In the next two weeks, 16 judges at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague will decide a case that could end Japanese whale hunts that kill hundreds of the animals each year in the Antarctic.
Australia, with New Zealand’s support, this week challenged Japanese claims that its slaughter of up to 985 whales each winter is critical to learning about the mammals’ migratory, breeding and other habits ahead of a possible return to sustainable commercial whaling.
The panel of judges, who began the hearing earlier in the week, is expected to rule by the end of the year, the Christian Science Monitor reported Friday
. Both Japan and Australia have agreed to abide by the court’s decision.
The International Whaling Commission barred commercial whaling in 1986, but allows Japan to kill them for scientific research purposes. Whale meat is sold legally in Japanese supermarkets and stores; foes claim this is proof that the hunts are nothing but a cover for commercial whaling.
“Japan seeks to cloak its ongoing commercial whaling in the lab coat of science,” Bill Campbell, Australia’s agent to the ICJ, told the court this week.
Japanese Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Koji Tsuruoka countered that Japan’s programs have been conducted in accordance with Article 8 of the 1946 International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, which permits the practices for scientific research purposes.
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