Celebrities and animal conservation and welfare NGOs from across the globe are calling for an ‘international whaling intervention’ to be staged at the G20 summit in Osaka as summit hosts Japan prepare to launch a renewed commercial whaling programme. The programme will see Japan openly killing sei, Bryde’s and minke whales for consumption with no pretense of science.

Letters have been sent to all G20 leaders calling on them to publicly object at the summit to Japan’s commercial whaling intentions, and to deliver a joint declaration calling for the end to all commercial whaling globally. See the full letter here.

Celebrities Stephen Fry, Ricky Gervais, Dr Jane Goodall, Liz Bonnin, Steve Backshall, Virginia McKenna and Nicky Campbell, alongside more than 100 conservation charities and champions within almost all the countries in the G20, are backing pleas for international anti-whaling pressure to be placed on Japan.

“It has taken the combined efforts of every nation on earth to bring whale conservation to the fore. At the G20 summit, our leaders need to talk to our friends in Japan, and let them know that – on this issue – they are deeply at odds with the rest of the world,” said BAFTA-winning English naturalist, writer and TV presenter Steve Backshall.

“This week while one part of the Japanese government is proudly facilitating international cooperation by hosting the G20 meeting, another is quietly extricating itself from the obligation for global collaboration on the protection and management of the world’s whales. Japan leaving the IWC and defying international law to pursue its commercial whaling ambitions is renegade, retrograde and myopic, it is undermining its international reputation for an industry whose days are so clearly numbered, to produce a product for which demand has plummeted. The IWC is maintaining its ban on commercial whaling for very good reasons and world leaders meeting in Japan this week should not turn a blind eye to the cruel assault planned on whales of the North Pacific,” said Kitty Block, president of Humane Society International.

“The fight to protect whales gave birth to the modern environment movement 50 years ago. Yet during a year where Extinction Rebellion, Greta Thurnberg and school children worldwide are challenging our leaders to tackle environmental decline, Japan is sending its whaling ships back to sea, within days of the hosting the G20 Summit. There is no justification for whaling on scientific or economic grounds. World leaders should call on Japan to halt its commercial whaling plans and return to supporting global efforts to protect whales and their ocean habitats. If we fail to protect whales, the future for mankind and our planet will be very bleak indeed,” said Dominic Dyer of Born Free Foundation.

There is no commercial or other pressing need for Japan to relaunch its whaling activity, with whale meat consumption in Japan down almost 99% from 1962 to 2017, when less than 4,000 tonnes were eaten. But there is a huge need to prevent a further decline in whale numbers. The IWC international ban on commercial whaling, agreed in 1982, has helped great whale populations increase, saving several from extinction. Yet many whale populations remain low or endangered – and all whales face the huge threats of fishing-related deaths, ship collisions, climate change, and chemical, litter and noise pollution.

With whales playing a key role in our marine ecosystems (including locking up carbon and providing nourishment for phytoplankton essential to ocean food chains) it is vital that Governments around the world help to protect them to keep our seas healthy. G20 leaders have the ideal opportunity at the Osaka summit to echo public opinion on the need for Japan to end this cruel and unnecessary practice. Peaceful anti-whaling protest events will also be taking place in London, Edinburgh and other cities around the world on Saturday to draw attention to this issue.