It's been a busy week or two in the battle for cetacean rights. One that saw anti-whaling organization Sea Shepherd, secure two court victories and ensure the delivery of a last minute petition to Hong Kong Airlines.
Activists even found time to rough up Amazon.com, by threatening a boycott of the online retail giant over its sale of whale meat through Amazon.jp.
first victory came in the trial of Cove Guardian, Erwin Vermeulen, whose case Digital Journal had been following since his arrest in Taiji, Japan last December. Accused of allegedly pushing a dolphin trainer, the Dutch national spent more than 60 days in a Japanese jail, until he was ordered released
on Feb. 15, by the judge presiding over his case.
On Feb. 21, the Wakayama Court Judge exonerated Vermeulen completely, finding the activist not guilty. It was a rare success in a nation that holds a 99% conviction rate. Vermeulen immediately rejoined his SSCS colleagues on the sidelines in Taiji, before finally heading home to the Netherlands Friday. Prior to his departure from Japan said the AFP
, Vermeulen appeared at a press conference held in Tokyo and said:
"My arrest, detention of two months and the trial have generated worldwide attention for the sake of dolphins in Taiji and for the Sea Shepherd in general. This exposure was funded by Japanese taxpayers' money."
Meanwhile in Seattle, a US federal judge Thursday, declined to immediately restrain the activities of the anti-whaling group. Last December, Japan's Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR) hired American law firm Miller Nash
to represent it in a suit aimed to prevent "acts of violence" by Sea Shepherd activists during this year's whale hunt in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.
Whalers even went as far as to ask the court in February to seize Sea Shepherd's accounts. The presiding Judge Jones said
, "It is apparent to me the Sea Shepherd would prefer that people not get hurt. There is no evidence that they have ever done anything with the intention of hurting anyone."
Hong Kong Airlines was next to feel the wrath of activists when they learned back in January, the company had transported 5 Taiji dolphins on a charter flight to Vietnam. The China Daily News
, which broke the story, said the airline had netted HK$875,000 to transport the dolphins "constrained in coffin-shaped plastic funnels surrounded by a clumsy makeshift structure of poles and straps."
Activists were furious.
On February 23 reported Sandy McElhaney of The Examiner
, the social media campaign Save Misty the Dolphin
launched an online petition urging Hong Kong Airlines to stop profiting from the misery of the Taiji dolphins.
Just two days later, the petition with 2,400 signatures was delivered to Hong Kong Airlines by Gary Stokes of Sea Shepherd Hong Kong. McElhaney, who is also an administrator with Save Misty the Dolphin, told Digital Journal today, that the petition
is still going strong and has received 5,000 signatures in just four days.
Hong Kong Airlines meanwhile, initially responded to Mr. Stokes with typical platitudes of regret often associated with large companies, but a response was more forthcoming when the story was picked up by the national press. The airline finally issued an official statement, which said in part:
"If cessation of flights of this nature helps in the protection of cruelty to wild life, Hong Kong Airlines will have no second thoughts. Hong Kong Airlines will make a donation to a charitable organization of its choice as a gesture of appreciation of its enlightenment."
McElhaney expressed delight with the results so far but remained guarded. She told Digital Journal:
We are grateful to everyone who worked so hard to get so many signatures on this petition in such a short timeframe and most especially to Gary Stokes and his colleagues at Sea Shepherd Hong Kong who personally delivered it to Hong Kong Airlines.
We are cautiously optimistic that in-roads are being made and our voices are being heard. The organizations working on the ground in Hong Kong have our full support. Save Misty the Dolphin is in this for the long haul. We will never be silent and never back down until the last one is free and the waters of the Cove are blue forever.
The social media campaign is also taking no chances. If Hong Kong Airlines does not cease operations for the transportation of Taiji dolphins, they said, Save Misty the Dolphin has threatened a boycott.
Finally, Amazon.com took a battering last week after the Feb. 21 release of "Amazon.com's Unpalatable Profits
," a new report by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) which revealed that Amazon.com was allowing the sale of whale meat through its Japanese subsidiary, which it wholly owns.
In the December survey, EIA found 147 different whale products for sale on Amazon.co.jp, including some from the list of endangered species. The Seattle-based company soon found itself harpooned after activists bombarded the retail giant with e-mails and plastered their Facebook page with comments and whaling images.
A threatened boycott soon garnered a rapid response from Amazon, virtually overnight. Queries to the company on Feb, 21, received the following message on Feb. 22:
"The items you referenced are not available for sale."
Activists groups are still calling on Amazon.com to enact an immediate corporate-wide policy prohibiting the sale of all cetacean products, and are demanding an official statement from the company announcing such. Amazon.com has yet to release a public response.
I wonder why?