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David @ Tokyo

Perspective from Japan on whaling and whale meat, a spot of gourmet news, and monthly updates of whale meat stockpile statistics



IWC 2006: Greenpeace actions leading to increased time-to-deaths

The IWC has a working group on whale killing methods. Dr Ray Gambell OBE has explained that the goal of the working group is to study methods of improving the humaneness of whaling operations, with the agreed technique to be ensuring that whales are killed as swiftly as possible, instantaneously being the ideal result.

With explosive tipped harpoons, time-to-death statistics show that in both the Norwegian commercial hunt and the Japanese research hunt, the majority of whale struck die instantaneously.

However the Institute of Cetacean Research has noted that it is observing increased time-to-deaths this year as a result of protester interference, preventing the harpooners from taking as clear, clean shots as they would usually be able.

Greenpeace too admits that it is their goal to ensure that each whale death takes as long as possible:

Mr Rattenbury said Greenpeace was achieving results.

"It's certainly our intention to protect as many whales as possible, and we are working on the theory that so long as it takes them even longer to kill a whale, they are not killing another one," he said.

"It has been our focus and our strategy to slow them down as much as we can"

It's quite remarkable that Greenpeace, themselves directly contributing to increased time-to-deaths for the whales being hunted, sees fit to broadcast the bloody footage around the globe, criticising how slow the process was.

On this basis it is clear that Greenpeace doesn't care about animal welfare in terms of humane killing.

When the current session of the research programme concludes, if Japan has still taken it's targeted population sample of 850 +/- 10% minke whales, the international community would be quite right to question the humaneness of Greenpeace's protesting techniques.

Indeed, even if they do succeed in obstructing the research programme to a degree, their supporters must surely be asking themselves:
"What is more important? Preventing the death of some number of whales, or ensuring that those that are killed are killed as humanely as possible?"
I personally suspect that Greenpeace is going to suffer quite a backlash from Animal Rights advocates for their efforts, as their only success currently appears to be a gory propaganda campaign.

UPDATE [06/01/15]
Further information to hand

Here's Mr Rattenbury again, after a protestor was knocked off a Greenpeace inflatable after getting caught in the rope attached to a harpoon:
"It [the harpoon] struck the whale and fortunately it died immediately."
But then he goes on to reveal why he believes it was fortunate:
"We have seen some kills that go on for a long time, with the whale thrashing about, in which case the whole boat would have capsized."
Just when you thought they might spare a thought for the whales, it turns out they're just worried about their own self-preservation.

UPDATE [06/01/16]
Even more information to hand
"Shane Rattenbury from Greenpeace says the activists follow the practice of moving aside once a whale had been hit to allow the harpoonist to finish the kill."
Yet again Rattenbury displays his irresponsible attitude. The goal is for the whale to die instantaneously, not anything less. The harpoonist's job should ideally be done as soon as the harpoon has been released, not after Greenpeace protestors have been good enough to get out of the way. The harpoonists aren't there to oblige Greenpeace protestors with nice camera shots of them between the harpoons and the whales, they are there to kill the whales cleanly and swiftly.

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Its extremely sad to see pro-whaling advocates indulge in such transparently disingenuous debating tricks as deliberately misinterpreting a statement, in a desperate effort to support their argument.

'It's certainly our intention to protect as many whales as possible, and we are working on the theory that so long as it takes them even longer to kill a whale, they are not killing another one," he said.'
Shane Rattenbury

THe Greenpeace statement clearly refers to the hours of blocking tactics Greenpeace uses to prevent a whaling ship making its harpoon shot (kill) in the first place. Not endlessly delaying the
despatching of a whale once hit.

'It was mortally wounded, but for the first time we have seen the harpoon had not set. Our boats fell to the back of the Yushin Maru No. 2, well out of its way - hoping the whalers would end the animal's suffering......We put our boats in the way, we put our safety on the line, we endure freezing cold spray and brutal conditions to protect whales. But after the harpoon hits home, it is only a matter of ending the poor thing's pain. We often see that taking minutes - sometimes five, sometimes ten, sometimes longer. This time it took roughly half an hour....At one point, the whale was seen off our starboard side. Frank (captain) actually called the whalers on the radio to tell them (in no uncertain terms) where to find it, and to finish it.

Well over twenty-five minutes after the first shot we heard the third harpoon, and then saw the man with the rifle fire from the Yushin's deck, finally putting the whale to rest.' -


Shane Rattenbury's statement also makes clear that in the specified case of entanglement, the cause was a reckless harpoon shot from the whaling ship, too close to the Greenpeace inflatable, not a deliberate attempt by Greenpeace to ensnare the rope.
Please spare us the melodrama.

The reality is that by their actions, the Greenpeace protestors are forcing the Japanese harpooners in to a situation where they have to take non-optimal shots. These non-optimal shots may then result in the whales not dying instantaneously as happens in the majority of cases, or otherwise taking longer to die than it normally would.

Even you say yourself, that Greenpeace believe the cause of the recent entanglement was a "reckless harpoon shot". It wouldn't have been reckless were the Greenpeace protestors not intefering with the ICR's legal activities in the first place, and staying out of the way.

Inspite of all the Greenpeace interference, the Japanese harpooners are to be commended for their work, still ensuring that a large number of the whales are killed instantaneously. If only Greenpeace would take actions to ensure that this could be the case more often.

Of course, if Greenpeace were staying out of the way, they wouldn't be able to generate such gory video footage, which does appear to be their goal.
I've posted an update at the bottom of the original post.

I'm sure the Japanese whaling fleet would prefer it, if Greenpeace were not there to document their activities and disrupt their self assigned whaling quota.
A quota that will be increased and include protected species as of next year, as stated by the Japanese government.

'ensuring that a large number of the whales are killed INSTANTANEOUSLY (my capitals).' -

Please supply independant, verifiable, scientific evidence rather than your opinion, to back that statement up.

'Of course, if Greenpeace were staying out of the way, they wouldn't be able to generate such gory video footage, which does appear to be their goal.'

Please spare us the melodrama. :-)
Hi, I just found this site and I would like to show my support for David for standing in the name of science.

Regarding the GP and SS's activities, if the Australian and New Zealand Government admitted that the Japanese whaling fleet has legal right to conduct their research, I wonder what is their legal opinion on the GP and SS's activities. Certainly, ramming another ship and harrassment is illegal.

The ICR is quite open about their research activities, although they would obviously prefer that Greenpeace were not there making the task difficult.

Again, we really have to ask of Greenpeace - what is their purpose in all of this?

It's certainly not the case that Greenpeace are helping to reduce the TTDs - and it's not at all unreasonable to think that their obstructive tactics are resulting in the harpoon handlers being unable to take their shots as cleanly as they would otherwise be able, resulting increased TTDs.

Do you disagree? Do you think that it is inconceivable that Greenpeace's obstruction tactics are resulting in any lengthening of the TTD statistics?

So again we have to ask: Which does Greenpeace see as more important: Attempting to "save" as many whales as possible, or attempting to ensure that that whales that are taken are killed as humanely as possible?

Which do you think it is?

Rattenbury's comments reveal little (if any?) concern for whale welfare, so it seems to be the former, rather than the latter.

"Please spare us the melodrama. :-)"

What is melodramatic about it? I'm not talking about how "extremely sad" Greenpeace's action are - it's a fact that Greenpeace is there, trying to create the opportunity for gruesome video coverage, and it is quite conceivable that their actions have increased such opportunities.

If you wish to dispute this, I'd like to ask your reasons why this is an unreasonable suggestion.
Anonymous -

Thanks for your comment, although I'd stress that it's not just science that I am standing up for.
- minority cultures
- international agreements
- conservation (science fits in here)

To be honest, the TTD issue is not a huge one for me. I certainly don't see GP helping at all, but at the end of the day whaling today is far more humane than it used to be, and those who are doing it are certainly doing their best. For me, that is a definition of "humane", although obviously the ideal is instantaneous death for whales that are struck.
(Does Greenpeace agree? in both public and private?)

"I wonder what is their legal opinion on the GP and SS's activities. Certainly, ramming another ship and harrassment is illegal."

Rodney Hide has questioned the SS actions on his blog several days ago, and meanwhile anti-whaling Minister of Conservation, Hon. Chris Carter, has also mentioned that SS's actions are illegal (iirc).
And I've posted another update to the original comment - yet again further indication that Greenpeace are oblivious to humane killing issues.
Greenpeace has already comprehensively answered Davids question about saving whales and/or 'humane' (I do not agree on this being the correct term for explosive harpoons) killing -

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