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  BBC 18 Jun 06
Japan faces whale 'cruelty' claim
By Richard Black Environment correspondent, BBC News website, St Kitts

Channel NewsAsia 18 Jun 06
Fierce rows rock world whaling talks
by Stephen Collinson

FRIGATE BAY, St Kitts and Nevis (AFP) - Anti-whaling nations sent Japan crashing to a third straight defeat at world whale talks soured by rows over cruelty and the moratorium on commercial hunts.

Japan did however came close to pulling off a symbolic victory in a vote on one type of for-profit slaughter, and predicted it was closer than ever before to enshrining a pro-whaling majority at the International Whaling Commission.

Australia meanwhile ignited a new row with Tokyo, branding Japan's whale hunters "inhumane" and "disgusting" while environmentalists, who entered the five-day talks fearing a Japanese power grab, were buoyant.

"It's Whales three, Japan nil," Patrick Ramage of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) said after the IWC voted 31 votes to 30 against Tokyo's bid to allow several of its coastal communities to hold for-profit hunts.

It would have only been an academic victory for Japan since the Minke Whale cull would have been barred anyway under a global moratorium on commercial hunting, which needs a three-quarters majority to be overturned.

But a win would have been a huge symbolic step forward for Japan, as it strives to lead pro-whaling nations to a majority on the IWC and turn the body from pure conservation to managing whale stocks for hunting.

"Double standards still prevail in this organisation," snapped Japan's alternate commissioner Joji Morishita, after the vote count was announced on the day two of the five-day meeting in the Caribbean nation of St Kitts and Nevis.

Australia, which is furiously opposed to whaling, meanwhile waded into a new confrontation with Tokyo, claiming new research showed whales experienced far more agony than previously known when they were harpooned to death.

Environment minister Ian Campbell brandished a new IFAW report which he said disproved Japan's argument that its "scientific" whale hunts, allowed by the IWC, were humane. "This is how Japan in the name of science collects whale meat, takes it back to Japan, sticks it in warehouses, tries to get schoolchildren to eat it, gets old people to eat it now, and we also know from some evidence that they feed it to dogs," he said. "It is a horrendous thing ... it is absolutely abysmal, it is wrong and it has to stop."

Japan denies it uses surplus whale meat as dog food and also rejects claims it cajoles its people into eating whale meat for political reasons.

Campbell said the report, drawn from publicly available video footage of Japanese whale hunts, showed the way whales were killed was "absolutely inhumane and quite disgusting."

Morishita hit back that Japan's whale killing was "the most humane way, it is proved by science." "I just wonder if the minister knows how long it will take for kangaroos to die in his country?" referring to attempts to control the marsupials seen as pests in parts of Australia.

Another Japanese official, Akira Nakamae, deputy director general of the Fisheries Agency of Japan, accused Campbell of "ungentlemanly conduct." "It is bad manners and it will downgrade his country's standing in the international community," Nakamae said.

The IFAW report claims that more than 80 percent of whales were not killed instantly, once harpooned. It also said some whales were asphyxiated after failing to die from a harpoon blow, and having their blow holes forced underwater.

Japan earlier unveiled its new bid to return the IWC to its original mandate, of conserving whales so that they can be hunted in a sustainable way. "Whales should be treated as any other marine living resource available for harvesting subject to conservation and science based management," said a Japanese briefing document on the plan known as "normalization."

Tokyo also proposed a meeting outside the IWC, before next year's talks in Alaska, to discuss how to turn the body away from pure conservation -- to "managing" sustainable whale hunts.

But New Zealand led opposition to Japan's move, saying it was out of step with modern attitudes, and would send the cause of whale conservation back to 1946 -- the year the IWC was formed to stop whales passing into extinction. "What they want to do is have a whaler's club again," said Kitty Block of Humane Society International, a non governmental organisation.

Though Japan lost two earlier votes on Friday on the commission, Nakamae said Tokyo was still hopeful it would lay down a pro-whaling majority in later votes before the conference ends Tuesday.

Currently, Japan and Iceland conduct "scientific whaling", which is permitted by the IWC. Norway rejects the moratorium entirely. In all, around 2,000 whales are killed globally per year by the three.

BBC 18 Jun 06
Japan faces whale 'cruelty' claim
By Richard Black Environment correspondent, BBC News website, St Kitts

Australia is to present what it says is proof that Japan's scientific whaling programme is cruel, at the meeting of the International Whaling Commission.

Environmentalists who filmed Japanese boats whaling in the Antarctic say that some animals took 30 minutes to die. Japan says these cases are exceptions, and may try to censure Greenpeace for interfering with what it says is scientific research.

On Saturday, Japan lost a third key vote at the meeting in St Kitts. But the margin of just one vote was narrower than on the first day, a factor explained by the late arrival of some African nations which usually side with Japan. The temperature of the meeting rose a notch, with heated exchanges between Australian and Japanese delegates.

Time to death

During the last Antarctic whaling season - which saw a doubling of Japan's annual "scientific" catch to just over 1,000 - Greenpeace filmed a number of kills at close range. The footage has now been analysed by scientists working with another conservation group, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (Ifaw).

"We found that for one whale the time to death was over half an hour, we found that the average time to death was 10 minutes," said Ifaw's Vassili Papastavrou, "and in two out of the 16 occasions, asphyxiation was the likely form of death."

The whales were asphyxiated, he said, because harpoons entered their bodies near the tail and the animals were held upside down in the water. "Back in the 1950s it was recognised that whaling was inhumane, and really nothing very much has changed since then," Mr Papastavrou told BBC News. "It's simply impossible for the harpooner to hit the whale close enough to the brain to ensure a reliable clean kill in all cases."

Japan maintains these examples are the exception rather than the rule. "The time to death for the majority of whales is less than 30 seconds," said Glenn Inwood, a spokesman for the Japanese delegation. "Japan takes the issue of time to death very seriously, and is working together with Norway to improve the humane side of whaling."

'Inhumane and disgusting'

Australia's Environment Minister Ian Campbell described the footage as "absolutely inhumane and quite disgusting". He told reporters: "It is a horrendous thing... it is absolutely abysmal, it is wrong and it has to stop."

Japan's deputy whaling commissioner Joji Morishita countered by pinpointing Australia's annual cull of millions of kangaroos. "I just wonder if the minister knows how long it takes for kangaroos to die in his country?" he said.

Mr Campbell is due to present the Ifaw analysis during discussions on whale killing methods on Sunday.

On Saturday, Japan suffered its third defeat of the meeting, this time on a motion which would have permitted some of its coastal communities to hunt 150 minke whales each year for local consumption.

Katsutoshi Mihara, chairman of the town council in Taiji, one of the communities involved, told the BBC that his region had a long tradition of whaling, and food from the sea was vital as the region lacked farming land.

He condemned conservation groups and anti-whaling countries which want to prevent the minke hunt, and which put pressure on Japan to stop catching dolphins in Taiji.

Breaking the deadlock Earlier in the day, Japan tabled a document calling for "normalisation" of the IWC, by which it means setting the organisation on a path towards a resumption of commercial whaling. Japan has invited nations which share its long-term goal to a separate meeting later this week.

The "normalisation" proposal did not go to a vote, and neither did another proposal from the Netherlands and New Zealand delegations which would see a high-level meeting of the world's environment ministers convened to reform the IWC.

"It's working very badly, it's very bad governance," said Dutch whaling commissioner Giuseppe Raaphorst." "Normally with governments you take decisions and move forwards; we're not moving forwards, we're going backwards," he told BBC News, "and the only thing you can do is get the ministers together to solve it."

The Netherlands hopes to convene such a summit before next year's IWC meeting.

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