After whale wars, Greenpeace tries quieter tack
Two Greenpeace Japan activists will go to trial Feb. 12 after trying to expose illegal sales of whale meat. In a departure from the confrontational tactics of Sea Shepherd and its "Whale Wars," Greenpeace is trying to quietly convince Japan to end whaling.
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Acting on the whistleblower’s information, two Greenpeace activists - Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki – followed the Seino truck carrying 90 boxes of “personal possessions” and “cardboard” that had been unloaded from the ship. When the boxes were taken to a nearby Seino depot, the activists entered the site and checked the names on the packages against a list of employees at the whaling company.Skip to next paragraph
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Having matched the names, they decided to track one of the suspiciously heavy parcels to Aomori in northern Japan. Once the box was delivered to a Seino depot in Aomori, Mr. Suzuki entered the premises and removed the parcel.
Having established the box contained 23.5kg (about 50 lbs.) of whale meat, the two activists presented the contents and documentation of their operation – including the whistleblower’s testimony – to the Tokyo Prosecutors’ Office in May 2008 and reported a case of embezzlement. But the embezzlement investigation was dropped the following month and the duo arrested for trespass and theft.
Greenpeace claims they were held for 26 days, and questioned for 200 hours without access to lawyers. A series of appeals for disclosure of information relating to the embezzlement allegations ended unsuccessfully at the Tokyo Supreme Court last November, clearing the way for a criminal trial.
Greenpeace stays focused on public opinion
Despite these setbacks, Greenpeace believes in its tactical shift to campaigning to change public opinion in Japan.
“We realized that confrontational activity in the Southern Ocean only galvanizes opinion in Japan behind the whalers,” says Greg McNevin, a Greenpeace spokesperson. “What we’re concentrating on now is showing the Japanese people what a waste of tax money it is subsidizing an industry that only employs a few hundred people, and the corruption that goes on with the industry and bureaucrats involved."
Some officials at the Institute of Cetacean Research – the quasi-governmental body that runs the whaling expeditions – are reported to be former Fisheries Agency bureaucrats given the positions as part of their retirement packages. This practice, known as amakudari – literally “descent from heaven” – is one the new Democratic Party of Japan government has pledged to stamp out.
Strategy: put industry in spotlight at trial
Greenpeace hope to expose some of the lesser known aspects of the industry at Sato and Suzuki’s trial – scheduled for Feb. 12 – after recently getting permission to call all the witnesses they’d requested.
“We’re optimistic: we get to call the original whistleblower, three whaling crew members, and Professor Dirk Voorhoof, an international expert on freedom of expression,” says Mr. McNevin, “This is our chance to put whaling on trial.”