Whale meat scandal: Many questions

Feature story - July 21, 2008
Why would we believe the whaling industry when it says it is innocent? The institutions behind the Japanese whaling operation have apparently now investigated themselves and cleared themselves of any wrongdoing over the whale meat embezzlement scandal exposed by Greenpeace in May.

When those guilty of a crime investigate themselves it's hardly surprising that they arrive at the conclusion they are innocent.  

When Greenpeace first exposed the long-held practice by whaling crew of Japan's so-called research whaling operation of smuggling prime whale meat cuts off the whaling factory ship, the Nisshin Maru, and selling it for their own profit, the responses from those involved the Japanese Government's whaling program were many and varied.   

Kyodo Senpaku changed their story three times in almost as many days?  Indeed, before the scandal was exposed, an official of the Japanese Fisheries Agency claimed that whale meat was never given to crew.

Finally the Fisheries Agency of Japan, the Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR) and the whaling company itself, Kyodo Senpaku, came out with a coordinated response to our findings.  It's an extraordinary piece of work - even calling Greenpeace "malicious."  

But the statement raises far more questions than it answers (well actually it doesn't answer anything).

Questions:

  • They claim that the whale meat being smuggled off was a "gift", purchased by Kyodo Senpaku from the "Research" arm of the Government, the ICR. Where is the receipt? 
  • Why were these so-called "gifts" labelled as "cardboard?"  If you've got a box of whale meat, and it has been given to you by your company, would you label the box as "cardboard?"  You also wouldn't cover it up with a layer of dirty clothes.  What were they trying to hide? 
  • The company says that each crew member receives 9.5kg of whale meat - this would amount to two tons of prime whale meat  - if it can afford such expansive gifts to crewmembers, why does it need to get a huge Japanese taxpayer subsidy each year? 
  • Greenpeace's investigation revealed that at least 23 crew members sent 93 boxes of "personal baggage"  to 30 different destinations.  None seem to have been labelled as "whale meat" - they had a variety of different labels, such as "plastic stuff."  Strangely, we could find no boxes which were actually labelled as whale meat.  How did the rest of the crew transport their free whale meat, paid for by the taxpayer? 
  • Why were NONE of the boxes marked  "whale meat?" Everything Greenpeace uncovered in the investigation matches the descriptions given to us by the whistleblowers who came to us with their concerns about what was happening in the whaling fleet. 
  • Why would these whistleblowers who approached us take such a high risk if they were simply making up the stories?

Then there's the freight company involved:

  • Why did the freight company not report any missing box until after we revealed our investigations in a press conference, weeks after the activists had intercepted it at the depot in Aomori. If a box goes missing, surely one would expect it to be reported immediately.

The biggest question remaining, though, is this:

  • Why did the Prosecutor investigating the case drop suddenly drop his inquiries  - on the very day that the police arrested our activists?

The investigation needs to be re-opened.  No question. This is not the end of this matter.

It is not the end for Junichi and Toru, who are waiting trail having been charged with theft and trespass for bringing this scandal to public attention. It is not the end for the taxpayers who must be wondering why they are funding a so-called research whaling that supplies no science, whale meat that few want to eat and 'expensive gifts' for the whaling fleet crew.

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