“On July 1st, 2019, Japan resumed commercial whaling after leaving the International Whaling Commission (IWC). Japanese whaling vessels set sail to hunt a quota of 52 minke whales, 150 Bryde's whales and 25 sei whales.” This statement was released by us.whales.org which is one of the biggest whale protection sites on the web. The Japanese government made the decision to withdraw from the IWC on December 26th, 2018. There is a reason behind all of this, however. The main plan is to stop the research whaling in the North Pacific and the high seas of the Antarctic. By allowing whaling off the shores in the so-called Exclusive Economic Zone, which is a 200-mile zone for Japanese whalers to go and hunt the whales. By leaving the IWC the Japanese government is hoping to escape the criticism and questions thrown upon them when they do their “research whaling”. The Japanese want to resume commercial whaling without international interference since it will boost their economy since the price of every part of whale is so high due to the restrictions put on whaling. Japan has been using the huge loop of “research whaling” to get their whales. One recent trip suggested that they killed 181 females and 122 of those were pregnant, which is horrible for the population grow of the species. One huge issue the rest of the world has with Japan doing this, other than them hurting the ecosystem, is the fact that Japanese people typically don’t eat whale. Even though the price is so high it has been coming down because some of the meat goes unsold. That’s where the questions come into play since they aren’t selling it to their own people so where is it all going since they have been whaling since WW2.
There are a few main problems with this whole case. The first is whether it is lawful or not. The second is whether it’s good for the ecosystem and if the Japanese government knows that. The final problem is if any of this is ethical in the first place. Now this is a weird case to look at since there are countries, such as, Iceland and Norway that aren’t and never were a part of the IWC in the first place, so they never have followed their guidelines on whaling. So why is this such a bad thing that Japan has suddenly left the IWC? To answer that question, we have to look at it through an ethical perspective and see the real impact on the people, environment and ecosystem effected by this sudden change.
There are a few important stakeholders involved with this case. The main two are the International Whaling Commission and all of Japan. When I say all of Japan, I mean all of it, the government, the people, the economy, and the ecosystem. Another stakeholder are the whales in the hunt since this will greatly affect their population. One last stakeholder is the rest of the world, this case could lead to more countries leaving the IWC and this case could also affect the economies of other countries. Some countries are already not a part of the IWC but japan is a huge player in the commission and them leaving is huge news.
The main idea of individualism is to maximize the profits of the stakeholders within the limits of the law. In this case the government of Japan is looking out for their people and their country, and nothing else. As a citizen I would love if my government fought for the gain of my overall country but there has to be a limit of what its for. There is a very big price in this case, however. The reputation of Japan could be changed, and the environmentalists of the country won’t be happy. This will be a good thing for the economy of Japan, by giving people jobs and bringing in more food for people of Japan. With all of that being said I still believe the Japanese government made a mistake by leaving the IWC. Although they followed the law in the long run, they did go against the rules of the IWC. Leaving the IWC isn’t against the laws but it also doesn’t make the country look like its part of the global community to make the earth a better place to live. Since they left the IWC and hurt some of the stakeholders then this action has to be deemed unethical.
The main idea of Utilitarianism is that no matter what you must bring happiness to the biggest number of people you can. It’s a lot like individualism but instead of increasing stakeholder wealth you have to create happiness. In this case the Japanese government though they were doing the right thing by making the most people in their country happy. But if you really look at the numbers across the world, they made more people mad then they did happy. Since most countries are in the IWC, japan leaving didn’t make them happy. So, you can look at it two ways. One in just Japan, they made the most people happy that they could. Some people in Japan also might be furious with this decision but to the people who need jobs and whaling is their only option, this whole case looks very good. But if you look at the world population, they failed at making the most people happy. By not making the most people happy then they made an unethical decision to leave the IWC and resume commercial whaling.
Kantianism is all about doing what’s right no matter the gain or loss. More specifically you must make the right ethical decision. This is a lot different than individualism and utilitarianism since both of those have a gain as their end goal, with Kantianism, the only end goal is doing what’s ethical. In this case with the Japanese government leaving the IWC they overall acted very unethically. They are going to end up hurting the population of the whales, bringing up their own personal economy without worrying about others, and left an organization that needs their help. By making this decision the Japanese government is truly only thinking about their country and its gain. They don’t care about the rest of the world and the environment at all, which goes against everything Kantianism stands for. Even though the Japanese government set limits on the number of whales that commercial whalers could hunt, they still are being unethical. And since they are being unethical, they are going totally against Kantianism.
Virtue Theory is the final ethical theory that I will be taking a look at for this case. There are four main parts to this theory. They are justice, temperance, courage, and honesty. All four of these parts play a role in deciding whether the action taken is actually ethical and the action must pass all four characteristics to be deemed ethical. In my opinion the case with japan starting up commercial whaling again passes zero of these. They have been doing their “research whaling”, which has been hunting the maximum number of whales possible every year for years and that eliminates the honesty and temperance. The justice part is out to since they have been whaling even though it’s been illegal and them leaving the IWC is not fair to the other countries. Although maybe you could swing it and say, “it takes courage to go against everyone and leave the IWC”, I believe it takes more courage to stand with everyone and stop commercial whaling for the good of the environment. Since the action of Japan leaving the IWC and resuming commercial whaling passed none of these four characteristics then clearly the action was unethical and really should have been avoided.
Zhang, Sarah. “The Japanese Barely Eat Whale. So Why Do They Keep Whaling?” Wired, Conde Nast, 3 June 2017, www.wired.com/2015/12/japanese-barely-eat-whale-whaling-big-deal/.
“International Whaling Commission.” IWC, iwc.int/home.
Dooley, Ben, and Hisako Ueno. “Japan Resumes Commercial Whaling. But Is There an Appetite for It?” The New York Times, The New York Times, 1 July 2019, www.nytimes.com/2019/07/01/business/japan-commercial-whaling.html.
NormileJan, Dennis, et al. “Why Japan's Exit from International Whaling Treaty May Actually Benefit Whales.” Science, 10 Jan. 2019, www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/01/why-japan-s-exit-international-whaling-treaty-may-actually-benefit-whales.
“Japan Whale Hunting: Commercial Whaling to Restart in July.” BBC News, BBC, 26 Dec. 2018, www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-46682976.