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SOUTHERN OCEAN, Antarctica -- With menacing actions and words, Japan yesterday defied the world to stop it killing whales.
A Japanese harpooner allegedly rammed Greenpeace activists in the Antarctic, and the country's whaling industry lashed out at opposition to its bloody trade.
In a rare public statement, Japan Whaling Association president Keiichi Nakajima declared that killing the giant mammals was the only effective way to study them.
Mr Nakajima also called on countries like Australia to tolerate the culls out of respect for "cultural diversity".
"There are enough whales for both those who want to eat them and those who want to watch them," he said.
Mr Nakajima said Australia's problem with eating whale meat sprang from a difference between Eastern and Western thinking.
Japanese whaling crews yesterday held up signs, which may have suffered in translation, proclaiming: "science-based lethal research".
Mr Nakajima then directed his tirade at Greenpeace, whose anti-whaling vessel Arctic Sunrise was allegedly rammed by a Japanese ship in Antarctic waters yesterday.
Intervention by inflatable boats caused whales to suffer by preventing "efficient" shooting, he said.
Weeks of skirmishes between protesters and whalers climaxed in dramatic fashion yesterday when Greenpeace claimed the Japanese mother ship Nisshin Maru had charged Greenpeace's boat.
Greenpeace expedition leader Shane Rattenbury said the incident occurred as activists in inflatable boats painted graffiti on the whaling supply ship Oriental Bluebird.
"The mother ship was transferring whale meat when it suddenly dropped its mooring lines and started its engines," Mr Rattenbury said.
"It came towards us at such a speed that we were unable to avoid it."
Mr Rattenbury said his 57-strong crew, including five Australians, had three minutes to prepare for impact.
Greenpeace's boat suffered a 3m gash to its bow, he said.