UN court exposes Japan‘s false pretence
Friday 4th April 2014
A worldwide campaign has led to Japan being ordered to stop all whaling, writes PETER FROST
The worldwide campaign to stop the bloody slaughter of some of our largest and most intelligent ocean creatures has secured a major victory but the struggle to save the whale must go on.
The United Nations International Court of Justice (ICJ) has ordered that the Japanese government immediately stops the slaughter of whales in Antarctic waters.
The UN court has declared that, despite long-term claims from Tokyo that the hunt was for scientific purposes, the true purpose was the commercial harvesting of whale meat for food and thus illegal under the 1986 International Moratorium on Whaling to which Japan is a signatory.
The case was brought to the court by the government of Australia, which argued that the programme was not for scientific research as claimed by Japan.
The Australians have been monitoring the Japanese whaling fleet and their actions using long-range recognisance aircraft.
Japan has reluctantly agreed to abide by the court’s decision but says that it regrets and is deeply disappointed by the decision.
Organisations like Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd had harassed the Japanese fleet in international waters with heroic actions that saw volunteers putting themselves between the Japanese harpooners and the whales.
These actions played a massive part in winning world opinion to opposing the Japanese whaling deceit and its so-called scientific research claims.
The Australian legal argument was simple – Japan’s slaughter had nothing to do with environmental research and was commercial whaling in disguise.
Japan counter argued that the suit brought by Australia was an attempt to impose its cultural norms on Japan.
Announcing his judgement UN Judge Peter Tomka said the court had decided – by 12 votes to four – that Japan should withdraw all permits and licences for its whaling ships in the Antarctic and not issue any new ones.
Since 2005 Japan had slaughtered some 3,600 minke whales as well as other species. Only tiny tissue samples went to laboratories. Most of the meat ended up in expensive Japanese restaurants.
Some was exported to other whale-eating countries. On a visit to Iceland I was offered imported Japanese sei whale meat as a restaurant delicacy and in 2010 a restaurant in San Francisco, US, was prosecuted and shut down for selling illegally imported Japanese sei whale meat.
The Japanese fleet have been killing up to 50 magnificent sei whales each year.
The sei is the third biggest of whales and has declined following large-scale commercial whaling during the late 19th and t20th centuries, when over 255,000 whales were taken.
The sei whale is now internationally protected – its worldwide population was calculated in 2008 to be down down to about 80,000.
Japan signed up to the International moratorium on whaling in 1986, but continued whaling in the north and south Pacific hiding under the dubious excuse of provisions that allowed for limited scientific research.
Norway and Iceland and the Faroe Islands – an autonomous country within Denmark- rejected the moratorium and continued commercial whaling.
In 2012 South Korea announced it would follow Japan’s lead and start scientific whaling again. A huge world-wide campaign forced them to change their mind.
In Japan the meat from the slaughtered whales is sold commercially despite more and more Japanese finding the slaughter and the consumption of whale meat unacceptable. Recently we have seen some whale meat used to make expensive edible chewing toys for Japan’s many lap-dogs.
Japan has clashed repeatedly with Australia and other countries, which strongly oppose whaling on conservation grounds arguing that minke whales and a number of other species are plentiful and that its whale hunting activities are sustainable. However, few other experts agree with that view.
Greenpeace UK’s Willie MacKenzie welcomed the ICJ’s decision. He told us: “The myth that this hunt was in any way scientific can now be dismissed once and for all.”
Sadly this new court ruling will not end whaling worldwide. Japan still has a fleet in the eastern Pacific and in northern waters Iceland, Norway and the Danish Faroe Islands defy world opinion and continue the bloody murder of some of the largest and most intelligent examples of life on our blue planet.
Japan said today that it has decided to continue whaling in the Pacific Ocean, despite losing a court case on its other “research” hunt in the Antarctic: here.
Japanese town marks start of whaling season by carving up animal in front of a crowd of school children: here.
April 2014: The president of the United States Barack Obama has announced that additional diplomatic sanctions should now be imposed on Iceland for undermining international agreements and the International Whaling Commission’s global ban on commercial whaling: here.