THE HAGUE, Netherlands -- The International Court of Justice on Monday ordered a temporary halt to Japan's Antarctic whaling program, ruling that it is not for scientific purposes as the Japanese had claimed.

Australia had sued Japan at the U.N.'s highest court for resolving disputes between nations in hopes of ending whaling in the icy Southern Ocean.

Reading a 12-4 decision by the court's 16-judge panel, Presiding Judge Peter Tomka of Slovakia said Japan's program failed to justify the large number of minke whales it takes under its current Antarctic program, while failing to meet much smaller targets for fin and humpback whales.

"The evidence does not establish that the program's design and implementation are reasonable in relation to achieving its stated objectives,'' he said.

He noted among other factors that Japan had not considered a smaller program or non-lethal methods to study whale populations, and that it cited only two peer-reviewed scientific papers relating to its program from 2005 to the present _ a period in which it has harpooned 3,600 minke whales, a handful of fin whales, and no humpback whales.

The court ordered Japan to halt any issuing of whaling permits until the program has been revamped.

The decision is a major victory for Australia and environmental groups that oppose whaling on ethical grounds, though it will not mean the end of whaling.

Japan has a second, smaller program in the northern Pacific. Meanwhile Norway and Iceland reject a 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling imposed by the International Whaling Commission and conduct for-profit whaling.

Japan had argued that Australia's suit was an attempt to force its cultural norms on Japan, equivalent to Hindus demanding an international ban on killing cows.

Though consumption of whale meat has declined in popularity in Japan in recent years, it is still considered a delicacy by some.

Japan has pledged to abide by the court's ruling, however.

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  • Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians Capture Pilot Whale Slaughter

    Remaining pod still alive swimming in family members blood in killing cove. Bodies being taken via skiff to the butcherhouse. Utterly despicable

  • Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians Capture Pilot Whale Slaughter

    The cove runs red as most of the pilot whales have been slaughtered. A small remaining number of the pod remains alive at outer edge of net. Traumatized as they witnessed their family murdered and dragged out toward butcher house. 7:06am

  • Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians Capture Pilot Whale Slaughter

    A baby Pilot Whale is included in this pod that is about to be slaughtered. — at Taiji Japan.

  • Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians Capture Pilot Whale Slaughter

    Killers leave the pod over night in the killing cove. — at Taiji Japan.

  • Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians Capture Pilot Whale Slaughter

    Clinging to all they have left of their time on this earth. — at Taiji Japan.

  • Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians Capture Pilot Whale Slaughter

    Their fate is vein sealed as the net is pulled across the entrance of the cove. — at Taiji Japan.

  • Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians Capture Pilot Whale Slaughter

    Skiffs join the killing boats as they drive pod toward the killing cove. — at Taiji Japan.

  • Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians Capture Pilot Whale Slaughter

    This pod struggled for hours and put up a good fight. — at Taiji Japan.

  • Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians Capture Pilot Whale Slaughter

    Another day of work for the dolphin killers — at Taiji Japan.

  • Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians Capture Pilot Whale Slaughter

    View of the killing boats at the harbor entrance as we begin to Live Stream — at Taiji Japan.

  • Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians Capture Pilot Whale Slaughter

    THe family of Pilot Whales fought the strong current as they were being driven toward the killing cove. — at Taiji Japan.

  • Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians Capture Pilot Whale Slaughter

    This family will be slaughtered just after sunrise tomorrow morning. — at Taiji Japan.

  • Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians Capture Pilot Whale Slaughter

    View from the beach of the cove as daily life continues for local folks. — at Taiji Japan.

  • Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians Capture Pilot Whale Slaughter

    The pod of approximately 30-35 Pilot Whales clung together in the center of the cove, where they will be held overnight until they are slaughtered just after sunrise tomorrow morning. — at Taiji Japan.

  • Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians Capture Pilot Whale Slaughter

    Killers use "slap paddles" to intimidate the pod.

  • Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians Capture Pilot Whale Slaughter

    After a long struggle, the pilot whale pod was driven into the cove by 7 killing boats.

  • Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians Capture Pilot Whale Slaughter

    Killers pull net across entrance of the cove.

  • Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians Capture Pilot Whale Slaughter

    The haunting visual of the killing boats intimidating this pod of Pilot Whales. — at Taiji Japan.

  • Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians Capture Pilot Whale Slaughter

    Cove Guardians Live Stream as killing boats reach the entrance of the cove.

  • Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians Capture Pilot Whale Slaughter

    Pod of Pilot Whales will be held overnight in the killing cove until sunrise tomorrow. This pod will be slaughtered. We have stopped live streaming for today.

  • Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians Capture Pilot Whale Slaughter

    Live Stream to begin in 5 minutes as a pod of Pilot Whales is being driven toward the cove right now. http://Livestream.seashepherd.org/

  • Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians Capture Pilot Whale Slaughter

    Despite choppy seas and ship traffic, the dolphin killers continue to drive a pod toward Taiji. We will be posting updates regarding Live Stream.