The Environment, Public Health and Food Safety committee (ENVI) presented an oral question to the Commission and Council on the decision of Japan’s Fisheries Agency to resume whaling. In 2015 and 2016 Japan killed 333 minke whales with a total of 4000 expected to be killed over the duration of the 12-year programme.

The committee inquired about additional pressure being considered following the diplomatic demarche the EU issued in December and whether legal action is an option to force Japan to comply with international law. Japan has exploited a scientific research exception to the 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling but a March 2014 International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling found Japan’s special permit regime illegal. Japan has refused to comply with the ICJ ruling.

In the ensuing debate GUE/NGL MEP Stefan Eck called Japan’s actions a “scandal” saying that the country is lying about the alleged scientific nature of its whaling programme: “Japan has been slaughtering these innocent animals to sell them to restaurants. Most EU citizens are against whaling and therefore we, as their elected representatives, must force Japan to comply with the ICJ judgement.”

“A protest note and political dialogue is insufficient. We need to take further steps. Killing whales is a crime,” the German MEP affirmed. 

GUE/NGL MEP Anja Hazekamp agreed that there is widespread anger at Japan’s actions and denounced the cruelty of the killings: “Whales are chased, aimed at with explosive tipped harpoons, dragged on board and shot dead. This very painful death can take several hours.”

“The EU should use its trade policy to put pressure on Japan. For as long as Japan is pursuing this illegal whaling we should make this a point in the negotiations.” 

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