Victory! Japanese Govt admits to corruption in whaling industry

Feature Story - 5 January, 2011
Late in December 2010, the Fisheries Agency of Japan (FAJ) admitted some of its officials accepted kickbacks (gifts of whale meat) from the fishing body that runs the country’s so-called “scientific” whaling program.

Greenpeace dossier presenting evidence of the whale meat scandal in Japan.

They admitted this was against their ethical code, apologised to the Japanese public and announced plans to take disciplinary action against five officials. This announcement is vindication that our campaign to expose corruption in the Japanese whaling industry, and eventually bring about its demise, is gathering momentum.

The whale meat scandal

In 2008, Greenpeace activists, Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki (known as the 'Tokyo Two'), exposed a scandal involving embezzlement entrenched within the taxpayer-funded whaling program. Following tip-offs from whistleblowers within the whaling program and months of careful research, Junichi and Toru provided evidence of this embezzlement to authorities and exposed corruption at the heart of the whaling industry. In a cruel twist of justice, instead of whaling officials being arrested, it was Junichi and Toru. The Tokyo Two then endured two and a half years of political persecution, the only solace being that their case and our campaign brought about increased scrutiny and criticism of Japan's covert whaling operations.

Truth and justice must still be sought

We welcome the admission by FAJ of whaling corruption as a crucial step in the campaign to end its controversial whaling program. However, it doesn't go far enough. Choosing to punish only five officials ignores the fact that corruption within the whaling industry is far larger and more institutionalised than shown here. We're demanding a third-party investigation into the whale meat scandal to reveal the absolute truth. But we're making progress.

A dying industry

Opinion polls show that the majority of Japanese people don't support whaling in the Southern Ocean and nearly 87 percent are unaware that their taxes subsidise the hunt.

One of the keys to ending Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary is revealing the ongoing scandal and international shame that it brings to a largely unaware Japanese public. The work of Junichi and Toru and the huge personal price they have paid in the name of the public interest and the protection of whales, is doing just that.

Our work with supermarkets and retailers in Japan has successfully reduced the demand for whale meat. And opposition to the program resulted in the whaling fleet failing to secure a refueling ship this whaling season. This has already affected the financial health of the whaling program, and now the FAJ's recognition of corruption will further damage the credibility of the program.

This news represents a major step forward in our campaign to end whaling in the Southern Ocean. The FAJ has been under intense pressure thanks to over half a million supporters who stood side by side with Junichi and Toru and those who have supported our whales campaign. Continued pressure and scrutiny will only add further injury to the dying whaling industry.

The Tokyo Two trial is now in the high court after the disproportional judgment given by Aomori District Court in September 2010. The dates for the high court hearings have not been announced yet.

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