The U.N. International Court of Justice has temporarily banned whaling in Japan, rejecting the argument that the purpose of the catch was scientific research. The court agreed with Australia, which brought the case to light in May 2010, that the scientific output of whaling was lacking in comparison with the number of whales that were killed. No scientific whaling licenses should be issued any longer, as the decision was made with 12 to four votes.
Judge Peter Tomka said, “Considering the fact that the research program has been ongoing since 2005 and that 3,600 minke whales have been killed, the scientific output to date appears to be limited.” According to the court, Japan has delivered two peer-reviewed papers, based on results of nine killed minke whales and the court found the results and the total number of killed whales to be out of proportion. Although Japan said it would respect the court’s decision, it also said it was deeply disappointed and that Australia has attempted to impose its cultural norms on Japan.
In 1986, Japan signed a moratorium on whaling, yet it continued to perform its activities in the north and south Pacific under provisions that allowed for scientific research. The meat of the whales that were killed was sold commercially in Japan, as it says it is considered as a delicacy by its population, but now that whaling is banned by the court, this is coming to an end.
Although Japan has had multiple clashes with many countries regarding its whaling program, it argues that minke whales, as well as other species, are plentiful and that its activities are performed in a sustainable manner. Willie MacKenzie, a spokesman for Greenpeace, says, “It is a myth, as is the fact that the whaling program was for scientific purposes. These myths can now be dismissed for once and for all.”
The World Society for the Protection of Animals, based in London, says, “All eyes are on Japan now. The decision that the court has made clearly sends the message to all governments in the world that the exploitation of animals is no longer accepted. Animals are to be protected at the highest level.”
Although Japan stated that whale meat is a delicacy in the country, statistics from Greenpeace Japan show otherwise, suggesting that the whale meat industry is in fact dying. Out of the respondents, 80 percent disagreed with whaling at high seas and 85 percent did not know that endangered species were killed by Japanese ships in the Antarctic. Additionally, Greenpeace Japan discovered that large amounts of whale meat remain frozen in storage due to low demand.
The International Whaling Commission strictly forbids the commercial hunting for whales; however, a number of countries, including Japan, continued their hunt for commercial purposes by using loopholes in the ban. Other countries which continued their commercial whaling program are Norway and Iceland. These countries receive criticism for its activities; however, the Japanese have continued their commercial hunt under the guise of a scientific research program.
Greenpeace welcomes the decision of the ban on whaling by the court; however, it said efforts must continue until the dying industry of commercial whaling is ended around the world, not just in Japan.
By Diana Herst