Asleep at the whale

Well, well, whale, what have we here?

Australian environmental activists who boarded the whaling security ship Shonan Maru No 2. risk being sent to prison in Japan, according to Tokyo’s Institute of Cetacean Research.

The three men evaded defences overnight to board the ship off the coast of Western Australia in an attempt to force it to abandon its pursuit of the Sea Shepherd ship, Steve Irwin.

ICR, which conducts the Antarctic whaling program on behalf of the Japanese government, said the trio risked being taken to Japan and jailed.

It has been a long, long time since I took a survey course in international law, but this promises to be the most interesting case of an Australian getting arrested overseas (or, more accurately, at sea) since the Bali boy. While memory is hazy on the subject, I do not recall there being much favourable precedent for those who board another vessel uninvited; indeed, viewed uncharitably, the whole thing smacks of piracy. Which is why, as different as the Bali boy and the Sea Shepherd cases may seem at first glance, I imagine that the defendants in both instances hoped or are hoping that being white, Australian, and seemingly sympathetic victims of heartless, suspect, foreign legal regimes will stand them in good stead in the only court that seems to count any more, that of public opinion.

I have never eaten whale (though I have a vague curiosity to do so the next time I am in Japan, if only because it is forbidden fruit to us Australians), but it is interesting to note that officials seeking to supplement the meagre diet of post-World War II Britons attempted to make whale meat the next big thing, with Ministry of Food home economists noting that ‘[while] it is not very satisfactory grilled or cooked as a joint, most people cannot distinguish it from beef steak when it is finely cut before cooking or mixed with strong flavours.’ And anyone who has had experience reading or writing overly-optimistic government briefings will not be surprised that the stuff went unsold before being turned into ‘selected fish food for cats and kittens.’*

* Humble, Nicole, Culinary Pleasures: Cookbooks and the Transformation of British Food, London, 2005.

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2 Responses to Asleep at the whale

  1. Hey Mr Prick, I realise this is late but I have recently started reading your blog more carefully, and thought I’d go back in time.
    I lived in Japan, and have eaten whale a number of times. It is interesting to note that the British tried to use whale to build up their post war peeps with protein because that’s exactly what the Japanese did too. Up until just before I was at High School in Japan in the 70 canned whale meat was the staple school lunch. I had some. Like beef that’s been eating seaweed.
    Nowadays you would be very lucky to meet a Japanese person who has eaten it (unless they’re well over 50 and had it at school) as it is really a rarity. I’ve seen “whale bacon” as a garnish in some robata dishes but that’s about it.

    • chiefprick says:

      Thanks for that — yes I’d heard that about the British whaling experience; apparently despite the food shortage during the war (particularly before the Allies got a handle on the U-boats) the Brits didn’t take to it at all and it got re-branded as cat food! Cheers and thanks for reading.

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