Japanese hunters recently killed 122 pregnant minke whales as part of a so-called field survey, the BBC reported. The hunters caught the whales for scientific study — even though in 2014 the United Nations ruled against the country’s “lethal research.” The whale meat collected for research is sold for consumption.

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Japan’s New Scientific Whale Research Program in the Antarctic Ocean (NEWREP-A) sent a report to the International Whaling Commission for its “third biological field survey.” The hunters caught 333 Antarctic minke whales. 181 were females, and 67 percent of those were pregnant, while 29 percent of the whales were not yet adults. The team caught the animals within 12 weeks before heading back to Japan.

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Humane Society International Senior Program Manager Alexia Wellbelove said in a statement, “The killing of 122 pregnant whales is a shocking statistic and sad indictment on the cruelty of Japan’s whale hunt. 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.”

Japan’s whaling program has been subject to controversy over the years; the UN’s International Court of Justice ruled the JARPA II program was illegal in 2014, but the country relaunched its program in 2015, the Humane Society said. The country withdrew its recognition of the UN court “as an arbiter of disputes over whales.”

Governments of “Australia, New Zealand, Britain, the U.S. and everywhere else sit on their hands and say this criminal behavior is okay because the Japanese government is funding it,” Bob Brown, former Australian politician and founder of the Bob Brown Foundation, told The Telegraph. “The leaders who are today failing to take action have the blood of these innocent whales on their hands. This is an international disgrace and an environmental crime.”

Japan says it follows Article VIII of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling that rules countries can “kill, take and treat whales for purposes of scientific research.” The agreement was signed in 1946.

+ Humane Society International Australia

Via the BBC and The Telegraph

Images via National Marine Sanctuaries and Kobakou