Japanese Whalers Killed 122 Pregnant Minke Whales. When Will the Slaughter End?

A new report finds that Japanese whalers, on one of their “scientific” investigations, killed 122 pregnant minke whales, sparking fury among campaigners and national governments alike. How can we stop this kind of senseless slaughter from happening again?

According to a technical report submitted to the International Whaling Commission that uses Japan’s own data, Japan actually caught 333 minke whales during its last 12-week summer expedition season. Those figures show that 128 of those whales were female, and 122 were carrying calves.

While it is true that minke whale are classed as of “Least Concern” under the Endangered Red List, the Whaling Commission does hold concerns that populations have declined since the 1980s. The reasons for this have not been established, but climate factors and prey competition are among the most likely causes.

Japan knows this, and knows that it is forbidden from commercial whaling. Since the whaling moratorium was brought into effect around 30 years ago, though, Japan has systematically exploited an exemption for scientific exploration in order to continue to supply its whale meat trade.

Whale meat has actually declined in popularity in Japanese society, so a large proportion also goes to the animal food trade. Japan is also suspected of whaling in order to reduce fishing competition, something it denies but, as this latest report notes, Japan regularly checks the stomach contents of the whales it captures in order to see what they are eating.

International bodies have repeatedly told Japan that it is flouting the law, right through to the highest court on these matters, the International Court of Justice  (ICJ). In 2014, ICJ declared Japan’s JARPA II whaling program illegal and clearly a cover for commercial whaling.

Rather than adhering to the findings delivered by the ICJ, Japan instead moved to withdraw its recognition of the ICJ’s jurisdiction on whaling. In effect, this means that Japan formalized its already persistent track record of ignoring the ICJ’s rulings and has resumed whaling activities.

This latest report highlighting Japan’s treatment of pregnant whales has provoked fresh and fierce condemnation. It is a recognized standard practice among most hunting bodies that you do not take pregnant animals.

Japan has consistently failed to demonstrate why it needs pregnant animals for its “scientific” inquiries either, meaning that, essentially, this amounts to arbitrary killing that fails to adhere to even the lowest standards of animal preservation.

“The killing of 122 pregnant whales is a shocking statistic and sad indictment on the cruelty of Japan’s whale hunt,” Alexia Wellbelove, Senior Program Manager at Humane Society International is quoted  as saying. “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.”

Wellbelove continues, “The continued killing of any whales is abhorrent to modern society, but these new figures make it even more shocking. We look forward to Australia and other pro-conservation countries sending the strongest possible message to Japan that it should stop its lethal whaling programs.”

Australia has previously attempted to block Japanese whaling efforts via various means. The nation was the primary driver behind the ICJ case and has also allowed its sea vessels to intercept Japan’s whaling vessels and prevent them refueling.

“The Australian Government is deeply disappointed that Japan continues to undertake so-called ‘scientific’ whaling,” Australia’s federal environment minister Josh Frydenberg is quoted as saying in response to this data. “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.”

So how do we end Japan’s whaling?

Political pressure can only take us so far, but it is an important action. Unfortunately, Australia is among only a handful of nations to apply any meaningful pressure on Japan.

While nations like the UK and the US have made clear they do not support whaling, when it comes to actual action to back that up — for example through threatening trade and diplomatic consequences — there’s been little progress. That has to change.

Another action step highlighted by Greenpeace is cutting off the finance for whaling.

Japan’s so-called scientific whaling operations cost a significant amount of money, with some estimates putting it at around 3.1 billion yen every year, so around $2.5 million of taxpayer money. That’s an incredible amount for a practice that the Japanese people increasingly find antiquated and, even, flat out abhorrent. Ensuring that the Japanese people know they are the ones footing the bill for this whaling activity is key.

This gets to the heart of the matter: the international community has to be prepared to take action, but the real change has to come from within Japan. Only the Japanese people can force their government to end whaling practices once and for all. It is critical that they know they are supported by the international community by consistent and tough political pressure, cutting off outside investments that might indirectly feed the trade and, last but no means least, us being strong and vocal advocates for whale protection as a whole.

Whales are some of the most intelligent animals on our planet and to treat them in this fashion is to diminish ourselves. It has to end.

Photo credit: Thinkstock.


KimJ M
KimJ ManyIssues3 days ago


Susan Fong
Susan Fong2 months ago

Please boycott products from Japan! The Japanese must end their savage killings of whales, dolphins, and other cetaceans. Cetaceans have a right to live. They are also highly intelligent and sensitive animals. You know darn well that the mercenary Japanese are not slaughtering cetaceans for "scientific" research. They are killing them for profit by selling whale meat and whale by-products.

Liliana G
Liliana Garcia2 months ago

Kudos to Marilyn's comment! I find too illogical the insistence of scientific research as a justification on the part of those advocating the whaling activities there.

Leo Custer
Leo C2 months ago

Thank you for sharing!

Amanda McConnell
Amanda M2 months ago

Thanks for sharing

Amanda McConnell
Amanda M2 months ago