Japan Thumbs Its Nose at the World on Whaling

By on October 19, 2015 with 8 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

In a speech recorded for broadcast to an audience of 100 million people in China, Prince William has made an appeal to the Chinese people to stop buying illegal wildlife products. “I am absolutely convinced that China can become a global leader in the protection of wildlife,” the Duke of Cambridge remarked, on the eve of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s trip to England.

Prince William’s statement comes after an exciting and unexpected announcement from the Chinese government about far-reaching commitments on the protection of endangered species. In a late September state visit, President Xi joined with President Barack Obama in Washington, D.C. to make joint announcements on endangered species. China agreed to join the United States to “enact nearly complete bans on ivory import and export, including significant and timely restrictions on the import of ivory as hunting trophies, and to take significant and timely steps to halt the domestic trade of ivory.” Although many animal protection challenges remain in China, the country is making commendable progress on the issue of wildlife conservation.

Japan, in contrast, has just announced its intention to disregard the March 31, 2014 International Court of Justice (ICJ) decision that ruled its longtime Antarctic whaling program illegal. Japan made its intentions known to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in early October, just as it was campaigning for election to a two-year term on the U.N. Security Council. This means that in January 2016 Japan will be a voting member of the U.N.’s most important body, while doing an end run around the decisions of the U.N. organ that upholds the principles of international law under which the entire body operates.

At a time when most developed and developing nations have recognized the need to collaborate to protect the world’s megafauna from exploitive commercial activities such as hunting, poaching, and commercial trade, Japan is charting another course. Japan seems to want to not only cling to its long-standing role as exploiter of animals and natural resources, but to double down on that role as well. The country is sadly too well known for its inhumane slaughter of dolphins as depicted in the documentary The Cove, and for its insatiable desire for ivory.

Japan is still better known for its decades of whaling, which it carries out despite a global moratorium on commercial whaling. Since the moratorium went into effect in 1986, Japan has killed over 20,000 whales for the commercial sale of their meat.

When the ICJ dealt a crippling blow to Japan’s Southern Ocean whaling program last year, we all celebrated, especially those at Humane Society International who were the original thought leaders behind the lawsuit brought in the court by Australia. Initially, Japan was emphatic that it would honor the rule of law, and for the first time in over a century, Japan did not kill whales in the Southern Ocean. But the victory was short-lived as Japan tried to revise its lethal program in an effort to have it comply with the court’s ruling. After its attempt to do so was shot down by an independent review panel set up by the International Whaling Commission, Japan embarked on a more alarming strategy – the one that is unfolding now.

It is bad enough that Japan has announced that it will not submit to ICJ jurisdiction for future disputes involving resources of the sea, thus attempting to insulate itself from any further ICJ challenges to its current and future whaling programs. But it doesn’t stop there. Japan has also stated that it will exempt itself from future rulings by unilaterally limiting the court’s jurisdiction over decisions addressing its exploitation of marine animals.

Japan’s actions are an affront to international cooperation and U.N. standards. Whales and other commercially exploited species can only survive through global cooperation, the rule of law, and a widely shared commitment to solutions. More and more nations are enacting meaningful measures to protect wildlife, and corporations and other institutions are doing so as well. It is sad that Japan has embraced the role of bad actor as the rest of the world is joining forces on strong and positive commitments that will benefit the world’s diminishing terrestrial and marine wildlife.

Humane Society International, Wildlife/Marine Mammals

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  1. Donna Lysinger says:

    I sure hope Wayne Pacelle & The Humane Society can get japan to quit whaling, animal abuse, abuse of all sea life & change there mind;s & join in with the other on saving the sea life, wild life & animal abuse. Maybe cutting back on buying with this country could help for them to see they should n’t thumb there nose in the air & join in with the other’s ,saving sea life, wild animal’s & animal abuse.

  2. Barbara Griffith says:

    I can’t understand these people they have wear houses full of frozen whale meat that the younger generation will not eat they prefer hamburgers and soft drinks to stinky whale meat. The dolphins that are killed whose meat is not fit for anyone to eat is sold to schools for their school meals it contains mercury and heavy metals so they are putting their school children at risk and they don’t seem to care.

  3. Denni A says:

    Japan is hosting the 2020 Summer Games. Start the BOYCOTT NOW.

    USA and other developed countries need to tell Japan NOW, either stop the illegal poaching of Whales and the massacre of Dolphins in Taji or WE WILL BOYCOTT the games in 2020.

  4. Annoula Wylderich says:

    The implications are worrisome, as they involve more than the commercial fishing industry. This could also provide more fertile ground for additional marine parks to gravitate to Japan, knowing they practically have the red carpet rolled out for them. Not good, and I hope that HSUS can find a way to deal with this issue, along with the help of supporters.

  5. margie anne says:

    Boycott 2020 Japan games. We will be starting a FB PGE asking everyone to boycott the games. Would be nice if some of the athletes spoke up about Japans behavior.

  6. David Bernazani says:

    The root of this problem is the same as almost all other oroblems in the world: overpopulation. Tokyo is the world’s most populated city, with over 37 million hungry mouths, most with a taste for seafood. And although whales and dolphins are mammals, not fish, the Japanese don’t seem to care.
    Fixing that one root problem by reducing population would cure so many global ills it almost boggles the mind. Too bad nobody ever wants to talk about it.

  7. Alan Braganza says:

    Planet Earth has hundreds of cultural traditions that are hurtful and detrimental to the rights of people, to women, and to animal life. Many cultural practices are deep rooted in traditions that have to be changed carefully ideologically and intelligently for the changes to begin and to continue with each generation.
    The Japanese Whaling industry needs to accept that whales are much more valuable creature needed to be existing in life and increasing in numbers in order for the globally damaged ocean ecosystems to recover; moreover, there needs to be acknowledgement to respect ALL animal life especially these sentient marine leviathans.
    Marine life is to be revered and allowed to propagate not be brutally harpooned, forced into confinement and drugged to perform for entertainment. Marine life is extremely intelligent and sentient with every right to exist with dignity and protection in any region of the world oceans free from whaling enterprises and commercial slaughter.
    It is well known and accepted for decades that it is the human population that needs to be slowed, curbed and attenuated because of widespread ecosystem damages that overpopulation with pollution brings about towards hastening global warming, mass animal extinctions and sea level rising which will be unimaginably catastrophic.

  8. Alan Braganza says:

    There ought to be a movement to help ocean dolphins at risk for mass slaughter to instead safely herd away from such bloody shores.

    Perhaps groups of whale and dolphin advocates may find solutions to chelating the heavy metal toxins from the living systems where toxic levels of mercury bind to fats/blubber.

    There must be ways to protect whales and dolphins from 1) whaling slaughter; 2) capture into marine entertainment parks; and 3) heavy metal toxins from ocean pollution and from bioaccumulation through feeding.

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