Before that happens I hope that world governments will act to ensure that Japan does not resort to force. If they do not then I have started the clock.
The credibility of this protest depends on its sincerity. I will only drink water during this fast. If I fall unconscious, or into a coma, I refuse any feeding, even if death is imminent. If I develop any medical condition as a consequence, even a life threatening one, I refuse all treatment.
The only condition under which I will accept feeding or medical intervention is if Japan withdraws its patrol vessel from the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary without engaging the Sea Shepherd activists.
International Whaling Commission – Resolution 2007-1
The International Whaling Commission (IWC) has instructed Japan to stop killing whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary
As stated in Resolution 2007-1 below:
RECALLING that the Commission has repeatedly requested Contracting Parties to refrain from issuing special permits for research involving the killing of whales within the Southern Ocean Sanctuary, has expressed deep concern at continuing lethal research within the Southern Ocean Sanctuary, and has also recommended that scientific research involving the killing of cetaceans should only be permitted where critically important research needs are addressed;
the IWC is:
CONVINCED that the aims of JARPA II do not address critically important research needs;
FURTHER CALLS UPON the Government of Japan to suspend indefinitely the lethal aspects of JARPA II conducted within the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.
Resolution 2007-1 (RESOLUTION ON JARPA) is located on the IWC's website at:
The IWC established the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary in 1994
JARPA = Japanese Whale Research Program Under Special Permit in the Antarctic
This permit is issued by Japan to Japan.