We live in times of conflict, tension and disagreement. The clash of cultures, religions, Coke versus Pepsi. But there is one thing, it seems, that unites great swathes of the world's population.
The annual condemnation of Japan's scientific study of whales is one of those subjects that appears to get people from most countries talking as one.
I was reading through some of the comments on this as the news broke that Japan had essentially held some protesters hostage today. And it was remarkable; it seems not to matter whether you're socialist, liberal, conservative or otherwise, there's a groundswell of opinion on this one.
But is it a problem that a lot of the arguments against whaling tend to be emotional, passionate, even? These are beautiful, graceful creatures, they say. We shouldn't be killing such intelligent, sociable creatures, we're told.
That way lies hypocrisy, goes the counterpoint. How many of the anti-whaling people are strict vegetarians? Can a cow not be cute? Could a lamb be lovable? Would meat by any other name taste as sweet? I've got to admit, it's not an entirely bad point. I mean, I quite like to eat things that once had a face. And not just beef and lamb, either. There's venison in the freezer, so as far as I'm concerned, that's Humans 1 - Bambi's mother 0.
So given that I might be on a sticky wicket if I play the emotional card, let's look at some of the other arguments instead.
Argument no. 1 - It's part of our culture.
What a novel concept - slaughter as a heritage industry. Perhaps we can get the Sealed Knot folks to drown a few kittens in a bucket while they're at it? If you're going to get all hissy about history, why not carry out your whaling in an open sailing boat, with hand-thrown harpoons? Make it a bit more sporting, perhaps.
In fact (and whisper this verrry quietly) Japan only started whaling 60 years ago to stave off post-war malnutrition. So the "part of our culture" thing is, well, a little ambitious. We gave up ration-books and Vera Lynn, so they can give whaling the heave-ho, surely?
Argument no. 2 - Protesting is just how the western white folk try to assert their authority on the Japanese.
Nice try. But I'd get quite pissed off should the Norwegians start whaling again. And they are probably the whitest people on the planet. Seriously, they make me look latino.
Argument no. 3 - It's a scientific study.
I was struggling to conjure up the particular question that might need such study. I could only come up with "What happens when you fire a 500-pound steel harpoon into an aquatic mammal then tear it to shreds?" I'm aware that the scientific community will happily graft an ear onto a mouse's back just for something to do between episodes of QI, so they are a little odd, but surely not that odd?
I then remembered the dismal science - economics. Of course - what a fool I'd been! The scientific study in question must therefore go something like:
"If we kill 900 whales this year as opposed to the 450 we took last year - thus increasing supply - how much can we charge for the steaks?"
Scientific study? I'm sorry, but as arguments go, that's bollocks.*
The slaughter is bad enough, but it's the dishonesty that tops it all off for me.
*(And I'm well aware that my aunt reads this. Sorry for that, Viv.)