Three members of a Japanese whaling vessel were reportedly injured on Friday, as anti-whaling activists fired butyric acid at them. According to the Associated Press, the protesters fired the acid--which they insist is non-toxic--in order to disrupt the annual Japanese hunt.
Japan's Fisheries Minister, Hirotaka Akamatsu, responded furiously to the situation, telling reporters, "I am full of rage. I could not believe they did such a thing."
The nation's Chief Cabinet Secretary, Hirofumi Hirano, called the actions "unforgivable," adding "Thank God it did not result in serious injuries, but it is extremely regrettable."
The protesters, who belong to an activist group called Sea Shepherd, were following the whalers from two boats, the Steve Irwin and the Bob Barker, and maintain that the whalers were never in any serious danger. "It's a harmless liquid," Locky Maclean, first mate on the Steve Irwin, told the AP. "You can handle it, and it's not corrosive."
Members aboard the whaling vessels tell a different story, however.
Members of one crew said that they were targeted with a high-powered laser weapon, while smoke bombs and red dye projectiles were launched at their ship. According to spokesman Glenn Inwood, "They're using pretty high-tech systems to fire these missiles on board our ships." Inwood also pointed out that butyric acid, like that launched at the crew, can cause temporary blindness.
Three crew members altogether are said to have suffered face and eye injuries as a result of the protest, but they are expected to make a full recovery.