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Japan: Dolphins

Volume 752: debated on Tuesday 4 March 2014


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with the government of Japan about the practice of capturing and slaughtering dolphins in Taiji.

My Lords, my honourable friend George Eustice, the Minister responsible, wrote to the Japanese Fisheries Minister on 9 February to reiterate our opposition to hunting all cetaceans, except for limited activities by indigenous people for defined subsistence needs. Our ambassador had written to the Japanese Foreign Affairs Minister on 24 January to set out our position. The Japanese Government are in no doubt as to the strength of feeling here, nor about our policy against these hunts.

I thank my noble friend for that Answer. Are the Government seeking to co-operate with other countries and civil society organisations to evaluate what measures can be taken using international conventions to which we are signatories, in order to end the unnecessary suffering of this trade?

My Lords, I agree strongly with my noble friend that working within international agreements such as CMS and CITES, and with the IWC, is the way to achieve our conservation goals. We already work closely with other like-minded Governments and civil society organisations, including on whale and dolphin conservation, in these fora and we continue to press for enhanced co-ordination and communication between them to ensure that they co-operate to provide an effective and long-term framework for the protection of cetaceans globally.

Has my noble friend had any response at all from the Japanese Government about this issue? Is there any indication on their part that they understand the strength of feeling and will now do something to stop this practice?

It is premature to say that they are moving in the direction of stopping it, to be frank. This is something that we must and will continue to pursue.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that the Australians have for many years been concerned by the fact that the Japanese use a loophole to argue that they do this hunting for scientific research? Can anything be done about that?

My Lords, we regularly call for Japan to cease its so-called “scientific” whaling programme, as we consider there to be no valid argument for lethal scientific research on whales. As such, we therefore agree with Australian efforts to bring an end to these activities through the ICJ, and we look forward to the judgment in that case, which we expect this year.

My Lords, what discussions has the Minister had with colleagues in other European Governments to ensure that dolphins trapped in this hunt and sold for entertainment do not find their way into European aquariums?

My Lords, the issue is indeed of concern to a number of EU member states, and was discussed at the EU CITES management meeting in December. We continue to consider what measures the EU can take. For example, parties to CITES can place a reservation on a species, which means that they are not bound by the CITES controls relating to that species. We will, through the EU, continue to encourage countries such as Japan and others to withdraw their reservations on, for example, whale species.

My Lords, are the Government co-operating with the various animal welfare societies in this country, which feel very strongly about this, not least the Japan Animal Welfare Society, of which I have the honour to be patron?

I pay tribute to my noble friend for all the work she does for animal welfare. I agree with her that the pressure which animal welfare organisations can bring to bear in situations such as these is often more effective, frankly, than that of Governments.

My Lords, does my noble friend’s department keep records of the degree of pressure it receives in the context of different animal species or other species from within our own society, in line with what my noble friend Lady Fookes has just asked him, so that it has some idea of what is the scale of the pressure from within our own society?