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After whale wars, Greenpeace tries quieter tack

Two Greenpeace Japan activists will go to trial Feb. 12 after trying to expose illegal sales of whale meat. In a departure from the confrontational tactics of Sea Shepherd and its "Whale Wars," Greenpeace is trying to quietly convince Japan to end whaling.

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Even as Sea Shepherd antiwhaling activists harangue Japan's whaling fleet in the Southern Ocean, Greenpeace is waging a quieter war for hearts and minds back in the whalers' homeland.

The change in tack is an acknowledgment that years of watching reports of foreign activists targeting whaling ships, as well as a steady stream of official claims that outsiders are attacking a traditional cultural practice, have hardened the attitudes of some Japanese - even those who have no interest in eating whale meat.

Many people here do, however, have fond memories of eating whale meat in school lunches, and see little difference between consuming it and other types of flesh. And few people know the relatively small whaling industry receives about 500 million yen ($5.5 million) annually in public subsidies, at a time when wasting tax money is a hot topic.

Greenpeace has chosen to pin its hopes on changing public opinion in Japan by focusing on the issue of wasted taxes and allegations of corruption among whalers, despite official hostility and a mostly unsympathetic domestic media.

Jun Morikawa, a professor at Rakuno Gakuen University in Hokkaido, and author of “Whaling in Japan: Power, Politics and Diplomacy,” says Greenpeace’s approach may be more effective in changing Japanese minds then the aggressive tactics of Sea Shepherd, which has demonized Japan and its whalers on the reality TV show Whale Wars.

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