Talks spark London protest against Japanese whaling

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The Independent Online

The row over the killing of whales by Japan came to London yesterday as the International Whaling Commission began three days of informal talks amid impassioned protests by conservationists.

One man was arrested after scaling the Japanese embassy in London and unfurling a banner which read: "Japan stop your illegal whaling" before chaining himself to the building.

Outside the hotel near Heathrow airport in which the talks were taking a place, a number of protesters gathered, waving banners criticising the Japanese whalers.

The talks are aimed at breaking the deadlock between pro- and anti-whaling groups after a number of high-profile sabotage attempts by the US-based militant conservationist group, Sea Shepherd.

Martin Wyness, 50, a Sea Shepherd activist arrested for criminal trespass at the Japanese embassy yesterday, said: "I think an awful lot of people in Britain are not happy that the Japanese can proudly fly their flag at the top of the mast while they continue this illegal whaling sham. So I've lowered it to half mast in tribute to the whales they have killed."

Mr Wyness, who staged a similar stunt at the embassy in January, added: "I want to put the focus on the IWC, and encourage them to stand firm against Japan, Iceland and Norway. Norway and Iceland admit they kill whales for their meat, but Japan still pretend they do it for research. We want the IWC to encourage Japan to start behaving like a responsible nation."

Relations between activists and Japanese whalers reached a low on Monday when acid was thrown on crew members of a ship participating in Japan's annual whale hunt in the Southern Ocean.

Japan's Foreign Minister, Masahiko Komura, said it was "not permissible to use violence to try to force through one's opinion."

The Southern Ocean was the scene of a stand-off in January when activists boarded a Japanese whaling ship and were kept there until the Australian government intervened.