May 23, 1994
The Village of Taiji, where we live is located on the southern part of the Japanese archipelago at the tip of the peninsula which extends into the Pacific Ocean. Steep mountains which are covered with dense forests come to the shoreline and fall sharply into the ocean. With flat land suitable for farming being so limited, the people of Taiji must depend on the resources available from the sea. As far back as our knowledge of history can tell, the people of Taiji have been catching a variety of whales. For people without farming, whales have been an important source of food as well as commodity for exchange to obtain rice and vegetables from the farmers. Particularly, since the 17th century when Yorimoto Wada and Yoriharu Wada, the well-respected founding fathers of Taiji Kujiri Gumi (Taiji Whaling Group), invented net whaling, whaling has become the most important subsistence activity and industry for villagers. This has continued into the modern period after Japan opened its doors to the west. Whaling is the very activity we have learned from our ancestors and lived by for many generations.
Because of those historical reasons, we consider ourselves to be “a whaling people.” We are proud of our own heritage and want to hand it down to the next generations. Thus, it was a traumatic experience that our values were attacked fiercely by western environmentalists and animal right activists, and the International Whaling Commission (IWC) mercilessly forced us to stop whaling. The impact of the whaling ban has been tremendous. Many villagers lost their proud occupations and important means of livelihood, and wounds and scars were made in the heart of many men and women.
No matter how viciously the environmentalists and animal right activists condemn us, we will not give up whaling. We simply cannot do that, because it would mean to us not only a significant economic loss but also a loss of our pride and the unique culture of our own. A small village like Taiji would be wiped out completely by the massive forces of industrialization and commercialization without a pride for its own heritage and a strong sense of community identity.
Although Japan is one of the world’s most advanced industrialized nations, there are a number of small communities which are still dependent on traditional subsistence activities based on natural resources and maintain traditional values which contrast sharply with the increasing influence of urban and western values. Taiji is one such community, and we want it to remain that way and we are trying so hard for that.
We believe our views on nature and its utilization, which have been accumulated and nurtured by generations of experience right here in Taiji, are not only valuable for ourselves but potentially for many other coastal peoples who suffer from environmental deterioration caused by mishandling of the nature. Humans, the greatest predator on earth, need wisdom and technology tested by generations of experience in order to live in harmony with the nature. The nature is so diversified that our approaches to the nature need to be diversified. We should try to understand and respect unique adaptive values of the individual cultures in their own environment, and try to utilize and protect the nature rationally by making full use of those diversified cultures. Cultural imperialism which some western environmentalist are promoting, either knowingly or unknowingly, is harmful to both people and nature.
We believe we know more about our own sea in Taiji than anyone who lives hundreds or thousands of miles away from us. We also believe we are more concerned with its protection and assume more responsibilities than anybody else in the world. We are sure that the same view is shared by Alaskan Eskimos, Faroese, Greenlanders, Icelanders, Norwegians, and Russians in Chukotka as well. We hope many environmentally concerned people in the industrialized nations will understand our views and trust us as rational and humane people, and stop making whaling a “scape goat” of the environmental crusade and making inhumane attacks on whaling people. Cultural diversity is just as important as biological diversity in order to protect the earth’s environment. After all, it is only a diversified people who can really take tender care of a diversified nature and make truly rational and orderly use of it.
We people of Taiji need whaling and we have a right and a good reason to continue whaling. We hope our position is well understood by all the participants of the IWC meeting, and rational actions will be taken by the Commission. We urge the Commissioners to sincerely respond to our humble request of interim allocation of 50 minke whales to alleviate our distress caused by the unreasonable and unjustified moratorium since 1988 for four small coastal whaling communities including Taiji.
S. Hamanaka, Mayor and The People of Taiji
Note: The IWC has continuously denied Taiji’s request for a quota of 50 minke whales, or .2 percent of a local stock estimated at 25,000 animals. With a global population of close to a million animals, the minke is abundant and in no danger of depletion or extinction by hunting. However, the number of people living in the whaling villages of Japan has been substantially reduced since the imposition of the “temporary” whaling moratorium.
For further information contact: The World Council of Whalers Secretariat, PO Box 1383, Port Alberni, BC, Canada V9Y 7M2, (250) 724 2525; (250) 723 0463; firstname.lastname@example.org