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.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs