Japan Reportedly Set to Expand Number of Whales Species It Hunts for ‘Scientific’ Purposes

In April, the Japanese press claimed that along with plans to increase the number of minke whales it kills annually, it plans to begin taking humpback and fin whales, species which it has not hunted since the International Whaling Commission’s moratorium on commercial whale hunting went into effect in 1986.

Along with minke whales, Japan currently hunts sei whales, sperm whales and Bryde’s whales as part of a limited scientific research hunting it is allowed to cull without being in violation of the commercial hunting moratorium.

According to Kyodo news agency, Japan will submit a whaling plan to the IWC ahead of its meeting this summer in which it outlines plans to almost double its current take of 440 minke whales, as well as add around 10 humpback and 10 fin whales.

An unidentified Japan Fisheries Agency official would not comment on the veracity of the report, but did tell Reuters,

However, it has been recorded that the populations of the humpback and fin whales in Antarctica are increasing. Nobody disputes this.

. . .

We always maintain that we will discuss these things scientifically, but with whales, it quickly grows emotional.

This is clearly a ploy on the part of Japan to ratchet up the rhetoric in favor of eliminating the commercial moratorium on whaling ahead of the IWC’s next meeting. Currently the moratorium is hanging on by a thread, barely surviving recent efforts by Japan and Norway to return to regulated commercial hunting of whales.

Source:

Reports: Japan to Expand Whale Hunt to New Species. Elaine Lies, Reuters, April 12, 2005.

First Successful Live-Donor Islet Cell Transplantation Procedure

In February, the BBC reported that a team at Japan’s Kyoto University Hospital had succeeded in transplanting islet cells from a healthy woman into her 27-year-old diabetic daughter.

Islet cell transplantations have been performed before, but always from dead organ donors, which created a number of problems since the islet cells were frequently damaged after the death of the donor. And in countries as Japan, dead organ donors are extremely rare.

As the BBC notes, this could be an effective treatment for Type 1 diabetes, and we have animal research to thank for this advance.

That islet transplantation might be used to treat diabetes was first established by Dr. Paul Lacy who used a rat model in which he made the experimental rats suffer from diabetes and then transplanted islet cells from healthy rats. The rats were effectively cured of their diabetes.

How important was this animal research? Dr. James Shapiro was the lead surgeon on the team that transplanted the islet cells. In an interview, he said that a key at DiabetesStation.Com, Shapiro noted that animal research was instrumental in helping researchers understand where the islet cells should be transplanted to for maximum effectiveness,

The idea to use the liver was not mine. Experiments in rats, in large animals, and eventually in people all suggested that the liver was about the only site where islets could take well and work in people.

Sort of odd how that could happen if animals are too different from human beings for animal research to be applicable to human health problems.

Sources:

Living donor diabetes transplant. The BBC, February 4, 2005.

Islet Cell Transplant. Dr. James Shapiro, April 13, 2003.

World-first living donor islet cell transplant a success. Press release, University of Alberta, February 3, 2005.

Japanese Fisheries Official Says Whaling Is a 'Right'

Masayuki Komatsu, a senior Japanese Fisheries Agency official and delegate to the International Whaling Commission, said in September that whaling is a right and an important part of Japan’s cultural heritage.

Reuters reported that Komatsu told a gathering of journalists,

Eating whale is a key part of Japanese culture. . . . There are so many robust whales stocks, such as minke whales, the sei whale, the Bryde’s whale. . . . Sperm whales are rampant. They may be around twice the number of minke whales.

Komatsu has previously referred to minke whales as “cockroaches of the sea” and explained to his statement to journalists thusly,

There are two characteristics. One is that there are so many of both of them. And the reproduction rate for those two animals is very rapid. That’s why I said a minke whale is like a cockroach.

Komatsu noted that the Japanese government has already commissioned studies on what the impact would be if Japan decided to abandon the International Whaling Commission which so far has refused Japanese efforts to overturn the two decade ban on commercial whaling, but that no decision had been made yet on whether Japan would withdraw from the organization if it should again fail to overturn the ban at the 2005 IWC meeting.

Source:

Japan says whaling a right. Elaine Lies, Reuters, September 15, 2004.

Japan Anti-Vivisection Association Loses Lawsuit

Japan Today reports that the Japan Anti-Vivisection Association lost a recent lawsuit aimed at preventing the transfer of Japanese monkeys from a zoo to a primate research facility.

The group wanted to stop the transfer of animals from the Maruyama Zoo in Sapporo to the Kyoto University’s Primate Research Institute.

As many as 2,400 monkeys may be transferred as part of the plan. The monkeys are to be used to stock a primate breeding facility to provide primates for biomedical research in Japan.

Sources:

Animal rights group loses suit to halt use of monkeys for research. Japan Today, July 30, 2004.

Stop plans to use Japanese zoo monkeys for lab research. Press Release, International Primate Protection League, October 7, 2003.

CITES Rejects Japan's Whale Appeal

The Convention on International Trade in Endanger Species (CITES) this month rejected a request by Japan to remove minke whales from the CITES Appendix I list of threatened species in which international trade is prohibited.

Japan had filed an appeal with CITES seeking to have minke whales moved to the CITES Appending II, in which highly regulated trade of an endangered species is permitted.

In a news conference, CITES secretary general Willem Wijnstekers said that the proper place to take up whale-related issues was the International Whaling Commission and that as long as the IWC’s ban on commercial whaling remains in place, so will the Appendix I listing of whales.

Wijnstekers said,

As long as the International Whaling Commission maintains a zero-catch quota for commercial reasons in its management of minke whales, then the best way to coordinate that level of protection within CITES is by maintaining the species in appendix I.

Source:

CITES rejects Japanese call for partial end to ban on whale trade. Agence-France Presse, June 14, 2004.

Tokyo to Prohibit Sale of Used Underwear from Young Schoolgirls

The Telegraph reports that Tokyo is in the process of amending its laws in order to forbid sex shops there from reselling used underwear from girls under the age of 16. In case you were curious, a pair of used girl’s underwear sells for about 25 pounds according to the Telegraph.

According to the Telegraph,

The shops also sell swimsuits, gym knickers and schoolgirl uniforms, which resemble sailor outfits.

Prostitution involving underage girls is apparently a serious problem in Tokyo, and the city is banning the sale of used underwear by young girls as part of its efforts to crackdown on the problem. But why not just ban the sale of any used underwear on health grounds? Weird.

Source:

Tokyo calls for ban on sale of used schoolgirls’ underwear. Colin Joyce, Telegraph (UK), January 16, 2004.