Commercial whaling has been banned since 1986 but Japan has flouted it by claiming its mass killings are for "scientific research". There's not many scientific experiments where bits of the subjects end up on a plate in a restaurant!
The Australian government made a complaint to the International Court of Justice, a UN body established to settle disputes between countries. Now the Court has ruled that the Japanese that it is what it is - a thinly disguised excuse for flouting international law. The Japanese hid their commercial operations behind two consecutive "research" programs known as JARPA and JARPA II.
In its judgement (.pdf) the Court is scathing about the justification for the increase in number of whales and that two additional species were targeted.
225. First, the broad objectives of JARPA and JARPA II overlap considerably. To the extent that the objectives are different, the evidence does not reveal how those differences lead to the considerable increase in the scale of lethal sampling in the JARPA II Research Plan. Secondly, the sample sizes for fin and humpback whales are too small to provide the information that is necessary to pursue the JARPA II research objectives based on Japan’s own calculations, and the programme’s design appears to prevent random sampling of fin whales. Thirdly, the process used to determine the sample size for minke whales lacks transparency, as the experts called by each of the Parties agreed. In particular, the Court notes the absence of complete explanations in the JARPA II Research Plan for the underlying decisions that led to setting the sample size at 850 minke whales (plus or minus 10 per cent) each year. Fourthly, some evidence suggests that the programme could have been adjusted to achieve a far smaller sample size, and Japan does not explain why this was not done. The evidence before the Court further suggests that little attention was given to the possibility of using non-lethal research methods more extensively to achieve the JARPA II objectives and that funding considerations, rather than strictly scientific criteria, played a role in the programme’s design.The Court finally ruled:
245. The Court observes that JARPA II is an ongoing programme. Under these circumstances, measures that go beyond declaratory relief are warranted. The Court therefore will order that Japan shall revoke any extant authorization, permit or licence to kill, take or treat whales in relation to JARPA II, and refrain from granting any further permits under Article VIII, paragraph 1, of the Convention, in pursuance of that programme.For decades we have known successive Japanese governments have lied about the "scientific" reasons to continue killing as many whales their fleets could find or take while evading protesters like Greenpeace or physically attacking them. Now the world has told Japan it knows.
246. The Court sees no need to order the additional remedy requested by Australia, which
would require Japan to refrain from authorizing or implementing any special permit whaling which is not for purposes of scientific research within the meaning of Article VIII. That obligation already applies to all States parties. It is to be expected that Japan will take account of the reasoning and conclusions contained in this Judgment as it evaluates the possibility of granting any future permits under Article VIII, paragraph 1, of the Convention.