Wakayama – The Wakayama District Court on Friday ordered the town of Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture, to pay ¥110,000 in compensation to an Australian woman who was barred from entering the town’s whale museum in February 2014.
Sarah Lucas, 31, a member of conservation group Australia for Dolphins (AFD), had sought around ¥3.3 million in compensation, claiming the town’s actions constituted unjust discrimination and an obstruction of freedom of thought and conscience.
The court found the Taiji Whale Museum had illegally interfered with Lucas’ access to information inside the facility.
In her suit, Lucas argued the refusal was “aimed at excluding those opposed to whaling from the museum.”
She claimed the facility regularly refuses entry to foreign nationals.
The town called for the suit to be dismissed, arguing Lucas had visited the museum four days before she was refused entry and shot footage inside the facility with large camera equipment without authorization.
The museum’s barring of Lucas was not intended as discrimination against foreign nationals but to avoid further trouble, the town claimed.
According to the suit, the museum turned away Lucas and her late father, Alastair, in February 2014, citing a written notice saying people opposed to whaling cannot enter the facility.
The pair were wearing clothes bearing the AFD’s logo.
When they persisted, asking about the entrance fee and trying to photograph the notice with smartphones, museum staff covered up the notice and gestured at them not to photograph it, according to the suit.
Alastair Lucas was also listed as a plaintiff in the suit, but has since died.
Taiji has received global criticism for its continuation of a dolphin drive hunting practice. The town is also one of Japan’s major whaling bases.