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Roger Payne.
Photo: Chris Johnson

September 7, 2001
"Research Pretenders-Rubbing the Name of Science in the Mud"
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By sticking to the fiction of a need for Scientific Whaling, Japan ties the hands of her whale scientists, many of whom would undoubtedly do much more outstanding work if they didn't have to design their research to support the myth that whales must be killed for whale science to progress. This requirement has effectively stalled most Japanese whale science at the same state world whale-science was in back in the 1950s. The great majority of the papers I see by Japan's scientists who work with material provided to them from the whaling industry are studies based on 1950s techniques: lots of hard work-lots of heat produced; very little light shed. Looked at economically (which is, after all, how whale science is looked at in Japan) very little new information is produced per Yen spent to get it. This is in sad contrast to the dozens of far less expensive research projects being done on whales elsewhere in the world using benign techniques-studies designed to uncover new knowledge, not to cover corporate profits.

But economically speaking, Japan's commercial-whaling-operation-disguised-as-science is a success! And after all, that's what all the smoke and mirrors that Japan manipulates to keep commercial whaling alive through the moratorium was designed to achieve-to keep commercial whaling alive through the moratorium. It is clear that Japan is accomplishing just what she set out to accomplish except, of course, that it has brought with it two very unfortunate consequences: 1) when Japanese whale scientists design their research to justify whaling they aren't able to include the benign methods that are far more productive. They have to think up work that requires killing whales. This mires Japanese whale science in the past, and 2) disgraces any scientists who, because they cannot find other funding for their research succumb to the temptation of supporting "Scientific Whaling."

The disgrace comes from the fact that Japan's paper-thin pretense called "scientific whaling" is a slap in the face of that search for truth called science. It corrupts popular attitudes about scientific objectivity, and that breeds cynicism about science in general. But it is unrealistic to expect that the same group of Japanese politicians who lack the sophistication to turn down "research" designed principally to justify commercial whaling would be able to perceive how much damage that deception does to the credibility of the Japanese scientists who take part in it. Put it this way: scientific whaling does nothing to diminish the contempt with which most of the world views the steamroller tactics of Japan's economic machine.

I imagine cries from the Far East of: "outrage;" and "Japan bashing". But that's just a tired tactic behind which Japan's whalers learned to hide a few years ago. It's called playing the racism card. I have often made my stand on Japan clear. It is a country I admire hugely. I have often visited Japan, and I admire greatly the Japanese culture-my youngest son lives in Japan. I have close friends throughout the country. It is not the Japanese, but Japan's whalers and the political Old Guard that defends them, which offends me. It is they who shame their otherwise marvelous country and its outstanding culture.

I await eagerly the ascendancy of Japanese youth...who will soon replace those people. I yearn for that time because much of Japan's youth is aware of the egregious harm being done to their nation in the eyes of the rest of the world thanks to the Old Guard's stand on the environment, and, most notoriously, on whaling.

This is Roger Payne talking to you, alas, from land

(c) 2001 Written by Roger Payne

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