Tesco stops whale sale, but Japan keeps killing

Feature story - 24 November, 2004
Supermarket giant Tesco is taking whale meat off the shelves in its Japanese stores. Although Japan's "research" fleet has set sail, this is good news, because as Tesco's own slogan says, 'every little helps!'

Whale meat tins from Tesco's Japanese stores

The story so far

Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) investigations revealed that UK supermarket Tesco was selling canned whale meat in 32 of its 78 C-Two Network stores in Japan. Fresh whale meat was available in ten of the stores, despite the fact that commercial whaling has been illegal since 1982.

In a joint campaign with the EIA and the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS), we called on Tesco to remove all whale meat from its stores.

We met with Tesco officials in May and October 2004 and told them Japan kills more than 800 whales in the North Pacific and Antarctic each year under the dubious guise of scientific research, defying the International Whaling Commission's ban on commercial whaling.

More than 20,000 small whales, dolphins and porpoises are also killed in Japan's coastal waters each year.

Against a background of growing concern among Japanese consumers about pollutant levels in whale meat, as well as falling prices and growing stockpiles, we asked Tesco to consider the evidence.

According to Tesco, they took the decision to remove the whale meat "due to a lack of customer demand".

But we need to know if whales eat fish!

Despite this lack of customer interest, Japan insists on whaling in the name of government-supported "scientific research" and then openly selling the meat commercially to keep the whale meat market open. Recent times have called for desperate measures including promoting the meat to schoolchildren. And just what is this research that has taken 18 years and 6,000 dead minke whales? Japan claims it is for the International Whaling Committee (IWC) - but the IWC has said it does not need the data and has repeatedly asked for the programme to be stopped.

Japan's "science" is highly illegal since the waters surrounding the Antarctic were made into a whale sanctuary in 1994. Japanese government officials have even said that they intend to renew the hunt next year - without waiting for a scientific review of the current programme.

Recent surveys have found less than half the number of Antarctic minke whales estimated in previous studies.

Greenpeace oceans campaigner Willie MacKenzie said: "The Japanese government should stop calling for the resumption of commercial whaling and should stop calling this expedition 'research'.

"World-wide, whales face a huge range of threats to their survival because of humanity; pollution, climate change and entanglement in nets. Commercial hunting under the guise of science is the one threat to whale populations that we can end immediately."

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