Lest we forget @ Albany
“Of course, it is in a remote place,” said a lady at a tourist information centre, slightly frowning. I was a little paralysed with her reaction as it was not in the context of what I said before her words.
In the early November last year, I was in Albany, WA. As many of you, hopefully, may remember, Albany was the place where the last whaling station in Australia was operating. The site has turned into a museum named the Whale World. It seemed that it was crucial for me to visit the site for my research, and so I did.
It was quite a trip from Melbourne. I flew into Perth and then took a coach service to Albany the next day. I could have rented a car but because I hadn’t driven a car for more than a decade, I thought I better stay away from driving for other drivers’ safety.
This article appeared in the Sunday Debate page in the Herald Sun, 15 January 2012.
To read the argument from the anti-whaling side (Sea Shepherd), please go to the following link.
Before talking about the whaling in the Southern Ocean
IT IS quite unfortunate that the current debate on whaling is somehow focusing only on the Japanese scientific research whaling in the Southern Ocean and the clash between the whalers and environmental activists. It is actually distracting the debate from the fundamental question. The focus of the debate should be on a question: How should human beings relate to this creature, the whale, in the 21st century?
To whale or not to whale … THAT should be the question
I was simply amazed when I read a small online Japanese article about a week ago. It was reporting the departure of three whaling ships from Shimonoseki, former whaling town in the western Japan, heading for the Antarctic. I was amazed not that I was surprised by the fact that the Japanese had decided to return to the Antarctic yet again but that one official from the Japanese Fisheries Agency was quoted as saying that they had beefed up the fleet’s security level to counter the attack from activists and they were releasing the information beforehand because it may work as a “deterrent effect” .
Excuse me? Deterrent effect? Are you serious?
Is this just a “small” careless mistake? Or…?
On Monday, ABC News online released a report titled “Japan whaling forum warned against sympathy vote.”
Ah, yes. It’s that time of the year … yet again. The annual four day meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) has started in Jersey, UK.
The article by Sarah Clarke, an environmental reporter, expressed a concern about the outcome of this year’s meeting. Given the situation of Japan which was hit by an unprecedented disaster earlier this year, some IWC member states may feel sympathy towards the country and may vote in Japan’s favour. That was the concern expressed in the article.
Sushi, Sukiyaki and Skyhooks
When I first read an email from Sandra, our media person, saying “Abc radio 774 red symons would like to interview you re your blog and latest post”, my mind spun into two totally different directions. I immediately thought, “Me? On air? Nah ….” Although it was an honour to get such an offer from the ABC Melbourne’s breakfast show, I thought I wasn’t ready for that yet. The whaling dispute is a complex issue. How could I make my point in a short interview? Do I have enough and accurate information to speak about the dispute to the public? In addition, I had to do it in English, of course. I felt it was a bit risky.
Whales and geisha girls
Whether or not whaling and eating whale meat is a genuine part of Japanese culture is one of the hottest points of debate between a pro-whaling camp and an anti-whaling camp. The former claims that whaling and whale-eating culture has existed in Japan since the ancient time and is, therefore, a part of Japanese culture.
On the other hand, the anti-whaling camp asserts that Japan’s cultural claim is a fraud, as whale meat consumption is not a nationwide practice and there are a lot of Japanese who have never eaten the meat. Pointing to whaling, they insist, specifically referring to the Japanese scientific research whaling in the Antarctic, that the pelagic whaling with big ships and sophisticated equipments is a modern practice and not at all traditional.
Japan March 11th 2011: For the record
In the evening of 22 March, I boarded Qantas flight 22 bound for Sydney via Hong Kong from Narita International Airport. It was a familiar flight for me which was usually a direct flight between Tokyo and Sydney. However, the flight route of the QF22 had been changed due to the disaster in Japan. Qantas wanted to make sure the safety of their crews.
Although I was unhappy and slightly anxious about the change of the route, the flight turn out to be the most memorable and, maybe, the safest flight I have ever had. 72 crew members of the Australian rescue team returning to Australia from the disaster zone were on board.
What to eat and what not to
The most frequently asked question to me while talking with my friends here in Australia about the whaling dispute is “have you eaten whale meat?’ “What it’s like?” they ask. They all look very curious about the ‘mysterious’ and ‘exotic’ meat.
I once heard a rumour that restaurants in Japan which serve whale meat had recently been flocked by Australian tourists. Don’t worry. It is just a rumour. And, no. I have not made a thorough investigation into this rumour as yet. But Australians are adventurous, brave and open to unknown cultures. Then, why not?
Would I be able to stand in the middle?
It was around midnight on 18 February 2010. I was squeezed into a CityRail train from Homebush heading for Sydney Central Station. Luckily, I secured a seat. Then, I heard a voice saying “were you at the concert?” It was from a guy who got a seat next to me. “Where could I be in the middle of the night at the Sydney Olympic Park and not being at THE concert?” was my first thought, but I replied politely, “yes, sure”. Then the answer was followed by a couple of more questions; “did you enjoy?” and “when did you get to know the band?” When did I get to know them? What a question! “I know them almost from the very beginning.”
Whaling has been a touchy issue between Australians and Japanese for a while. Since being appointed to my current position as an Alfred Deakin Postdoctoral Research Fellow in May 2010, I have been asked a number of times by my Australian colleagues and friends “what’s your research topic?” And every time, I seem to need to pause and grin a bit and say “whaling”. My Aussie friends will normally then hold their breath for a second, slightly stare at me and say “agh … that’s interesting.” What is this nervousness that exists when referring to whaling in this country?