Defining Issues in International Environmental Law
New Horizons in Environmental and Energy Law series
Chapter 5: Whaling under Scientific Auspices
INTRODUCTION This chapter seeks to cast some light upon one of the foremost debates that has dogged the IWC for a number of years, under which legal rights have directly conflicted with ethical considerations.1 This debate has implications in numerous overlapping national and international bodies, in which the quest for scientific knowledge comes up against the legitimate limits of society, in both national and global settings. The commissioner for New Zealand, the Honourable Jim McLay, first raised this quandary at the IWC in 1997: Science is the province of the Scientific Committee, but there are occasions when it is proper for this body [the IWC] to give guidance on the Committee’s scope. That is particularly true where a scientific research program raises moral and ethical issues. And ethical issues are inevitably raised when a research program results in nearly 3,000 animals being killed over eight years, with the prospect of another eight years to come . . . We need more than just a scientific direction here . . . we also need a moral compass.2 At the 50th meeting this was taken one step further when the secretariat was requested to undertake ‘a comprehensive review of the ethical considerations taken into account by other international scientific organizations with respect to scientific research’.3 Accordingly, the secretariat wrote to a number of international scientific organizations on this topic.4 Although New Zealand and the UK criticized the Commission for not going far enough in its review, it was nevertheless noted in a resolution directed to Japan that...
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