The International Court of Justice recently passed a decision that spelled out a huge victory for Antarctic whales and their world-wide supporters. Since the 1930’s, Japan has been killing thousands of whales at sea and selling their meat for profits. In 1986, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) banned commercial whaling.

In order to escape sanctions and criticism, the Japanese government hid this cruel and long-standing practice of killing whales under the guise of science, claiming that the whale-hunting activities are carried out for “scientific research”.


In 2010, the Australian government brought a case before the ICJ, stating that Japan’s whale-hunting activities are illegal and go against the rules of the IWC. As the defendant, Japan agreed that it will not appeal the court’s decision regardless of its ruling.

Interestingly, the whale meat industry in Japan is no longer as commercially viable as it once was. In fact, a recent survey conducted by Greenpeace Japan showed that 85% of local respondents were not even aware that the government was permitting the hunting of endangered species in the Antarctic Ocean. Furthermore, 80% said that they did not agree with Japan’s whaling activities. Despite the decreasing demand of whale meat, tonnes of whale meat in stock continues to increase.

Finally, last March 31, the international court made a ground-breaking decision, declaring the Japan’s Antarctic whale-hunting activities as ILLEGAL. The news unsurprisingly had Greenpeace and other environmental and animal rights’ groups around the world cheering for victory and jumping for joy!

However, this court decision should be seen as a step towards a bigger goal, instead of an absolute victory. After all, the ruling does not ban the killing of whales for scientific research in general, only Japan’s whale killing activities in the Antarctic ocean. In fact, Japan is still allowed to operate in North Pacific seas. Still, the ICJ’s decision gives us plenty of reason to be optimistic. The fact that demand for whale meat is dwindling and legal action against whale-killing is gaining steam might soon drive Japan to stop all their whale-hunting activities in time.