Five whales killed as Japan resumes slaughter

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Sydney, Jan 31 (UNI) In a blatant snub to world sentiment, Japan resumed its slaughter of whales in the Southern Ocean late yesterday and has killed five whales, the Daily Telegraph reported here today.

Officers aboard the Australian Customs vessel Oceanic Viking witnessed the killing of whales - believed to be minke - about 3pm local time.

Whaling operations were interrupted for three weeks while protest groups Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd watched over the fleet.

Crew aboard the Oceanic Viking last night confirmed they had taken photo and video documentation of yesterday's harpoon and transfer of at least five whales from catcher vessels to the factory ship Nisshin Maru.

But Japanese whalers proved undeterred by the Australian surveillance crew, wasting no time in resuming their hunt to fullfil their quota of more than 935 whales.

The blatant snub to world sentiment comes just days after Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd activists retreated from the killing grounds to refuel.

And it came just hours after Japan's Institute of Cetacean Research issued a statement claiming whalers had been unfairly criticised.

"The Japanese scientific whaling program in the Southern Ocean will pursue its original research plan after the departure of both Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd back to Australia following weeks of dangerous and illegal harassment," the statement said.

The group then launched a broadside at the media, led by The Daily Telegraph, for campaigning against the slaughter.

When asked to defend the notion that harpooning whales could be called "research", institute spokesman Glenn Inwood said, "I'm not going to go through the results of our research with The Daily Telegraph." Almost 100,000 people have signed two Daily Telegraph-Today show petitions to end the hunt forever.

Though commercial whaling was banned in 1986 Japan is permitted to conduct annual culls for what it describes as cetacean research.

The Oceanic Viking was dispatched by Australian government to collect evidence for a possible legal challenge to the annual slaughter.

UNI XC MS VC1752

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