Monday, February 13, 2006

Even with Falling Consumer Demand, the Japanese Still Love to Kill and Eat Endangered Whales

Here are a few quotes from the story below. Sad to see that they’re not getting the picture that many consumers in Japan know that killing whales in unacceptable. Yet, the continue to do so at huge rates.


"But the country has been caught in a dilemma: by rapidly expanding its much-criticised whaling programme, Japan now kills far more of the mammals than its consumers care to eat. The result is an unprecedented glut. Prices are plunging, inventories are full and promoters are scrambling to find new ways to get Japanese to eat whale.

However, the surplus hasn't stopped the harpoon guns. Japan plans to kill - under a "research programme" - some 1,070 minke whales in 2006, about 400 more than last year and more than double the number it hunted a decade ago. It will also hunt ten fin whales and a total of 160 Bryde's, sei and sperm whales, a fisheries official said."

You can find more on the Japanese and killing whales here:

http://geari.blogspot.com/2006/01/japanese

-kill-more-whales-photos-here.html

Article:

Are Japanese losing the taste for whale?

http://news.scotsman.com/topics.cfm?

tid=226&id=210702006

HIROKO TABUCHI IN TOKYO

JAPAN has enticed children with whale burger school lunches, sung the praises of whale meat in colourful pamphlets and declared whale hunting "a national heritage".

But the country has been caught in a dilemma: by rapidly expanding its much-criticised whaling programme, Japan now kills far more of the mammals than its consumers care to eat. The result is an unprecedented glut. Prices are plunging, inventories are full and promoters are scrambling to find new ways to get Japanese to eat whale.

"Prospects don't look good at the moment," said Kunitada Ito, a merchant at Tokyo's Tsukiji fish market. His company, Toshoku, has slashed whale meat prices by 25 per cent, but its freezers are still stacked.

Toshoku's plight is not unique. Some 1,000 tonnes of the meat hit the market in Japan last year, a 65 per cent increase from 1995. But slow demand means stockpiles have almost doubled in five years to 2,750 tons in 2004. In the same five-year period, the average price of whale plunged almost 30 per cent, to 2,560 yen (£12.40) a kilogramme in 2004.

However, the surplus hasn't stopped the harpoon guns. Japan plans to kill - under a "research programme" - some 1,070 minke whales in 2006, about 400 more than last year and more than double the number it hunted a decade ago. It will also hunt ten fin whales and a total of 160 Bryde's, sei and sperm whales, a fisheries official said.

The International Whaling Commission banned commercial whaling in 1986 but approved limited hunts for research purposes a year later. Opponents such as New Zealand and Australia have called Japan's hunts merely a way for it to dodge the ban. Japan, however, says its programme is needed to establish reliable information on whale populations and habits - data it says can be gleaned only by killing the animals.

The Tokyo government, which distributes the meat and uses the profits to fund further research, is trying to promote whale-eating and secure new distribution channels.

"Is it OK to eat whale meat? Of course it is," says a pamphlet entitled "Delicious Whales", distributed by the government-affiliated Japan Whaling Association. "Even if we capture 2,000 whales a year for 100 years, it's OK because whale numbers are growing."

But the association acknowledges whale is difficult to sell to modern consumers. The meat was considered a rich source of protein in the lean years after the Second World War, but people moved on to other meats - notably beef - as they became more affluent.

Some local councils have started to tackle the challenge by promoting whale meat in school lunches. Wakayama, an area with a strong whale-hunting tradition some 280 miles south-west of Tokyo, has been aggressive in getting youngsters to indulge, introducing whale meals at 270 public schools in 2005. Nutritionists have developed child-friendly dishes, including whale meatballs, hamburgers and spaghetti bolognese.

But it may take a long time to change consumer habits. Young diners at a low-cost restaurant in Tokyo turned up their noses at the blubber this week. "To put it simply, whale meat tastes horrible," said Kosuke Nakamura, 30. He said younger people were put off by the tough, pungent meat, while it brought back memories of post-war poverty for older generations.

While few Japanese voice environmental concerns over whaling, young people such as Nakamura say it has brought the country a lot of unfavourable publicity. "Whaling's so bad for Japan's image. I don't know why we still hunt," he said.

But a trader at one of Tsukiji market's biggest wholesalers remained optimistic. "The fall in prices is a good thing because it will make whale meat more accessible," Yoshiaki Kochi said. "Japanese will never forget the taste of whale. It's part of our culture. It's in our DNA."

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