Anonymous hack crusade against whaling downs nearly 100 sites in Japan

© Peter Nicholls
The hacktivist group Anonymous has attacked at least 97 websites in Japan since September, the country's police has revealed. The attacks are meant to protest controversial whaling practices in the East Asian country.

The websites of government offices, groups involved in dolphin and whale hunting, aquariums, news organizations and airports have been targeted, Japanese national broadcaster NHK reported. Among the highest-profile cases was the downing of the personal website of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last week.

Anonymous, an umbrella organization using cyberattacks as a form of activism, is protesting Japan's practice of hunting cetaceans, which is drawing global condemnation from animal rights defenders.

Japan banned commercial whaling decades ago, but has been regularly hunting whales for what it claims to be scientific research. Last year the International Court of Justice ruled that Japan's failed to prove a scientific necessity for killing hundreds of whales in Antarctica each year and ordered the practice to be stopped. Despite the ruling Japan resumed whaling this year after a year-long suspension.

Another point of criticism is the annual dolphin hunt in the village of Taiji in the south-eastern Wakayama Prefecture, which was made infamous by the Oscar-winning 2009 documentary The Cove. During the hunt the dolphins are driven into a cove, trapped with nets and later slaughtered by fishermen for their meat or captured and sold to maritime parks.

At one point Taiji authorities considered capitalizing on the newfound notoriety by opening a delphinium where visitors could both watch dolphin performances and eat meals cooked from their less-fortunate fellow captives.

In May, the Japanese Association of Zoos and Aquariums banned its 37 members from buying dolphins from the Taiji drive hunt.

The Japanese police warned that Anonymous attacks may ramp up in the run-up to next year's G7 summit in Mie Prefecture, which borders the Wakayama Prefecture.