FOR THE WEEK OF JUNE 26, 2006
Whale hunting: Culture vs. Conservation
Have students scan newspapers for examples of cultural differences. Practices acceptable in some regions are often frowned on elsewhere. Every society draws lines between what is acceptable and what not. Conflicts arise is deciding exactly what the rules should be. Specifically, is there a way for the whaling commission accommodate nations who favor whaling? Or should whaling be banned altogether?
Conservation and environmentalism plays a bigger and bigger role in political decisions. Often, the dilemma is to protect the environment while also allowing economic growth. Discuss the balance between preserving resources and using them up to provide jobs.
Every country in the world claims the right to make its own decisions. Yet, many issues have global implications. Look for stories of international corporation and disputes. Decide how best to settle global issues and who should have final say.
Countries around the world are again debating whether it is appropriate to hunt whales. Newspapers report waves of pro and con opinion as both sides gear up for a long fight. The International Whaling Commission banned hunting the mammals in 1986. But the commission recently opened the door for renewed hunting in a narrow 33-32 vote during a meeting on the island of St. Kitts. Japan led the effort to approve hunting and critics accuse the Japanese government of unfairly influencing smaller countries. In its new vote, the IWC declared the whaling ban "no longer necessary." But it stopped short of again approving commercial whale hunts.
The cultural issue: Some argue that whaling is no different from fishing and hunting, which is allowed by most cultures around the world. As it turns out, there is a market for whale products in some countries including Japan. Currently, Japan and Iceland continue to hunt whales under the guise of scientific research and Norway ignores the non-binding IWC ban altogether. And for thousands of years, whaling has been a central to the survival of the Inuit and other native people who live in Arctic regions.
Conservation: Conservationists want whaling permanently banned in order to protect the animal from extinction. Before the 1986 whaling ban, many whale species had been nearly hunted out of existence. So most countries favored an end to the practice. But some wanted only a temporary ban in order to replenish stocks so hunting could resume at some future date.. Critics say the hunt is no longer needed because whale products, including meat and oil, have been replaced by cheaper and plentiful substitutes.
Politics plays a role: Some analysts says whaling countries simply don't want other countries, including the United States, telling them what to do. That is, whaling can be a matter of national heritage and pride. Critics note the IWC switched from managing the whale hunt to banning it â€“ a move whaling countries do not like.
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