Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told parliament Monday that he was committed to restarting Japan’s controversial commercial whale hunting program, despite the UN denouncing the policy and demanding Tokyo stop the killings immediately. The UN International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered Japan to stop hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. The ICJ said that Japan has killed an estimated 3,600 Minke whales since 2005.
The Japanese Prime Minister told parliament, “I want to aim for the resumption of commercial whaling by conducting whaling research in order to obtain scientific data indispensable for the management of whale resources. To that end, I will step up efforts further to get understanding from the international community.”
Abe said the international communities criticisms of Tokyo’s whale hunting policies comes from a lack of understanding of Japanese culture. He claimed that there are whaling towns that need the revenue and are completely reliant upon the controversial practice to stay afloat. The Prime Minister also said that religious services are dedicated to the memory of the whales after each hunting season. “It is regrettable that this part of Japanese culture is not understood,” said Abe.
Japan claims its way of hunting is perfectly legal under the 1986 global moratorium, which considers research, even if it is lethal, to be acceptable under international law. However, Japan has not hid the fact that the whales are predominantly hunted for consumption. Japanese Agriculture Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi held an event to promote the policy Monday. The main course on the menu: whale meat.
Environmental groups such as Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund have argued that the whaling policy may threaten the future of the species’ existence. Some also claim that the Japanese public no longer supports whale hunting. However, all of Tokyo’s political parties, from the right-wing Liberal Democratic Party, to the left-wing Japanese Communist Party, wholeheartedly support the measure.