'Take a stand': World leaders join international outrage over whale killing

Michael Dahlstrom
·News and Video Producer
·4-min read

International condemnation of whaling has been growing louder after a young whale was slaughtered in Japan.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson described the practice as “cruel”.

Before being butchered, the juvenile minke whale had been left to languish in fishing nets for 19 days, drawing global media attention, and resulting in calls for it to be released.

Australia too has reaffirmed its “strong opposition” to the practice of whaling in a statement provided to Yahoo News Australia on Sunday night, although the government has not been as publicly vocal as Mr Johnson this year.

Japanese activist Ren Yabuki said the whale took 20 minutes to die. Source: LIA / Dolphin Project
Japanese activist Ren Yabuki said the whale took 20 minutes to die. Source: LIA / Dolphin Project

A spokesperson from the Department of Foreign Affairs indicated the government will continue to pursue the issue, as they traditionally have, through the International Whaling Commission (IWC), an organisation that Japan withdrew from in 2019.

“Australia is committed to the protection of marine mammals and remains strongly opposed to all forms of commercial and ‘scientific’ whaling,” a Department of Foreign Affairs spokesperson said in a statement.

“We continue to work through the International Whaling Commission to uphold the global moratorium on commercial whaling and promote whale conservation, including action to prevent the entanglement of marine mammals in commercial fishing gear.”

Since Japan withdrew from the IWC, it has set its own whale quotas and kills exclusively within its territorial waters and exclusive international zone.

Boris Johnson to ‘take a stand’ against whaling

Animal advocates have welcomed Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s input, after he described the practice of whaling on Friday as “cruel” in a statement provided to The Telegraph.

He said it is important to “take a stand” against whaling and suggested he would raise the issue at the COP26 environment talks in Glasgow, the newspaper reported.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he will take a stand against whaling, according to a report. Source: Reuters
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he will take a stand against whaling, according to a report. Source: Reuters

“At a time when we are already seeing the tragic and irreversible destruction of our natural world, with the sea increasingly pumped full of plastics and climate change threatening entire ecosystems, it is more important than ever to take a stand against the cruel practice of whaling,” he told The Telegraph.

“I look to Japan, a world leader on climate change and free trade, to stand with me in the fight against the killing of these beautiful mammals and take steps to help preserve our precious marine life for future generations.”

Calling whales one of “mother nature's greatest treasures”, Mr Johnson said he did not wish to imagine a world where future generations will not know their song.

A third whale has become trapped in a cluster of Japanese fishing nets. Source: LIA / Dolphin Project
A third whale became trapped in a cluster of Japanese fishing nets. Source: LIA / Dolphin Project

Longtime campaigner Helene O’Barry from activist group Dolphin Project told Yahoo News Australia Mr Johnson’s words were both “forceful and compassionate”.

“Last week, the world watched in horror as fishermen in Japan executed a whale by forcing its head underwater and drowning it,” Ms O’Barry said.

“For Boris Johnson to speak out against Japan's atrocious whaling practices represents hope that there is a way forward not involving the usual bloodshed and cruelty to those of the planet's inhabitants who are completely at our mercy.

“Johnson’s appeal to Japan to stop destroying these magnificent beings is both forceful and compassionate. We thank him for that and hope that more world leaders will now openly side with the whales.”

Drone footage captures whale killed after 19 days in nets

The whale’s plight was first reported by Yahoo News Australia six days into the whale’s struggle, after it became caught in fishing nets off the coast of Taiji, Japan.

At the time, it was the second whale within almost a month to be caught in the same netting complex.

Confronting video footage was captured daily by Ren Yabuki from Japanese animal welfare group Life Investigation Agency, who had partnered with US-based Dolphin Project.

LIA and Dolphin Project were in Taiji to document the region’s annual dolphin hunt, but their reporting quickly incorporated coverage of the trapped whale, as they expressed concerns its health was failing.

By day 14, calls were growing for the mammal to be released, with both Humane Society International and the UK government subsequently calling on the Japanese government to set it free.

On the morning of January 11, an alarming 19 days after the animal became trapped, Japanese fishermen made the decision to slaughter it.

Mr Yabuki said it took 20 minutes to drown.

“I feel very sick. Very sad,” he told Yahoo News Australia moments after the whale’s death.

“I’ve been filming the moment of murder. My hands were shaking.”

Within 24 hours, another whale, this one a juvenile humpback, had been found dead in the same complex of fishing nets.

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