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Dead sperm whale in The Wash, East Anglia, England. © CSIP-ZSL.

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Our last chance to get the EU to save the whales

Two years ago, we launched our campaign calling on the EU to make whaling a deal breaker in its trade negotiations with Japan. Our reasoning is simple: having a political and economic powerhouse like the EU clearly signal that the flouting of international agreements and the senseless slaughter of whales is a danger to making a lot of money, might actually do the trick with Japan and make them reconsider their whaling policies.

If you were one of the many people who signed our call to the EU – thank you! Together, we have made considerable progress and our campaign has demonstrated what an impact your voice can have. Yes, petitions can work.

After its launch in March 2016, our campaign was echoed by Members of the EU Parliament, who jointly questioned the European Commission (which is leading the trade talks for the EU) on how whaling would play into the discussions. That question was followed by a lively debate in Parliament and topped off with a resolution, calling on the Commission to do their utmost to discuss whaling with their Japanese counterparts. Many MEPs passionately spoke out against the killing of whales. WDC also held a joint event in Parliament, to directly discuss the issue with MEPs and representatives from the Commission.

Thanks the help of our partners at petition site, Care2 and everyone who supported the call, we collected almost 270,000 signatures that we presented to Bernd Lange, the chair of the EU Parliament’s Trade Committee in October 2016. He was sympathetic to our campaign and agreed that the stance of the European Parliament on the issue is clear.

We then officially submitted the petition to the EU Parliament’s Committee on Petitions (PETI). Although the EU Commission continued to be dismissive of our call, the PETI chair invited WDC to present on the topic in November 2017. Many of the MEPs who were present agreed with our ask and the need for whaling to be a topic – and a deal breaker – in the trade talks. Subsequently, PETI members decided to address a personal letter to Cecilia Malmström, the EU Commission’s lead in the trade talks, to express their concern and ask for a statement. The Committee chair pointed out that the voice of almost 270,000 people should not be dismissed.

Now, the circle is closing as preparations for the trade agreement are in their final stage. The Commission has, despite all concerns, finalised the talks with Japan. It is now over to the EU Parliament’s Trade Committee to review the outcome and give recommendations to the Members of Parliament on next steps. After all, in order to enter into force, the agreement needs the final approval by the European Parliament!

The Japanese Government is determined to continue its annual whale slaughter under the guise of science with the aim of bringing back commercial whaling.

In June 2017, the Japanese Parliament agreed on a new law on whaling, which locks in its commercial whaling ambitions and just a few weeks ago, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stated his government’s commitment to a resumption of commercial whaling.

The EU has the historic chance to actually make Japan think again about whaling. The whaling lobby in Japan is powerful, yet the continuation of this outdated and cruel industry only serves the interest of a select few, a political clique that does not care for the interests of the wider Japanese public, nor the conservation of the ocean and the whales.

We have seen many welcome statements against Japanese whaling from the EU and other countries over the last few years. Unfortunately, these are not much more than toothless paper tigers that the Japanese Government could not care about less. However if the EU demonstrates that conservation and the voice of the European public are not trumped by economic interests – and that there won’t be an agreement unless Japan stops whaling for good – then that would certainly make an impression.

So, I am hoping that all of you – and hopefully many more – who have helped us get to this stage, will join us again in calling on the Trade Committee review to raise Japan’s whaling as a concern and deal breaker. Together we have come this far but we only have a few months left to get the EU to be a real voice for the whales. Let’s make the coming weeks count. Please sign and share our petition wide and far. Thank you!

TAKE ACTION – SIGN OUR LETTER TO BERND LANGE NOW. YOU CAN MAKE THE DIFFERENCE.

About Astrid Fuchs

Astrid Fuchs leitet bei WDC Deutschland den Bereich Policy und strategische Entwicklung. Daneben koordiniert sie die EU-Arbeit und betreut die Bereiche Walfang und Delfinarien.