Despite the United Nation’s International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) ruling that the Japanese government must halt its whaling program, Japanese officials, politicians and other pro-whaling allies vowed to continue the whale hunts.
On March 31, in a twelve to four vote, the Court of Justice decided that Japan should withdraw all permits and licenses in the Antarctic and refrain from issuing new ones. The court rejected Japan’s contention that the program was scientific, not commercial. The decision was ruled on a suit brought by Australia, which described the hunt as a “ruse” to dodge the prohibition against commercial killing. An international moratorium on commercial whaling has been in place since 1987, but Japan continued to hunt the whales under the pretense of scientific research. The court ruling found that the country’s “killing, taking and treating of whales” was “not driven by strictly scientific consideration.”
As a symbolic gesture of defiance for the court order, hundreds of whale ban opponents feasted on huge buffet of whale meat. While consuming “cutlets, sashimi, steak and other dishes made of whale meat” they shouted ”Whale!” in a toast, pledging to continue their fight to resume the whale hunt.
Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said that Japan must protect its whale-eating culture and secure sources of whale meat. Japan as a maritime nation “has a policy of harvesting and sustainably using the protein source from the ocean, and that is unshakable,” Hayashi said. “Based on international law and scientific facts, we will carry out research whaling to obtain necessary scientific information for the management of whale resources and we maintain our policy of aiming for the resumption of commercial whaling,” he added.
Although Japan said it would respect the court’s decision and not hunt whales in the Antarctic this year, the government aims to revise their whaling plans for both the Northwest Pacific and Antarctic, and present them to the International Whaling Commission by the autumn, with a view to restarting Antarctic whaling in 2015, or later.
Japan has yet to call off its whale hunts along the northern coast, and in the northern Pacific, where approximately three hundred minke whales are slaughtered each year.
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