We wrote to Canon headquarters in Japan asking their CEO to
speak out against Japan's whaling program. But Canon declined to
take a stand against the killing of thousands of whales in the
Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. Is this really wildlife as Canon
Around the world, Canon cameras shoot whales on whale-watching
expeditions but in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, many whales
are shot instead with exploding harpoons. Thousands of whales,
including endangered fin whales, have been killed here under the
guise of "scientific research" ever since the global moratorium on
whaling came into force in 1986. Whale meat from the hunt is sold
to a tiny minority of Japanese people who eat whale meat -- the
rest is turned into dog food or added to the stockpile of around
4,000 tons of unsold meat.
Whales can be studied without killing them: the cloak of
"science" merely allows a few Japanese bureaucrats to maintain an
unprofitable whale meat industry at the expense of Japanese
taxpayers. Yet this scandal continues because there is not enough
domestic pressure in Japan to end it.
Mister Fujio Mitarai, the CEO of Canon Japan, is a businessman,
a taxpayer, and the leader of a company that endorses wildlife
conservation. He is also the head of the Nippon Keidanren (Japanese
Business Federation). This is the highest position to which a CEO
can aspire in the Japanese business world and it means having the
ear of the Prime Minister. His voice could help put an end to a
decades-old scientific hoax and subsidy scandal, and add weight to
Canon's claims to environmental concern by actually saving the
whales that advertise Canon cameras. So we asked him to speak out
against whaling within Japanese society by signing the following
statement to clarify Canon's position:
"Canon is committed to building a better world for future
generations, and does not support the hunting of endangered or
threatened species with anything other than a camera. Canon
believes the lethal whaling research program in the Southern Ocean
should be ended, and replaced with a non-lethal research
Unfortunately, Canon has so far refused our request, saying "We
fully recognize the importance of protecting endangered wildlife.
We have continuously put our advertisements featuring "endangered
species" in National Geographic since 1981."
However, their letter concluded, "scientific opinion about
research whaling varies... we will not sign the statement you have
But the whales need a powerful domestic ally in Japan -- so now
we're asking our supporters (and especially Canon customers) to
urge him to reconsider, and express his disapproval of lethal
research whaling. If Japan wants to do research, it can do so with
cameras and other non-lethal means - just as we have been doing
Great Whale Trail project, which uses satellite tracking, photo
identification and skin biopsies.
To preserve our independence, we do not accept corporate
donations. Greenpeace is not sponsored by Canon, never has been,
and never will be. We do use Canon cameras - there are nine of
them aboard the Greenpeace ship Esperanza at the moment, one of
them in the hands of Leandra, our on-board scientist doing
non-lethal research. All were professional or personal purchases.
We are not calling for a boycott on Canon products -- they are not
directly involved in whaling -- we are challenging Canon to match
word to deed, and to take action for the whales, in the same way we
seek to inspire individuals to take action for a better world.
Canon has built a great deal of its brand's reputation for
environmental concern through their sponsorship of environmental
causes, including the conservation of endangered species. Canon
runs a popular series of ads in National Geographic Magazine
entitled "Wildlife as Canon sees it" and supports wildlife
advocacy groups around the world with donations, equipment, and
We believe that when a corporation draws income and brand value
from association with environmental causes, they have a
responsibility to speak out on those issues. We trust that most of
the good folks at Canon, as one of the world's premier "wildlife
brands," share our concern that wildlife in general, and whales in
particular, should not die unnecessarily for "science."
Canon says on
its website that it wants to "hand over a beautiful Earth for
A corporation which paints itself as a defender of wildlife and
one concerned about endangered species and the natural world ought
to do more than express those values in images, advertisements, and
sponsorships: they need to use their immense power to speak out and
act for a better world.
Every day, supporters ask: Why no boycott?
Greenpeace does not endorse a general boycott of Japanese
products. We know that the majority of Japanese people do not
actually support whaling, and we are anti-whaling, not
anti-Japanese. We believe such a boycott would be difficult to
focus, harm the wrong people, and be ineffective in stopping
Yet we also know there are deep sentiments among our supporters
to participate in such a boycott - they write to us literally every
day during the whaling season either announcing they have launched
their own boycott or wanting to know why Greenpeace doesn't do the
same. Even in the absence of an organized boycott, whaling harms
Japan's image with potential customers.
Here's an example.
A few months ago, we heard from a woman who wrote to Toyota in
her home country, New Zealand, to say she was not going to replace
her Prius with a new one, because Toyota, as a Japanese car
company, had an implicit association with Japan's whaling program.
Toyota New Zealand wrote back to her to say "Please be assured that
Toyota New Zealand and Toyota Motor Corporation Japan do not
condone whaling for commercial, scientific or research purposes."
While Toyota Japan later distanced themselves from this position,
it demonstrates how much of a liability whaling can be for Japanese
corporations operating in the West.
When we looked at what other Japanese corporations ought to be
enlisted to speak out domestically against whaling, Canon leapt
out as an obvious choice.
Whaling: more trouble than it's worth
Some Japanese officials are already speaking out about whaling
being a diplomatic liability. The Japanese decision, since put on
hold, to add humpback whales to the list of species targeted in the
whale hunt led to formal complaints from several of Japan's allies.
The Los Angeles Times quoted one official, who asked to remain
anonymous, as saying "[Whaling] is doing no good for Japanese
diplomacy. Many people are saying Japan is not balancing its
interests, with a vocal minority dictating a course that risks some
of our most cherished relationships."
As head of the Japanese Business Federation, Mister Mitarai has
a responsibility not just for Canon's own welfare, but also for the
collective well-being of Japanese businesses at home and abroad --
where whaling is a liability for Japanese brands and their
If you think Mister Mitarai should actively defend whales in the
Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary you can write to him by clicking on
the link below.
Tell the CEO of Canon that he shouldn't support the needless killing of threatened whales for science.