Each year, innocent animals around the world are killed in the name of science. It’s nearly impossible to put a number on it, and there are heated debates on a near-daily basis about whether it’s necessary to sentence these creatures to death in order to learn more about our shared world. In Japan, an expedition sets sail today on a quest to slaughter 333 whales purportedly for research, but critics around the globe – including the United Nations’ International Court of Justice – has decried the killings, accusing the Japanese government of trying to pull a fast one to subvert whale hunting restrictions.

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The UN court and other skeptics claim most of the whales killed by Japanese hunters in international waters will not end up as the subject of laboratory experiments, but as the main course. Japan’s whaling plan has been the center of much controversy since the nation submitted it to the International Whaling commission. The review resulted in recommendations for a complete revision of the plan, but Japan is having none of it. Government officials dined on whale meat in protest of the court’s ruling last year, and now are pushing forward with the plan despite reservations from conservationists and other nations.

Related: Japan promises to continue whale hunt despite court ruling

Australia – the country that originally took the case against Japan to the ICJ – is particularly concerned about the whaling, and rejects the notion that Japan is harvesting whales for research. Australian environment minister Greg Hunt said in a statement, “We do not accept in any way, shape or form the concept of killing whales for so-called ‘scientific research’.” According to Associated Press reports, Australian officials may send a Customs and Border Protection Service patrol boat to monitor the Japanese whaling ships for illegal behavior.

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Killing animals in the name of science isn’t new. Just a few short months ago, researchers made a rare sighting of a particular brightly colored male bird in the Solomon Islands, took a selfie with the (live) bird, and then killed it to learn more about the species. Just a few weeks prior to that, we reported on a forensics study that involved shooting live pigs in the head to study blood spatter patterns. Many people find these incidents troubling, even though they are about just one or a handful of animals. Japan will kill “only” 333 individual whales this time, which represents about one-third the annual catch during the country’s previous annual whaling practice, and the government doesn’t hide the fact that the whale meat is sold on the commercial market but they will have to find a new way to sell it, since the world’s biggest online whale meat seller has left the business following the court ruling.

Via Washington Post

Images via Wikipedia (1, 2, 3)