The Institute of Cetacean Research, a quasi-public body that coordinates Japan’s controversial whale hunting activities, is reporting that about 75 percent of the more than1,000 tons of meat from whales harvested as part of the country’s (alleged) deep-sea “research mission” was passed over by buyers, despite repeated attempts to sell it off, according to news reports.
The institute sponsored several wholesale auctions over the last six months to try to sell frozen meat from whales hunted in the northern Pacific Ocean last summer. The auctions were intended to promote domestic consumption of whale meat and raise revenue for the organization’s, um, “marine research” program.
A spokesman for the institute blamed the “disappointing” auction results on commercial buyers wishing to avoid trouble with anti-whaling activists. “We have to think about new ways to market whale meat,” he told the Australian news service News.com.au.
Thank you, Captain Obvious.
The truth is that the worldwide anti-whaling movement has affected much of the Japanese population—especially younger people—turning them off to eating what had been a traditional food for centuries in that country. News coverage of anti-whaling protests staged by Greenpeace, Sea Shepherd and other environmental groups that paint Japan’s so-called research activities as nothing more than a cover for commercial whaling that they say threatens the survival of the marine mammals.
Japanese officials, however, argue that the research is necessary to support its position that, in fact, there is a robust, healthy whale population worldwide that could be harvested under controlled conditions. The standard line is that its whaling industry is part of a long cultural tradition and Western critics who condemn the Japanese are merely displaying cultural insensitivity.
Both the country’s entrenched fishing-industry leaders—easily comparable in terms of the North American beef industry in terms of its economic and political clout—and a coalition of conservative politicians have demanded that there be no compromise, no scaling back of the country’s whale hunting.
Whaling no; country yes
Here’s the reality: Although only a rapidly shrinking minority of the Japanese public actually buys and consumes whale meat—I sampled it on a visit to Tokyo, and memories of all those movie scenes of sailors slicing up giant slabs of blubber pretty much killed whatever appetite I might have had for choking down the rubbery, greasy meat—a much larger percentage vocally supports the country’s whaling hunts.