Whales, whaling, and the general public

Tony Wu and I have had a few articles appear in the UK press over the last couple of days, and while it is always fantastic to get news out to the general public, I've been extremely disappointed by what seems to be a growing global sentiment equating Japanese people to whaling.

Our article in the Daily Mail about Andrew and Scar

If you look at the comments in the various articles that have appeared -- or, indeed, in pretty much any article about whales in the last couple of years -- many seem to be about how evil Japanese people are and about how whales need to be saved.

Here are some excerpts:

- "Keep the japs away or their pet will suffer" - "I hope his Japanese guests go home and spread the word that these animals are not to killed - for 'research' or food!" - "great pics just a shame they wont be none left soon with china killing everything and eating it" - "Sorry to be a killjoy but hopefully these magnificent creatures do not end up as Japanese 'scientific research' victims." -"Stop buying Japonese goods, till they stop whaling, hit their pockets, its the only thing that hurts them. These wonderful creatures deserve the right to live in peace."

The comments in our articles aren't actually that bad when compared to comments in other articles, but it does seem that people have lost the ability to revere the whale and are instead focused entirely on whaling and the supposed evils of Japanese people.

Our articles, which are about how incredible the sperm whales are off of Dominica, are treated the same way as are articles from conservation organizations vilifying Japanese people. It doesn't matter that no whales are killed anywhere near Dominica, or that Dominica is one of the few Caribbean countries to have reversed its decision to support the overturn of whaling at IWC meetings, or that we are clearly whale enthusiasts who are here to photograph the whales.

Dense readers cannot somehow fathom that two Asian people -- assumed to be Japanese, but both of Taiwanese descent -- would get into the water without hiding harpoons behind our backs. We are Asian, and therefore only want to kill whales. Tony has been repeatedly threatened in Australia and New Zealand by locals who assume that he is a Japanese person there to massacre their local population of whales. Yes, he is a Taiwanese guy educated in America who lives in Japan, and that is apparently extremely confusing. I've experienced this as well, but not as strongly as Tony has.

I am a obviously a supporter of Sea Shepherd and other anti-whaling organizations, but I think that whale conservation groups urgently need to re-focus their efforts to target the real issue of whaling, which is 100% geopolitical and has nothing to do with the culinary tastes of Japan nor its people. I hear that the Independent article I linked to above has not been met with much fanfare from whale conservation groups; instead, the groups pick apart the article by pointing out small factual errors, and then dismiss it entirely. That it is the only article within the last few years to accurately highlight the motivations behind Japanese whaling doesn't seem to matter.