Over 30 anti-whaling protesters, including “Heroes” star Hayden Panettiere, tussled with Japanese whalers off the coast of historic Japanese whaling town Taiji.
The protesters, some of whom were on surfboards, left flowers at sea in a ceremony that was interrupted by fishermen who chased away the protesters with long poles. One of the whalers shouted “Go home, you’re in the way” at a foreign television crew covering the event.
Panettiere, who plays Claire on the hit drama Heroes, said that “It’s innocence being slaughtered, it’s innocence being taken away. Dolphins and whales are probably one of the friendliest animals on the face of this planet.”
Japan conducts what they call “scientific research” whaling every year. Although commercial whaling was banned in Japan in the 80s, most of the whale meat ends up on Japanese tables and little scientific research is published.
Protesters say there is little point hunting whales for food, especially in light of a recent report showing mercury levels are over 10 times as high as considered safe.
Hideki Moronuki, a Japanese Fisheries Agency official, defended the practice. He said: “Because whales and dolphins are at the top of the food chain in the ecological system, they tend to have higher mercury levels compared to other species, but trying to stop people from eating the meat altogether for that reason seems irrational to me.”
An estimated 2,000 whales are killed every year in Taiji. Around 14,000 whales were killed by Japanese whaling ships last year.
Japan defends its whaling expeditions. It argues that its whaling program helps understand whale stocks and species. It considers whaling a part of its cultural heritage to be cherished.
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