I don't like whaling either Paul, it seems so pointless, just some fad/tradition, like be-heading or female circumsition, ah but there's the rub, they are harming humans so most cultures have now stopped those barbaric acts. Whales on the other hand are there for food because god says so.
Thing is though, thousands of species become extinct every decade and sometimes in times of global upheaval like ice-ages, large scale volcanic activity, drought (GW?), success of dominant species etc., they can be wiped out in far less time. We go to church and thank god for animal meat then we put on a sad and guilty face and try to actually play god in trying to save the species we feel most strongly about. Not bothered about parasitic wasps or mosquito's are we, hell no, they kill thousands of people by transmitting disease so we'll kill those but save the big fat cuddly Pandas, why, because they are cute. Come on now, if they had six legs, a face like a Hippo and spread malaria to humans would you still care about the Pandas? No you wouldn't! You'd want them dead!
So at the end of the day who are we to specifically choose what lives and what dies?
Maybe we are such a successful species because of our ability to rule and kill and trample all before us? If we were all gentle caring individuals maybe we would be on some other beasts shopping list and heading for our own extinction? I don't think we are going to be the first animal to bring about its own extinction either, I mean, how long can Pandas survive in the long term if their sole diet is Bamboo???