Activists sentenced for whale meat theft

Two Greenpeace activists were today given one-year suspended jail sentences by a Japanese court for stealing whale meat they claim was intended for illegal consumption.

They were found guilty of stealing 50lbs of whale meat from a delivery service company’s warehouse in 2008. The meat came from whales killed during Japan’s government-backed research hunts.

Japan hunts whales in its coastal waters and in the Antarctic under the research exemption to the 1986 ban on whaling by the International Whaling Commission.

Critics say the scientific hunts are a cover for commercial whaling because the meat from the killed whales mostly ends up in restaurants, stores and school lunches.

Junichi Sato, 33, and Toru Suzuki, 43, will not serve jail time, the Aomori District Court court officials said.

The two pleaded not guilty to the theft charge but admitted trespassing, saying they wanted to highlight the murky operations of research whaling and to file a criminal complaint with the authorities.

Sato said he and his fellow activist would appeal.

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