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Last Updated: Saturday February 07 2009 12:58 GMT

Whaling ships clash in Antarctica

Campaigners' boat collides with whaling ship

A boat carrying anti-whaling protestors has collided with a Japanese whaling vessel in the Antarctic Ocean.

Japan says their ship was rammed on purpose and called it an "unforgiveable act of violence".

But campaigners claim the collision was unavoidable, saying the whalers blocked their path as they tried to stop a dead whale being loaded onto Japan's ship.

It's the latest of many confrontations between the two sides, which are said to be getting increasingly aggressive.

Japan is regularly criticised for killing up to 1,000 whales every year, for what it calls genuine scientific research.

A humpback whale
But anti-hunting groups say the whaling is unnecessary and think Japan is more interested in selling the meat for food.

It's been illegal to kill whales for their meat since 1986 and whalers and protesters regularly clash out at sea.

Anti-whaling activists have been following the latest Japanese fleet since December.

Since then both sides have accused each other of throwing things at their boats and getting in each other's way.

The Australian and New Zealand governments, who are against Japan's whaling activities, are once again asking both sides to stay calm.

But environmental groups are insisting they will continue to do all they can to disrupt the hunt.