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Japan ordered to halt 'scientific' whale slaughter

Thursday, April 17, 2014 by: J. D. Heyes
Tags: whaling, Japan, scientific slaughter

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(NaturalNews) The International Court of Justice has ruled that a Japanese whaling program in the Atlantic is not designed for scientific purposes as Tokyo has claimed, and as such has ordered the program temporarily halted.

The government of Australia had filed suit against Japan in the UN's highest court for resolving such disputes between nations in a bid to end whaling in the ice-chilled Southern Ocean, the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC) reported.

In reading the court's 12-4 decision, Presiding Judge Peter Tomka declared that the Japanese program failed to justify the large number of minke whales supposedly needed to capture under its current Antarctic program -- 850 annually -- and that the program did not capture that number anyway.

Also, Tomka stated that the program did not come close, either, to capturing the 50 fin and 50 humpback whales it sought to capture.

Cumulatively, he said, the evidence indicated that Japan's claim that it is whaling for scientific purposes was in doubt.

"The court concludes that the special permits granted by Japan for the killing, taking, and treating of whales... are not 'for purposes of scientific research'," Tomka said.

'We will abide by the ruling'

The UN court ordered Japan to stop all issuing of whaling permits at least until the program has been completely revamped.

Japanese officials expressed regret over the ruling, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Noriyuki Shikata telling reporters that Tokyo "is deeply disappointed" by the decision.

Nevertheless, "as a state that respects the rule of law... and as a responsible member of the global community, Japan will abide by the ruling of the court," he said.

Peter Garrett, Australia's former environmental minister, who helped file the suit four years ago, said the ruling vindicates his concerns about the Japanese program.

"I'm absolutely over the moon, for all those people who wanted to see the charade of scientific whaling cease once and for all," Garrett told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio. "I think [this] means without any shadow of a doubt that we won't see the taking of whales in the Southern Ocean in the name of science."

Despite the decision being a major victory for Canberra and environmental groups opposed to whaling, the ruling does not mean that whaling will end.

As reported by the CBC:

Japan has a second, smaller scientific program in the northern Pacific -- which now may also be subject to challenge. Meanwhile Norway and Iceland reject outright a 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling imposed by the International Whaling Commission.

Nevertheless, environmental groups rejoiced.

Pete Bethune, a New Zealand activist who has clashed often with Japanese whalers in an attempt to stop them from hunting, said "justice was served" by the ruling.

Better-designed, truly scientific program would be allowable

"The court dissected their scientific program, pulled it to bits and it proved that the amount of science is tiny relative to the commercial aspects," he said.

Bethune added that, if the Japanese government had prevailed, it would most likely have led to additional countries launching whaling efforts in the Antarctic and, eventually, a full-scale Japanese commercial whaling effort.

Japanese officials argued that Australia was imposing its cultural norms on the Asian economic giant, akin to Hindus demanding that there be an international ban on the killing of cattle.

Despite the fact that whale meat consumption has declined in Japan in recent years, the CBC said it remains a delicacy for some people. Most whale meat from Japanese hunts wind up being sold, though the UN court did not find that that in and of itself makes the program commercial and not scientific.

However, the ruling did specifically state that killing whales for scientific purposes would be legal under international law if studies were designed better. As for Japan, its program was supposed to be able to determine whether commercial whaling in some species can resume without bringing them in danger of becoming extinct.





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