100% of Japanese taxpayers support whaling - they just don't know it

Feature Story - 2008-02-21
Every year the Japanese government spends $US 4.7 million of taxpayers' money to subsidise the whaling industry. Yet a new, Greenpeace commissioned, opinion poll reveals that 87 percent of the Japanese public are unaware of that fact.

Greenpeace Japan whales campaigner Sakyo Noda sends a message home by holding the Japanese symbol,'nise', meaning FAKE - against the hull of the Japanese whaling fleet's factory ship Nisshin Maru.

Furthermore the poll reveals that 71 percent of Japanese people don't support their country's whaling on the high seas - an increase from 69 percent in 2006.

The poll was conducted by Nippon Research Centre, a member of Gallup International Association and surveyed over 1,000 people aged 15 to 60, between January 18 and 23.

It found that in general only 31 percent of people backed whaling, 25 percent opposed it and 44 percent had no opinion.

The low levels of support for whaling in principle and strong rejection of whaling on high seas comes in stark contrast to the claims from the Fisheries Agency of Japan, which issues permits for the so-called scientific whale hunt, that it's acting in defence of Japan's cultural traditions.

It is clear that they do not enjoy anything like majority support for whaling and in fact are operating in opposition to the general will of the Japanese people.

Amazingly, 87 percent of those surveyed didn't know that their hard-earned yen is being squandered on subsidising the Fisheries Agency of Japan's annual assault on the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.

They will also be blissfully unaware of plans under consideration by their Government to spend between 14 billion and 21 billion yen (US$125 million to US$188 million) of tax payers money on building a new factory whaling ship to replace the ageing whaling fleet factory ship the Nissin Maru.

Whaling takes a hit in Japan

As our offices around the world are lobbying their governments to take a hard line on Japanese whaling at the upcoming International Whaling Commission meeting in Chile this June, our campaign in Japan is growing.

Greenpeace Japan has been urging supermarkets and restaurants not to offer whale meat with three of the top five supermarkets chains responding positively. 'Watami', a famous pub chain, with over 600 restaurants all over Japan, has also confirmed that whale is off the menu.

Fewer and fewer people in Japan are eating whale meat, leading to declining demand and an unsold stockpile of nearly 4,000 tonnes of whale meat. In a desperate attempt by the bureaucrats of the Japanese Fisheries Agency to reverse the trend and create artificial support for their unpopular product, the whale meat has been subsidised, pushed into school lunches and used as dog food.

Media picture changing

When our ship, the Esperanza, stopped the whaling fleet earlier this year in the Southern Ocean for fourteen days by chasing the fleet's factory ship, traffic to our Japanese website grew to the point that we were seeing more traffic in an hour than is normally seen in a day. Helping to fill the information void in Japan and carrying our message about whaling to the hearts and minds of Japanese people.

We are also witnessing a changing media landscape in Japan. There have been fewer references to Greenpeace as "terrorists" and more newspapers and television stations acknowledging our commitment to non-violence.

Newspapers and magazines in Japan which have in the past been silent or pro whaling are also beginning to question the wisdom of whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.

Diplomatic liability

Normally, the Fisheries Agency of Japan tries to refrain of commenting on the whale hunt - preferring to leave that to their PR man based in New Zealand, Glenn Ingwood.

This year however, we have seen the results of increasing diplomatic pressure with the Japanese Foreign Ministry and Prime Minister both feeling compelled to respond. "The whaling issue is a matter of each country's circumstances," Prime Minister Fukuda said urging: "It's important to address the whaling issue in a calm manner.

Diplomatic embarrassment runs deep, as a BBC correspondent in Tokyo recently wrote:

"The unfortunate bureaucrats in the Foreign Ministry in Tokyo who are required to defend whaling on our channels and those of other broadcasters often admit quietly, once the camera is switched off and the microphone unplugged, that this is not a subject they warm too.

Their frustration is not directed at the interviewers, who all too often give them a roasting, demanding they defend what to many is indefensible.

It is their fellow pen-pushers at the Fisheries Ministry who are making life difficult for them by continuing to prop up a whaling industry that sullies the reputation of Japan around the world."

A leading business magazine, Shukan Toyo Keizai recently wrote, "The stance of whaling hardliners could also be a vent for narrow-minded nationalism. In the end, that could easily be detrimental to national interests. Perhaps the Japanese people need to take this opportunity to re-examine the whaling issue for themselves."

Canon can end whaling

It is not only the politicians that are feeling the heat. As part of our work in Japan, we are also calling on the CEO of Canon, Fujio Mitarai, to use his position as the head of the influential Japanese Business Federation (Nippon Keidanren) to call for an end to whaling on the high seas.

Canon is famous for using wildlife as a marketing tool for its cameras for over 25 years. If Canon takes the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility seriously, it shouldn't miss this chance to use its corporate might to oppose lethal research whaling.

With the decision to back off on plans to kill humpback whales this year, the whalers are on the defensive for the first time in decades. Now is the time for all of us to pressure Japanese businesses and government officials to join with Greenpeace, and 71 percent of the Japanese public, and call for an end the research whaling programme in the Southern Ocean.

Take Action

Canon can help stop whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary - send a message to Canon CEO, Mr. Fujio Mitarai.


Help end whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary for good by making a donation today.