Japan has slaughtered 333 Antarctic minke whales, plus 122 unborn calves, all in the name of science.
A Japanese research expedition also killed 114 immature whales, according to a report by the International Whaling Commission, during an annual summer hunt in the Southern Ocean in 2017.
Two Japanese vessels were involved in the expedition that was reportedly launched for “scientific research” and hunted the whales using harpoons loaded with 30g penthrite grenade. The killing method has generated controversy as it results in instant death in only 50 to 80 percent of the cases. That means many of the animals have to suffer an excruciating amount of pain before they die. The slain whales are then hauled aboard the research vessel, Nisshin Maru, where 12 researchers pull them apart.
Killing the whales in this brutal fashion is apparently necessary, researchers said, as “age information can be obtained only from internal earplugs and therefore only through lethal sampling methods.”
The researchers wanted to acquire data on the size, age, blubber and stomach content of minke whales in the South Ocean between Australia and Antarctica “to estimate prey composition and consumption.” Fat weight, blubber thickness and girth all are supposedly required to study the animal’s nutritional condition. Organs are also weighed using electronic scales and the skull is weighed with large calipers.
Japan’s fishery agency then reports the findings to the IWC. It also says the mass hunting of minke whales is carried out in accordance with the International Convention for Regulation of Whaling.
Japan maintains killing of the whales is based on purely scientific reasons. However, animal welfare critics believe the “research” is mainly a cover for commercial whaling as the flesh of the harpooned mammals is later sold in markets and restaurants, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
This allegedly self-serving attempt to revive the commercial whaling industry in Japan and other instances of Japanese vessels killing whales in protected waters, has led to international condemnation for the atrocious practice.
“It is further demonstration, if needed, of the truly gruesome and unnecessary nature of whaling operations, especially when non-lethal surveys have been shown to be sufficient for scientific needs,” said Alexia Wellbelove, the senior program manager for Humane Society International.
“They claim it’s necessary to understand whale biology but that information can be obtained through a biopsy,’’ she added. “The whales often get used for pet food.’’
The International Court of Justice deemed the Antarctic whaling program illegal in 2014. However, Japan withdrew its recognition of the court as an authority on whale disputes and resumed hunting the very next year, according to The Maritime Executive.
Japan has also announced plans to catch over 4,000 more whales by 2030, stated the Sydney Morning Herald.
Banner/Thumbnail credit: REUTERS/Jorge Duenes