Note: I'm not a native speaker of English and I know the following article requires grammatical correction. Therefore, the article will be modified from time to time.
1. About the argument that whales are special and intelligent
Although it is true that Bottlenose Dolphin has a brain as heavy as human's and it's surface has complex folding as human's, no relationship is known between brain weight and intelligence (considering that only a part of the brain is used for intelligence, and that proportion of the part varies species to species, it is unlikely that total brain weight can give useful index of intelligence), and so is folding on brain surface. One fact worth to be noted is that whales/dolphins does echo-location to 'view' their circumstance by reflected sound from objects, with higher quality than what bats does. Because of this complex function they may require relatively larger brain than other animals which does not do it. Anyway, the reason of brain size has not been revealed yet.
The study about cetacean intelligence is done only on some species of dolphins, not including large whales, and so far there is no firm evidence that they are as intelligent as human, although some people want to believe it and have tendency to interpret whales/dolphins' behavior in their wishful way. For example, dolphins have a habit of transporting large object afloat on the sea, such as wood, dead shark, etc. And when a drawn person is transported to shore by dolphins, some people believe that dolphins are so gentle and intelligent that it saved the human for good will. However, the study of dolphins' society show that there exists harassment and killing among dolphins species, and cases are reported that a swimmer was suddenly attacked by a dolphin or pushed toward the ocean. It seems that their cute face and characteristics of being easily tamed to humans, caused people to develop view about cetacean in subjective way.
If you ask to community of real scientists, not anti-whaling propagandists, I bet they can tell you no firm proof or evidence that whales/dolphins are as intelligent as human nor they have their own language for communication. Although there are some research reports that dolphins in laboratory could learn some words and could understand sentences generated by combination of those words, these results do not mean wild dolphins communicate by language.
So far, there is no qualitative nor quantitative method to measure the intelligence of animals (it is difficult even for the case of human being). Even if cetaceans are much more intelligent than other animals, there is no agreed qualitative nor quantitative criteria about killing of animals of which level of intelligence should be acceptable or forbidden.
At this stage of our knowledge and evidence on cetacean intelligence, to believe that all whale species are as intelligent as human being is similar to blindly believing George Adamski's stories that he met a Venusian in California desert and made communication by telepathy.
Even in the extreme case that whales have language which can be translated into human language - note that this is just an assumption and fact is that no consistent pattern is observed in their 'voice' - then I advise you to look into a fairy tale for children and examine whether words used there can be translated into what whales/dolphins have concept. Are the words "prince", "reward", "prayer", "bridal ceremony", in existing concepts in whales/dolphins' mind? If translation of even the children's books faces such troubles, what level of conversation can be done? I guess it will be at most the primitive level, for example, "There was a large herd of sardine over there.", and yet this is for the unproven extreme case that they have translatable language.
While there are people who blindly believe in the myth of cetacean intelligence and enjoy to loudly abuse whalers as "barbarians", the following words by a scientist seems to be noteworthy.
There is another less anthropomorphic or "speciesist" way of looking at the question of general "intelligence". All living species must be highly "intelligent" in a broad sense in order to survive. From this point of view, humans are no more and no less than one of the species living on this planet with particular adaptations (specialized "intelligence") for their own way of life. This perspective allows us to view the superb professionalism of all species with equal respect, and not in some artificial ranking order of higher or lower "intelligence" (with the hidden assumption that they are more or less worthy of conservation and consideration, and that as humans are, of course, in the first rank, their wishes have priority).
("Brains, Behaviour and Intelligence in Cetaceans", Margaret Klinowska, 1994)
Also, it is worth to note that an idea "human being is the supreme creature on the earth and we can introduce hierarchy into animals based on whether they are as intelligent as us or they look cute for us" is analogy of what Nazi insisted on human race based on poor scientific backgrounds (for some people it may be a useful pretext to justify implementation of discriminatory policies). In fact, between two fishery activities of taking fish and whales there are quite difference in political attitudes, especially in anti-whaling nations, and some government officials of those nations explain that this difference is rooted in public attitude to cetaceans.
Apart from intelligence, some people feel that whales are gentle, beautiful, attractive animals. But views to animals differs people to people, and no one have right to enforce his/her taste to other people. For example, while sparrows may be cute birds for urban people, farmers whose crops are eaten by them may have quite different view, and there is no absolute criteria of whether a particular animal is good or bad. In such a situation, to regard an animal species as sacred one and then enforce worldwide the policies which is based on this single view is one form of ethnocentric and/or totalitarianism.
Suppose that you eat beef and you hear that there are Hindus who regard cows as sacred creature, you may probably think "It's their belief, not mine", and so is the case of whales for us (in my view, some people who are rooted in some European countries, which had several centuries of colonial ruling, have tendency to impose their own belief or social system to people of other culture area, sometimes under the name of "globalism"). There is no reason why people who eat whales must be bound by the view of those who oppose to it. It's just a matter of taste and no one or nation in the world has privilege to order others, like "I permit you to eat this species blah blah ...".
2. Is killing of whales particularly cruel?
I don't think so. When I imagine the life of beef cattles, which cannot enjoy free activity, whose meals are determined not based on their taste but on humans' convenience, and which are killed eventually without exception, it reminds me of life at concentration camp.
On the contrary, whales can enjoy free life and only a few percent of them can be killed by hunt annually, if the species is allowed to be the subject of hunting. For a person like me who do not regard whales as special animal, whaling is nothing but an ordinary fishery or hunting which is done in many countries including anti-whaling nations.
Some people argue that it takes time for killing, but still the time is not particularly longer than the case of hunting of land animals (this must be the reason why anti-whaling nations disagree at IWC to compare killing time at whaling with that of land animal hunting), which is also done in many anti-whaling nations, and time landed fish suffer until death. Have animal rights groups ever opposed to fishing or hunting in general because of the time fish suffer on land, or are fish happy when landed outside the water?
Also, while there are people who think killing of whales is cruel, there are people who think killing of infant sheep to produce lamb - as is done in a anti-whaling country New Zealand - is cruel, and some other people think killing of domestic animal is cruel because the animals rely on people and thus killing of them is a kind of unethical betrayal to the trust of animals to human. In the world there are various views about killing of various animals but some people have tendency to love to attack only ethnic habit, without considering how their own habit could be seen by people of other culture area. Such attitude is quite often observed in opinions of anti-whaling movement, and have no power to appeal to majority of people in the whaling countries. In particular when TV ad broadcasts the scene of killing whales without the scene of killing domestic animals for comparison, people in whaling nations just think "What an unfair propaganda they are making".
One propaganda around the whaling is about killing time. The statistics of Japanese scientific whaling show that whales are killed in a few minutes in average, and sometimes it takes more time. But in the anti-whaling movement only the longest time in the statistics are advertised as to give impression that those figures are average. If such assertions about imperfectness can be used as to ban the whaling, the existence of some disasters, such as mass-slaughter of animals caused by epidemics, could be used to ban stock farming. So far there seems to be no perfect method to prevent epidemics among domestic animals, and it means mas-waste of lives of cattles will continue to happen in the future. One may argue that still the average killing time is longer than that for cattles, but considering these two kill are done under quite different circumstances, it seems to be nonsense to think killing of marine creatures in the sea can be done in the same time as killing of cattles at slaughter houses on the land. In fact, fish caught by anti-whaling are not killed as instantly as anti-whaling governments ask to Japan.
Some people are vegetarians and oppose to whaling both on this stance and ecological thoughts. However the killing of animals for food is quite natural habit in the nature and it is ironical that some people who recognize the importance of preserving the nature refuse to follow this basic nature of eating other animals (not only whale meat). It seems the idea behind this attitude is that human being is special creature on the earth - an idea which had been criticized by ecologists as the root of the past environmental destruction. Also they often forget how many insects are killed to grow vegetables. From the points of view of sacrifice of lives, vegetables are not so clean and blessed as their lovers believe. My another view about vegetarianism is - considering that there are still so many mysteries in mechanisms of the human body, changing the food drastically for reasons based on some 'philosophical' belief may cause new trouble to our own body. Even in my life of several tens of years, I witnessed so many hypotheses about goodness or badness of nutrients or ingredients were reported on media and had changed quite often. It is likely that changing of the food source dramatically from what ancestors had been eating may badly affect our body which had been used to traditional set of foods for long time. At least, human being has been omnivorous and never been herbivorous during the past history of evolution.
3. Is it unnecessary to eat whales?
Probably most people can live without whale meat, although whales are very important food source in some Arctic area because of hard geographical condition where no vegetables can be grown, and even in a developed country like Japan there are communities whose most effective food source was whales and thus have had long traditional/cultural tie with whaling activity. Although it is true that many people can live without whale meat, it is also true that many people can live without beef, pork, etc. I can bet people who say "eating of whale meat is not necessary" buy in their daily life many food which have substitute from the point of view of nutrition. In fact, the reality in the world is that people's selection of food stuff is based on social and cultural background and geographical location, regardless of whether a particular food is really necessary from medical/biological point of view. When people, who themselves buy not-absolutely-necessary food, say "eating of whale meat is not necessary", they are forgetting this basic fact and ignoring that other people also have right to select food based on their own favor.
If you eat beef and insist "eating of whale is unnecessary", you should note that beef production wasted many forests to make grass-lands and many natural fields were converted into fields to grow grain to feed cattles, and had caused ecological change to plants, insects, birds. While there are people whose animal protein source is highly depend on beef, production of which requires 7 times' mass of grain for feed, there are so many starving people on the earth whose lives may be saved if land is more effectively used to produce food for humans, not for cattles. Although some anti-whalers said to me that Japanese should forget about whale meat and eat beef instead, is eating of beef so proudful not only on ecological but also on social point of view? Is it really necessary to eat beef and aren't there any substitute? On the other hand, limited harvest of whales is a effective way to produce meat without any waste of land, and has no possibility of useless waste of lives like the case of 'disposing' of so many cattles, which happens in cases of epidemics and BSE.
Some people issue question "Well Japan had long tradition of whaling in its coastal waters but is it necessary to take whales in the high seas?" It is true that traditional whaling in Japan was coastal whaling, then its whale resources depleted after western whaling fleets started intense whaling in so called "Japan ground" since 1820s, and Japanese whaling in the Antarctic started in 1934/35 season. If there is international agreement that fisheries should be restricted only in domestic waters, such opinion may appeal, but there is not. Or is there any reason that, among so many marine creatures, only taking of whales should be done in the domestic waters? If the food production is possible by utilizing marine resources without abusing ecology on the land, why is it necessary to ban it? Minke whales are second smallest species of baleen whale species, but one minke whale gives us 10 times greater amount of meat than a cattle, without changing land ecology. When countries who does fisheries in the high seas announce that only whales should be exception, it does not sound persuasive at all, and when countries who got long coastal line and large land by invading the land of aborigines does such assertion, it just sounds like politically motivated assertion by owners of large land and even sounds like expression of their ambition to dominate food market by their agricultural products so as to govern the world by using of food-supply as "carrot-and-stick", and it is hard to find scientific or ecological justification in it. Comparing with whaling, Japan had much less tradition of stock farming, which, as I mentioned above, has not so better way of producing meat than whaling. But I have never heard a question such as "Why is it necessary for Japan, who has little tradition of it, to do stock farming?"
4. Are whales close to extinction?
This is a point which poorly informed people have images quite different from the reality. Some species are depleted but some are quite abundant. One thing to note is that all of these large whales are listed in appendix I of CITES, i.e. the list of highly endangered species, even if some species are quite abundant. This fact itself shows how politics around whales is warped and is far from rational. When some species of fish, for example cod in North Atlantic, becomes highly depleted by over-fishing, does any country introduce a policy that fishing activity of any fish species should be banned regardless of different population status? But such extremist approach is what has been happening on whaling.
My point is that whaling is the same as other fisheries and see no reason that killing of all whale species should be banned regardless of difference of population status, and without close analyses on difference between past and today's knowledge about whale population and biological parameters related to their population dynamics, stock management system, the number of candidates of whaling companies, etc (note that when intense whaling happened in Antarctic in early-to-middle of 20th century it was for oil production, which is quite different situation from today and quite unlikely to happen).
The species of whales which Japan is taking for research to overturn the excuse of 'uncertainty in scientific knowledge' used to justify the blanket moratorium of commercial whaling is abundant minke whale, whose population was estimated to be 760,000 only in the Antarctic in early 1990s, and International Whaling Commission's Scientific Committee's simulation showed, based on a conservative scenario, harvesting of 2,000 minke whales per year would not damage the species. This figure is a result of so called Revised Management Procedure (RMP) which is so conservative that once it is applied to hunting of land mammals, no catch quota would be granted in most cases. In fact, this is a procedure originally devised by a scientist who have close tie with anti-whaling organizations and it is quite unlikely that resumption of commercial whaling can threat minke whales (in fact, minke whales were never depleted by commercial whaling with much larger catch quota).
5. Lies and exaggeration
These two were basic elements of anti-whaling movements since it began to spread among public in 1970s, and situation is still the same today. For example, there are many articles on newspaper and magazines which hide the basic facts that the research whaling as Japan is doing is the right guaranteed by Article VIII(1) of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, and selling of meat of whales caught by research purpose is mandatory by Article VIII(2) of the convention.
Another recent example is an assertion that the IWC's Scientific Committee reviewed the Japanese research whaling and concluded it as unnecessary. If you are able to read the full text of the review meeting report , you will find that the assertion is far from truth.
These are only small fraction of examples and citing of other examples would result in writing of a heavy book. Such tendency is seen not only on whaling but also in other fisheries area, for example in the case of southern bluefin tuna . Anyway, as a result of mis-leading propaganda, which cites only small portion of facts or exaggerate them, and media articles which are written without cross-checking by other information source, some people have formed a quite extreme image of whaling, for example, resumption of commercial whaling would deplete the whale stocks (it seems they don't know the fundamental difference today's and old-day's system to set catch quota and knowledge on whale stocks).
Since documents of IWC are not easily accessible for public, and mass media had not been allowed to observe the proceeding of discussions at IWC until 1998, although NGOs could observe it since late 1970s, it was quite easy for anti-whaling groups to make the press to report biased information as absolute 'facts' and guide general public to convenient direction for them. If you have brochures of anti-whaling groups, please keep them and never dispose. They are important historical material for future researchers to study what the quality of the information spread by anti-whaling groups were like.
As seen above, there are people who loves to attack ethnic culture/habit based on uncertain knowledge, and there are politicians whose stance is inconsistent or unfair in treating the whaling in much different way from other fishery activities. I wonder whether some cultural prejudice is behind them.
The situation can be viewed that since it is no longer permitted in political world to use difference of "race" to discriminate other people, some people now use difference rooted in historical, traditional, cultural background as the pretext to discriminate or attack other people. This seems to be at least one element in anti-whaling movement. In case of some governments, who has no stake on the whaling, it seems anti-whaling stance at IWC can be easy policy. However, the more they act easily, the more inconsistency between management policy of whale and other wild creatures is becoming apparent, and I wonder how long such situation can last in the future.
As a summary, my support to the whaling is a kind of resistance activity against a movement which is based on poor and biased knowledge, and is mixture of inconsistent attitude to the harvest of wild fauna, cultural prejudice or cultural imperialism, and denial of cultural diversity. Also my support to the whaling is an activity as a consumer to keep the freedom of choice of what to eat for food.
Today the whaling issue is not a issue of whaling itself, but a issue of mentality of anti-whaling campaign promoters, and of some anti-whaling governments whose whaling policy is against the basic convention of the IWC by the influence of those activists.