From: By ANDREW C. REVKIN, NY Times
Published January 9, 2009 09:08 AM

On Whale Wars and Bison Burgers

Japan’s government-supported whaling fleet is out in the Southern Ocean killing hundreds of minke whales and other species in the name of science (but also for meat), and once again being harassed by the animal-rights crusaders — and now Animal Planet celebrities — aboard the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society vessel Steve Irwin.

Japan has asked Australia to deny the Steve Irwin the right to land and refuel, saying the campaigners are little more than eco-terrorists. The latest dispute is over an incident Tuesday in which the activists showed up following a distress call as the whaling fleet searched for a missing crew member. Japan’s Institute for Cetacean Research — which campaigners claim has an Orwellian name hiding its function as a meat processing business — issued a release claiming the anti-whaling group tried to disrupt the search, while the activists say they were just trying to help.

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Paul Watson, the founder of Sea Shepherd, insists that the only terrorists in these disputes are the ones using explosive-tipped harpoons. But he has come in for a lot of criticism for tactics that include ramming whaling vessels.

Amid the shouting over tactics, there has been little progress on a larger issue: When whale species, like the minke, are no longer rare, can they be both admired and eaten — as North Americans do with bison — or is it simply wrong to kill whales at all?

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