Japanese whalers sailed to the Antarctic in December with the goal of killing 333 minke whales. Discover reports they returned Thursday having met that goal. Japan signed on to an international moratorium banning whale hunting in 1986 but has since been taking advantage of a loophole that allows killing whales in the name of "scientific research." In what can only be seen as a particularly bold claim, Japan says it's killing whales as part of research meant to prove there are enough whales for them to hunt commercially. For years the country has insisted most whales aren't actually endangered, seeking to return to hunting whales for food, according to Reuters.
But the UN says that's exactly what's happening now under the guise of scientific research. Japan openly admits that the meat from the whales killed in the name of science is used for food, including in school lunches. That prompted the UN to ban Japan's hunt last year, Gizmodo reports. For one year, Japan managed to conduct its research without killing any whales before falling back on claims that killing is necessary. This year's haul was the largest in years. Approximately 90% of the mature female whales killed in this year's hunt were pregnant, which Japan says shows their "breeding situation" is "healthy." The country plans to kill 4,000 whales over the next dozen years. (Read more whaling stories.)