News

Japan Confronts Whale Meat Glut

Many Japanese consider whale meat a delicacy and now a new generation is getting a taste of what was once a significant source of nutrition for the country. Whale is increasingly returning to Japanese school lunch menus as the country tries to figure out what to do with an unprecedented glut of the meat.

The Japanese government says the country has an unprecedented surplus of whale meat - thousands of tons of it - mainly due to an expanded catch of whales in the northwestern Pacific Ocean.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Tomohiko Taniguchi says a new government campaign to get the public to eat more whale meat is intended to re-balance the market.

"Whether or not there is an increased amount of inventory is actually a matter of demand and supply in the marketplace," he said. "There has been a decreased appetite for the whale meat, so the supply and balance situation is getting changed."

Whale was a significant source of protein for the Japanese before and immediately after the Second World War.

But with an increasing number of Japanese restaurant patrons and supermarket shoppers now turning up their noses at whale, more of the meat is being sent to schools. In January, 1,600 kilograms ended up at 100 elementary and junior high schools - double the amount for 2005.

Greenpeace Japan activist Mizuki Takana says the school children, in accordance with Japanese custom, will have no option but to clear their plates.

"I never eat the whale meat, so I do not know the taste," she said. "But some people say the taste is not good. So they [the schools] try to cook [whale meat] really nicely. So it is kind of difficult to distinguish - this is the whale meat, this is the pork, this is the beef. If the taste is good, kids, anyway, love it."

Among the items on the school menus: whale meatballs, whale burgers and whale spaghetti.

The oversupply is prompting questions at home and abroad about whether Japan should reduce or end its whaling research program, long opposed by environmentalists and many other countries.

Despite a 1987 international moratorium on whale hunting, Japan has continued to hunt the mammals, arguing that to research the habits and diets of whales, it is necessary to kill them.

Japan this year intends to double its catch to more than 1,000 minke whales, as well as a few dozen fin whales, humpbacks and other species.

Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Taniguchi says the whaling program is misunderstood overseas.

"This gives a false impression as if Japan is doing this in order to sell the meat in order for the nation to eat [the whale meat]," he said. "That is absolutely incorrect."

Taniguchi says the government only funds 10 percent of the $49 million annual budget for whaling research, thus the remainder has to come from sale of the meat.

Greenpeace is shifting its battle against Japanese whaling from the ocean to supermarket shelves, hoping to get consumers in Japan and around the world to boycott companies, including some multi-national corporations that it says directly or indirectly finance whaling.

Greenpeace International oceans activist Frode Pleym says the Japanese are apathetic about the issue because they do not know the details.

"You have a small number of people, namely within the Japanese fisheries industry, dependent on this policy going on," he said. "And I think when Japanese people increasingly learn about that they will not only continue to not eat whale meat, but they will, eventually, oppose it politically."

But the message the public is currently receiving from the government's "Delicious Whales" campaign is that

Japan's hunting of the animals does not endanger their survival and that eating whales is part of their national heritage.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs