A top British university has been criticized after it emerged they accepted money from the Japanese agency in charge of the country’s annual whale hunt.
The classics building at the university. Original image by Jjhake
The University of St Andrews in Scotland is one of the most prestigious institutions in Britain. The august institution even counts Prince William among its recent alumni.
So for many it was a shock to find out that the university’s Research Unit for Wildlife Population Assessment (RUWPA) accepted more than £35,000 from the Institute for Cetacean Research (ICR).
The ICR is the institution in charge of the annual whale hunt, which it continually describes as a scientific expedition. Critics of the university said that by taking the money from a pro-whaling organization, they have in effect legitimized Japan’s whaling expeditions. The cash funded research into Antarctic whale populations, a subject allegedly studied during the country’s whale hunts.
The RUWPA defended itself by saying that the research was necessary to help us better understand Antarctic whale populations, an argument eerily similar to the ICR’s justification for whaling. St Andrews, however, did not kill any whales for their data.
Professor Alan Miller, vice-president for research at St Andrews, said: “It is vital to understand whale abundance in the Southern Ocean to ensure that decisions about conservation may be taken on the basis of the most accurate possible assessment of population data. University of St Andrews abhors the practice of whaling under scientific permit, as it does not believe that there is a scientific case for the continued take of whales. We have a strong track record of producing research which consistently undermines the case for whaling.”
The university accepted two separate payments from the ICR. In 2002 they were given £31,900, and they received a further £5,000 in 2005. St Andrews accuses the ICR of making the university group look bad by making misleading statements about their involvement in whaling research. They have suggested that the university will not take future payments from the group.
A statement released by the university said: “In view of legitimate public concerns around whaling and potentially misleading public comments made by Japanese authorities about St Andrews’ involvement in research, the university is now carrying out a detailed review of its current policy for accepting research commissions to ensure no inconsistency with our commitment to conservation.”
A Greenpeace spokesman lashed out at the university. “It’s disgraceful that St Andrews is accepting cash from the sale of whale meat. By taking this money, they are helping to justify the Japanese whaling hunt,” said Greenpeace’s Willy Mackenzie.
While Greenpeace and St Andrews waged a war of words over whaling in the UK, there were actual physical attacks on whaling ships in the Antarctic recently. Activists with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society hurled a very weak acid made from rancid butter at one of the whaling ships. The whalers say three people sustained minor injuries in the attack, while the SSCS say nobody was struck by the acid.