550. Why Do People Still Hunt Whales?
Freakonomics Radio
Thu, July 20, 2023
Podchat Summary

The Decline and Uncertain Future of Commercial Whaling

In this episode, we explore the current state of commercial whaling, focusing on Norway, Japan, and Iceland. While commercial whaling is still practiced in these countries, it is no longer a major industry. We delve into the historical context of whaling, examining Norway's prominent role in the 20th century as a world leader in the industry.

The decline of the American whaling industry in the late 19th century is also discussed, with a focus on the factors that led to its downfall. The rise of other industries that offered better and safer job opportunities played a significant role in this decline.

We then turn our attention to the establishment of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in 1946. The IWC was created to regulate whaling practices and eventually implemented a global moratorium on commercial whaling. However, we explore how Japan's recent decision to resume commercial whaling in 2019 after leaving the IWC has raised questions about the effectiveness of international regulations.

Despite the resumption of commercial whaling, both Norway and Japan are facing challenges in finding a market for whale meat. The demand for whale products is low in these countries, and the industry is struggling to sustain itself economically.

The debate over whaling is primarily driven by moral arguments, with some countries and activists advocating for a total ban on whaling. We examine the different perspectives and motivations behind these arguments.

Looking ahead, the future of commercial whaling remains uncertain. As public opinion continues to shift and the demand for whale products decreases, the industry may face further decline. Join us as we explore the complex and evolving landscape of commercial whaling.

Original Show Notes

For years, whale oil was used as lighting fuel, industrial lubricant, and the main ingredient in (yum!) margarine. Whale meat was also on a few menus. But today, demand for whale products is at a historic low. And yet some countries still have a whaling industry. We find out why. (Part 2 of “Everything You Never Knew About Whaling.”)

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