TOYKO: After two and a half years of hard work in Japan to expose corruption at the heart of the whaling industry - we have a significant victory!
The Fisheries Agency of Japan (FAJ) has admitted that their officials have received free whale meat from the company contracted to perform the whaling. They conceded that this “kickback” was against their ethics code, apologised to the Japanese public and announced plans to take disciplinary action against five officials.
Such is the level of shame that one official even appeared on Japanese TV yesterday - bowing in front of the cameras before issuing a public apology.
UPDATE 28/01/11: Two more officials have been given a warning and whale meat sales have dropped by 30 percent. Read more...
The whale meat scandal
"Mr. Kujira" (Mr Whale), wearing his whaling fleet uniform, worked aboard the Nisshin Maru (research/factory ship of the Japanese whaling fleet). He has spoken out in criticism of practices within the whaling industry including the embezzlement of whale meat by whalers.
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 programme - a ‘scientific’ programme responsible for slaughtering hundreds of whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary every year. Following tip-offs from whistleblowers within the whaling programme and months of careful research, Junichi and Toru intercepted and handed to the authorities a box containing prime whale meat cuts. The contents of the box, which had been labelled “cardboard”, proved that whale meat was being embezzled by members of the whaling fleet. Greenpeace Japan also exposed evidence that FAJ officials were involved in this process.
Read the full 'Whaling on Trial' dossier
A dying industry
There is little support for Antarctic whaling in Japan and what remains is being swiftly eroded by the broad, international media attention to Japan’s so called “scientific” whaling programme. 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 terms of loss of liberty, stress related to their trial and wrongful conviction all in the name of the public interest and the protection of whales - is doing just that.
This news represents a major step forward for 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 throughout their trial - demanding an end to their prosecution and a thorough investigation into the embezzlement case. And, our whales campaigners all over the world have ensured that this issue has come under close public scrutiny on an international scale.
Truth and justice still needed
We welcome the FAJ's decision to take disciplinary action, but, they are only punishing 5 officials while the institutionalised corruption in the whaling programme is much bigger than that. We’re demanding a third-party investigation into the whale meat scandal to reveal the whole truth.
Greenpeace Japan has been successful in cutting the demand for whale meat in the Japanese market by working with supermarkets and retailers. This has affected the financial health of the whaling programme already, but now the recognition of the corruption in the whaling programme by the FAJ will further damage the credibility of the programme.
“Now is the time for Japanese taxpayers to demand their government stop the tax-funded whaling programme completely," said Junichi Sato, one of the defendants of Tokyo Two trial, and now Executive and Programme Director of Greenpeace Japan.
The Tokyo Two trial
2008 - Junichi Sato reveals the hard evidence of whale meat embezzlement at a press conference in Tokyo.
In 2008, the Tokyo District Prosecutor began an investigation into Junichi and Toru’s findings which included the embezzlement of whale meat but closed this investigation the same day that Junichi and Toru were arrested. The two were held for 26 days, 23 of them without charge - often tied to chairs while they were interrogated without a lawyer present. They went through a lengthy trial where the censoring of public information and Japan's adherence to international law also came under the spotlight. Their trial also raised concerns over freedom of speech and the right of individual protest. In September this year they were wrongly convicted and given a one year jail sentence - suspended for three years.
The Tokyo Two have appealed against their conviction and are awaiting a High Court hearing date. It is hard to believe that the admission of wrongdoing made by the FAJ would not have an impact on their appeal.
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