Exposing Japan's 'zombie' industry

September 13, 2009

More than 50 people attended a Greenpeace meeting with paroled Japanese anti-whaling activist Toru Suzuki on September 9.

Suzuki and Junichi Sato, known as the Tokyo 2, have been charged with theft and trepass by Japanese authorities after they exposed the extensive bribing that keeps the whale meat industry alive in Japan. The Greenpeace activists face up to 10 years in prison.

The activists revealed employees on whaling ships, as well as government officials, had embezzled "prime" whale meat to make illegal sales to restaurants and other black market dealers. The value of these cuts range from US$1000 to $3000 a kilogram.

The activists took boxes containing the whale meat, which were addressed to a crewmember, from a mail depot. They delivered the boxes to the Tokyo District prosecutor as evidence. The prosecutor later dropped the investigation into the alleged corruption. Instead, Japanese authorities arrested Suzuki and Sato for the "theft" of the boxes.

Suzuki and Sato were kept in custody for 26 days before they were charged. The pair faced eight to 10 hours of interrogations each day.

The International Whaling Commission banned commercial whaling in 1986. But the IWC allows whaling to continue as "scientific research".

Suzuki called on the Australian government to encourage Japan's newly elected Democratic Party government to end whale hunting. He said having a new government in Japan gave hope that activists can have a bigger affect on politics.

In the anti-whaling campaign, a lot of attention has focused on the Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd ships that aim to disrupt whaling expeditions, but Suzuki said he believed these are simply defensive actions.

"The real anti-whaling action won't happen in the high seas, it's happening right now in Japan", he said.

Japan's whaling industry is subsidised by the Japanese government by US$5 million a year. Greenpeace has exposed Japanese fleets chasing down "prime meat" whales.

Whale meat has become increasingly unpopular in Japan among young people. Through schools and hospital meal programs, the government has tried to provide a stable market for the industry.

However, Suzuki described it as a "zombie" industry, because it fails to recognise that it is dead.

Tokyo's flagship whale meat restaurant has closed and a festival to herald the new catch has been cancelled for this year.

You need Green Left, and we need you!

Green Left is funded by contributions from readers and supporters. Help us reach our funding target.

Make a One-off Donation or choose from one of our Monthly Donation options.

Become a supporter to get the digital edition for $5 per month or the print edition for $10 per month. One-time payment options are available.

You can also call 1800 634 206 to make a donation or to become a supporter. Thank you.