In Brief

Japan kills 300 minke whales in annual hunt

Whaling fleet returns to port after defying global moratorium and international criticism

Japanese whalers have killed more than 300 minke whales during from their annual Antarctic hunt, defying a worldwide moratorium.

Five ships set sail for the Southern Ocean in November with plans to slaughter the whales, says The Guardian, Three have since returned to Shimonoseki, in the west of Japan, where they were greeted by more than 200 people.

Japan's fisheries ministry said the purpose of the hunt was "research for the purpose of studying the ecological system in the Antarctic Sea".

However, environmental groups and the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which has tried to ban the hunt, say the real goal is to get whale meat for consumption.

Campaign group Humane Society International added: "Each year that Japan persists with its discredited scientific whaling is another year where these wonderful animals are needlessly sacrificed.

"It is an obscene cruelty in the name of science that must end. There is no robust scientific case for slaughtering whales."

Japan is a signatory of the International Whaling Commission, which bans hunting of the mammals, although a loophole in its rules allows them to be killed for scientific research says The Guardian.

A fleet last year also killed more than 300 minke whales.

A report in Australia's News.com,says the country intends to kill 4,000 whales over the next 12 years.

Tokyo argues it is trying to prove the population is large enough to sustain hunting and makes no secret that the meat ends up on dinner tables and in school lunches.

Asian Correspondent says the Japanese see whaling as "part of their national identity" and that any international attack on the practice is "painted as an affront to traditional Japanese customs".

Chris Burgess, of Tsuda Juku University in Tokyo, told the site the issue had been framed as Japan against the west, with the Japanese seeing themselves as "victims of western discrimination, imperialism and 'Japan bashing'".

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