MORE than 120 pregnant females and 114 juveniles were among hundreds of whales slaughtered in Japan’s latest hunt in the Antarctic, prompting condemnation and calls for international action.
According to a report from the International Whaling Commission (IWC), Japanese research vessels harpooned, killed and autopsied 333 Antarctic minke whales during an annual hunt last summer.
Researchers set out to acquire data on the age, size and stomach contents of minke whales in the South Ocean between Australia and Antarctica, the report said.
This involved shooting the whales with grenade-tipped harpoons – a controversial killing method that results in instant death only 50 to 80 percent of the time – hauling the slain whales aboard a research vessel and cutting them apart on-site.
This brutal method of hunting the whales was necessary as “age information can be obtained only from internal earplugs and therefore only through lethal sampling methods,” the researchers claim.
Japan has signed the IWC’s moratorium on whale hunting, but Tokyo exploits a loophole each year by saying its hunt is conducted for scientific research.
Critics say the research is actually a cover for commercial whaling, as the meat from the harpooned mammals is later sold to be eaten.
Australia slammed the Japanese whalers.
“The Australian Government is deeply disappointed that Japan continues to undertake so-called ‘scientific’ whaling,” Federal Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg told News.com.au.
“The Government has made representations at the highest levels to Japan – and will continue to do so… No country has done more than Australia to try to end Japan’s whaling.”
Animal rights groups were quick to condemn the whalers. Humane Society International senior program manager Alexia Wellbelove told the Sydney Morning Herald the killing of 122 pregnant whales was “a shocking statistic and sad indictment on the cruelty of Japan’s whale hunt.”
“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,” she said.
In November footage emerged showing the brutality of a Japanese whale hunt in an Australian whale sanctuary. The federal government fought to have the footage kept secret, arguing that it would harm relations with Japan.
Japan reportedly intends to take about 4000 whales over the next 12 years and ultimately plans to resume commercial whaling.