Anti-whaling activists Saturday accused Tokyo of lying about an Antarctic clash in which three harpooners were hurt, claiming they had video proof the Japanese crew's injuries were self-inflicted.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society rejected claims from a furious Japanese government that their activists had wounded three whalers with rancid butter bombs, saying video footage clearly showed the men had injured themselves.
"In reviewing video footage of the confrontation, the Sea Shepherd crew discovered the real source of injuries for the three Japanese crew members," the Society said in a statement.
"The three crew were injured because they shot themselves in the face with pepper spray."
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society-issued photo shows the activist group's ship Bob Barker (left) colliding with Japanese harpoon ship Yushin Maru No. 3 (right) in Antarctic waters.
said the footage, which had been posted on the Internet, showed crew with metal cannisters strapped to their backs attempting to spray activists in a nearby inflatable boat.
"However the wind was not in favour of this Japanese tactic and the pepper spray is blown back into the faces of the three crew, who can be clearly seen rubbing their eyes," the Society said.
Japan expressed strong anger over the incident Friday, accusing the Sea Shepherd's butter bombs of causing "acid-splash chemical injury" to the whalers during a five-hour confrontation in the Southern Ocean on February 11.
But Sea Shepherd captain Paul Watson said the organisation had never injured a single person in its 33-year history.
"This video absolves Sea Shepherd of any wrong-doing and demonstrates that the Japanese whalers routinely spin their stories to demonise our efforts to defend the whales from their illegal activities," Watson said.
Commercial whaling has been banned worldwide since 1986, but Japan kills hundreds of the sea mammals a year in Antarctic waters in the name of scientific research. It does not hide the fact that the whale meat is later sold in shops and restaurants.
Last month, the Sea Shepherd's futuristic powerboat Ady Gil was sliced in two and sank after a collision with one of the Japanese ships, leading both Australia and New Zealand to call for restraint on all sides.