On March 31, a Japanese fleet returned from a four-month-long expedition from the Antarctic Ocean with 333 Minke whales, despite fierce criticism on the international scale.
While a ban on commercial whaling has been in place since 1986, Japan continues to kill hundreds of whales each year due to a loophole in the International Whaling Commission's moratorium which makes allowances for "research".
Armed with this excuse – which many associations believe to be a front for a commercial operation – the country has filled a legal kill quota of 3,996 whales over the past twelve years.
While the Fisheries Agency, which carried out the expedition, described the trip as "research for the purpose of studying the ecological system in the Antarctic Ocean", various environmental bodies and the International Court of Justice suspect otherwise.
As Kitty Block, executive vice-president of Humane Society International, states:
"Each year that Japan persists with its discredited scientific whaling is another year where these wonderful animals are needlessly sacrificed. It is an obscene cruelty in the name of science that must end.
There is no robust scientific case for slaughtering whales. Commercial whaling in this or any other guise does not meet any pressing human needs and should be relegated to the annals of history."
In reality, these 'scientific' expeditions carried out by countries like Japan, Iceland and Norway provide very little scientific data.
As the International Fund for Animal Welfare reminds us, researchers don't actually need to kill new whales to study them in the DNA era. Samples can be taken from skin cells or faecal matter without harming the animals.
Back in January, all EU member states signed a formal statement voicing concern about the Japanese whaling activities while members of US Congress are also set to condemn the killings.