National Review's Rich Lowry comes out swinging today ... at Japan. "When it comes to whaling, Japan is a rogue state," he declares. "Conservationists are rightly galled at a proposal that will again legitimate the killing of nature's most majestic creatures--as harmless as they are awesome--with no guarantee that the number of whale catches will really go down substantially."

The National Review is not generally a hotbed of eco-nostalgia. Whether lovingly reproducing Rush Limbaugh's criticism of Al Gore, referring to Nader's platform as "saving the spotted owl, or whatever," or dedicating an entire article to "Exposing Eco-Hypocrisy," the magazine usually manages to make its disdain of tree-huggers read loud and clear. Not on this issue.

"Whaling lost its Melville-esque romance long ago," argues Lowry, in a paragraph that could make PETA proud. "The rise of steam engines, explosive harpoons, and then factory ships ... facilitated the mass slaughter of whales. The creatures had as much a chance against their hunters as bologna does against a grinder. They were killed in a decades-long movable charnel house." Then he waxes poetic:

Why protect whales? They should be preserved as befits anything else that evokes wonder; they are the mammalian equivalent of the Grand Canyon or of the giant redwoods. They are also incredibly long-lived creatures with a sophisticated social structure, closer to chimpanzees than to cattle.
Here he's straying onto familiar ground: his fellow National Review writer Jonah Goldberg also has a thing for cetaceans, and offers a similar justification. "I think pandas are more worth saving than some breed of scorpion. I think dolphins are better than eels," wrote Goldberg back in 1999. "We are humans and there is nothing wrong with us making value judgements about animals ... I like whales, we all like whales, so we should have a bias against killing them."

So here's Lowry's conclusion: given that whale oil is no longer needed, since "only 1 percent of the [Japanese] eats whale meat routinely," and the hunters aren't actually doing any valuable research, it's time to ditch the program in favor of letting whale populations bounce back as far as nature will let them go.

You read it at National Review, folks: save the whales!