Celebrities call on Japan to scrap resumption of whaling

Whaling fleet

Celebrities and environmentalists are demanding Japan reverse its decision to resume whaling, condemning the “cruel and archaic practice which has no place in the 21st century”.

An open letter to the Japanese prime minister, Shinzō Abe, criticises Tokyo’s decision to leave the International Whaling Commission (IWC), as campaigners plan a peaceful protest march on the Japanese embassy in London on Saturday.T

The actors Ricky Gervais and Joanna Lumley, the broadcasters Stephen Fry and Ben Fogle, and the naturalist Chris Packham are among signatories. Packham said: “To the utter disgust of the rest of the world, Japan intends to resume killing whales. We don’t need statements of disgust, we need sanctions that will hurt. If shame won’t turn the Japanese then economic pain might.”

Japan is facing international condemnation after confirming in December it will resume commercial whaling in July for the first time in more than 30 years. Greenpeace has disputed Japan’s view that whale stocks have recovered.

Japan has killed 8,201 minke whales in the Antarctic since 1986, say campaigners.

The protest march to the Japanese embassy in London is planned for noon on Saturday and organised by the London Committee for the Abolition of Whaling.

Fogle, UN patron of the wilderness, said: “Whaling is a despicable practice that offends our most basic humanity. I call on Japan to heed the wealth of global voices calling for an end to the senseless killing of whales once and for all.”

The open letter calls on Abe to halt whaling and rejoin the IWC. “There is no humane way to kill a whale. Whales die in agony when harpooned, often taking a long time to die in bloody and gory conditions,” it says.

“There really is no justification or need for resuming commercial whaling on cultural, commercial, scientific or ethical grounds,” adds the letter, published in the Daily Telegraph.

In Japan, where the amount of whale meat consumed has dropped from 233,000 tonnes in 1962 to 3,000 tonnes in 2016, there is “clearly no longer a great demand for this meat”, the letter says.

It adds that it is “critical” the protection of the international whaling ban remains and that some whale species, almost exterminated due to commercial whaling, are slowly recovering.

Signatories also include the primatologist Jane Goodall, the actor Virginia McKenna and Will Travers from the Born Free Foundation, the TV and radio presenter Nicky Campbell, the naturalist Steve Backshall and the broadcaster Selina Scott.