Does Canon support shooting whales?

Feature story - 24 January, 2008
Having saved over 100 whales by pursuing the Japanese whaling fleet's factory ship for over 5,000 miles,keeping it and the rest of the fleet out of action for 14 days, the Greenpeace ship Esperanza has run low on fuel and must return to port. Yet, as our ship heads to Hobart, Australia, the campaign to save the whales is far from over. We're focused on shooting whales... with cameras. But we were surprised to learn that Canon, the world's number one digital camera producer, isn't willing to condemn using harpoons -- despite their high-profile advertising and sponsorship programmes dedicated to wildlife and endangered species.

If you want to shoot a whale - use a CANON.…But only if Canon tells the whalers to lose the harpoons

We wrote to Canon headquarters in Japan asking their CEO to speak out against Japan's whaling programme. 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 sees it?

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 tonnes 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 programme in the Southern Ocean should be ended, and replaced with a non-lethal research programme."

Unfortunately, Canon has so far refused our request, saying "We fully recognise 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 signthe statement you have sent us."

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 through our 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 - thereare nine of them aboard the Greenpeace ship Esperanza at the moment, one of them in thehands 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.

Why Canon?

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 expertise.

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 websitethat it wants to "hand over a beautiful Earth for future generations".

A corporation which paints itself as a defender of wildlifeand one concerned about endangered species and the natural world oughtto do more than express those values in images, advertisements, andsponsorships: they need to use their immense power to speak out and actfor a better world.

Every day,supporters ask: Why no boycott?

Greenpeace does notendorse a general boycott of Japanese products. We know that themajority of Japanese people do not actually support whaling, and we areanti-whaling, not anti-Japanese.  We believe such a boycottwould be difficult to focus, harm the wrong people, and be ineffectivein stopping whaling.

Canon advertisement in National Geographic

Yet wealso know there are deep sentiments among our supporters to participatein such a boycott - they write to us literally every day during thewhaling season either announcing they have launched their own boycottor wanting to know why Greenpeace doesn't do the same.  Evenin the absence of an organised boycott, whaling harms Japan's imagewith potential customers.

Here's anexample.

A few months ago, we heard from awoman who wrote to Toyota in her home country, New Zealand, to say shewas not going to replace her Prius with a new one, because Toyota, as aJapanese car company, had an implicit association with Japan's whalingprogramme. 

Toyota New Zealand wrote back to her to say"Please be assured that Toyota New Zealand and Toyota Motor CorporationJapan do not condone whaling for commercial, scientific or researchpurposes."  While Toyota Japan later distanced themselves fromthis position, it demonstrates how much of a liability whaling can befor Japanese corporations operating in the West.

When we looked at what other Japanesecorporations ought to be enlisted to  speak out domesticallyagainst whaling, Canon leapt out as an obviouschoice.

"My family and I love canon cameras- they are all we've ever owned, and we will love them even more if you prove to the world that 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.

The earth would be incredibly less beautiful without whales."

Read more letters that have already been sent to Canon

Whaling: more troublethan 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 thelist of species targeted in the whale hunt led to formal complaintsfrom several of Japan's allies.

The Los Angeles Times quoted oneofficial, who asked to remain anonymous, as saying "[Whaling] is doingno good for Japanese diplomacy. Many people are saying Japan is notbalancing its interests, with a vocal minority dictating a course thatrisks some of our most cherishedrelationships."

As head of the JapaneseBusiness Federation, Mister Mitarai has a responsibility not just forCanon's own welfare, but also for the collective well-being of Japanesebusinesses at home and abroad -- where whaling is a liability forJapanese brands and theirprofitability.

If you think Mister Mitaraishould actively defend whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary youcan write to him by clicking on the link below.

Take action

Tell the CEO of Canon that he shouldn't support the needless killing of threatend whales for science.


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