A prominent animal rights group has expressed outrage at Japan's controversial whaling program after it emerged that more than 120 pregnant whales were slaughtered previous year during the country's annual hunt in the Antarctic Ocean.
Over 120 pregnant whales have been killed in Japan in a hunt which scientists in the country described as "scientific research". Critics of Japan's "research" program say meat from the culled whales ends up for sale, and that the country's insistence on killing the animals also stems from resistance to bending to non-Japanese cultural ideas about what kinds of animals can be eaten or killed and which should be exempt.
Humane Society International senior program manager Alexia Wellbelove criticized the "cruelty of Japan's whale hunt". This involved shooting the whales with grenade-tipped harpoons (a controversial killing method that results in instant death only 50 to 80 percent of the time), hauling the slain whales aboard a research vessel and cutting them apart on-site.
The hunters targeted 344 whales in total, but 11 escaped under the cover of ocean ice.
Japan has signed the IWC's whale hunting moratorium and has pledged not to kill whales for commercial purposes since 1985.
Despite global condemnation of the practice, Japan continues its controversial practice of whaling in the name of scientific research.
This brutal method of hunting the whales was necessary as "age information can be obtained only from internal earplugs and therefore only through lethal sampling methods", the researchers claim.
The report goes on to add that stomach contents were needed in order "to estimate prey composition and consumption by Antarctic minke whales".
"It is further demonstration, if needed, of the truly gruesome and unnecessary nature of whaling operations, especially when non-lethal surveys have been shown to be sufficient for scientific needs", she told the Sydney Morning Herald.
The Japanese Embassy has not yet commented and Tokyo insists its program is carried out "in accordance with the International Convention for Regulation of Whaling".
In 2014, the worldwide court of justice ordered a temporary halt to the annual slaughter of whales in the Southern Ocean, finding that the Japanese programme known as Jarpa II was not for for scientific purposes.