From: Meraiah Foley, Associated Press
Published January 26, 2005 12:00 AM

Australian Government Says It Won't Back Anti-Whaling Lawsuit

SYDNEY, Australia — Australia's government will not support a court action by an animal rights group against a Japanese whaling company over allegations it illegally killed hundreds of whales inside an Australian whale sanctuary, a spokeswoman said Wednesday.


Last year, the Australian-based Humane Society International filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging Japanese whaling company Kyodo Senpaku had illegally slaughtered more than 400 minke whales in Antarctic waters that form part of Australia's economic zone and have been declared a whale sanctuary.


In November, the court said it was going to hold off on a ruling until the government made a statement about the case.


In court documents filed on Tuesday, the government said it would not support the lawsuit.


"We support the Humane Society's objectives in trying to stop whaling, but not the process of going through the Australian courts," a spokeswoman for Environment Minister Ian Campbell said Wednesday on condition of anonymity.


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"We don't see that as the best way to bring about a ban on all commercial whaling."


The Australian government -- which campaigns forcefully against whaling at international meetings -- has maintained that it will continue to pressure Japan to abandon whaling through diplomatic channels.


Japan is the world's prime consumer of whale meat. Like Iceland, it hunts whales for research, which is permitted by international whaling authorities. Environmentalists, however, say those programs amount to commercial whaling.


The Humane Society said Wednesday it was disappointed by the government's decision.


"We're surprised that Australia, when push comes to shove, would not want to exercise their sovereignty," said Nicola Beynon, a spokeswoman for the group.


"Diplomatic pressure's not working," Beynon said, adding that five Japanese whaling ships were due to arrive in Australian waters next month.


Source: Associated Press


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