Japan and Australia have begun battling it out in the UN's International Court of Justice over the former's annual whale hunt. Commercial whaling was banned in 1986, but Japan continues to kill minke and fin whales for what it argues is legitimate scientific research, reports the AP. "Japan's research whaling has been conducted for scientific research in accordance with international law," Japan's Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs said today. Australia isn't buying it. "Japan seeks to cloak its ongoing commercial whaling in the lab coat of science," Australia's agent to the court argued as proceedings began in the Hague today.
"You don't kill 935 whales in a year to conduct scientific research," he continued. "You don't even need to kill one whale to conduct scientific research." The meat from the whales Japan captures is sold commercially. But the country says it can demonstrate that its research provides data on whale populations, and that its 1,000-whale annual catch is sustainable, reports the BBC. The court won't come to a final decision for months, but the decision it does make will be legally binding, the AP notes. Aussie officials are hoping for a judgement before Japan's 2013 hunt begins. (Read more Japan stories.)