- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Presidential candidates who take a firm stand against Japanese whaling practices are more likely to gain support from swing voters, a new poll has shown.

The poll conducted on behalf of the International Fund for Animal Welfare showed that six out of 10 swing voters would be more likely to vote for a presidential candidate who opposed the Japanese practice of killing whales for research.

“A stand against whaling could help candidates in the primaries and in the general election,” said Fred Steeper, a principal polling consultant to President Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign. He conducted the poll for Market Strategies.

An international moratorium on commercial whaling was established in 1986 by the International Whaling Commission (IWC). But since then more than 20,000 whales have been killed, almost half of those for research purposes, according to Whales Need US, a coalition of 20 environmental and animal-welfare groups.

The Japanese government says the research they are conducting on whales is for scientific, not commercial, purposes and does not violate international law. However, environmental campaign groups, including Greenpeace whose ship Esperanza has just spent six weeks tailing a Japanese whaling fleet, say Japan is using scientific research as a smoke screen for the continuation of commercial whaling.

“What Japan is doing is exploiting loopholes in the convention,” said Kitty Block, director of treaty law, oceans, and wildlife protection for the Humane Society of the United States. “Scientific whaling has become the loophole that has overcome the moratorium.”

However, Gavin Carter, an adviser to the Institute of Cetacean Research, a nonprofit organization advising the Japanese government on issues of whaling, denied the accusation of foul play on the Japanese government’s part.

“If [the Japanese] were whaling for commercial purposes, they would catch a specific quota of whales, they are not doing that,” he said. “The Japanese are understanding the full dynamics of the stocks. You can do biological surveys from a sample of a live whale, but you can’t do the full research without killing them.”

Whales Need US called on the Bush administration to re-establish the United States as a country that “confronts those countries that kill whales” after the announcement of the poll results in Washington yesterday.

“We want the U.S. government to rediscover its backbone and to restore its leadership to protect whales” said D.J. Schubert, wildlife biologist at the animal-welfare institute.

The calls for greater protection for whales are timed to coincide with the first official visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to the U.S. next week as well as the convention of the IWC in Anchorage, Alaska, next month. It will be the first time in 70 years that the commission has met in the U.S.

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