Whaling is a source of issues of great interest not only for lawyers (both national and international) but also for philosophers and anthropologists. It is a topic that has been covered by numerous publications, undoubtedly excellent; however, some, while covering whaling holistically, were published before the latest important developments took place (such as the Whaling in the Antarctic case), while others have mainly focused on discrete legal aspects of whaling. More than a few questions of international law have been looked at from very diverse viewpoints, and, on occasion, have been the cause of highly emotional reactions. The history of whaling is certainly not short of examples where whaling emerges as a complex, conflict-ridden and divisive field.
The complexity of whaling became patently clear in the 2014 Whaling in the Antarctic case before the International Court of Justice (ICJ), analysis of which is contained in a subsequent chapter of the present publication. Whaling engages a plethora of legal issues, ranging from biodiversity considerations to those relating to trade and the environment, to questions of, among other things, interpretation within the context of the law of treaties. Furthermore, whaling is an example of the close link between, and the dynamic interplay of, science and law.
From a philosophical and, more specifically, ethical point of view, one could query whether animals in general (and whales in particular) have rights, and, if so, what might be the interplay of such rights with those of other rights holders. To be more precise, how might animal rights engage with the right to cultural identity not only of, say, indigenous peoples, but also of other peoples who, although not indigenous in the traditional sense, are peoples whose history is not unrelated to whaling: for instance, the Japanese, the Icelanders, the Faroese and the Norwegians. Therefore, the matters that whaling engages are certainly not limited to the field of environmental law (or the notion of biodiversity).
This collection of thematically self-standing chapters does not aim to present whaling in an all-encompassing and exhaustive manner; rather it seeks to highlight particular issues that, for the most part, are complex and contentious in legal and ethical senses. It also provides some historical background that points towards the presence of contentious issues from the early stages of interstate whaling regulation and that are still very much present.