In what may be a  historic decision, the UN’s top court has ordered Japan to stop its annual whale hunt in the Antarctic. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) rejected Tokyo’s arguments that whaling has scientific purposes, in a case which many believe will shape the future of the giant mammals.

“Japan shall revoke any existant authorisation, permit or licence granted in relation to Jarpa II [research programme] and refrain from granting any further permits in pursuance to the programme,” the International Court of Justice’s Judge Peter Tomka said on Monday.

This decision was backed by almost the entire scientific community – there is no real need to use lethal methods here. Even if dead whales were somehow necessary, thousands of whales strand themselves on beaches worldwide each year – providing more than enough study naterial. But in fact, this entire “scientific” operation is merely a front for a commercial operation.

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The situation was ignited when Australia asked the world court to order Japan to stop its JARPA II research programme and revoke “any authorisations, permits or licences” to hunt whales in the region. Tokyo defended itself, arguing that the operation has a scientific purpose – probably because it was the only reason they could invoke, they really have no excuse here.

Since 1988 Japan has slaughtered more than 10,000 whales under the programme, but thankfully, this will now be stopped. The decision was almost unanimously hailed. Writing for The Guardian, Karl Mathiesen says:

Today’s ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) displayed a level of resolution and common sense rarely seen in global decision making. While they declined to assess the scientific merit of the programme, the judges found that Japan’s activity was inconsistent with a nation solely interested in whale research. The conclusion was that the Japanese whaling research programme, Jarpa II, is simply a front for a not very successful commercial operation.