More Japanese support the whale hunt than oppose it, according to a survey carried out on behalf of animal rights activists.
Of 1,200 people questioned for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, 26.8 percent said Japan should continue hunting whales, against 18.5 percent who oppose it. The remainder expressed no opinion.
The hunt is based on a loophole for scientific research in the global moratorium on whaling, though the meat is later sold in shops and restaurants.
The government makes the argument that hunting whales is deeply embedded in Japanese culture and wants to resume commercial operations.
Environmentalists routinely condemn the hunt and maintain it doesn’t have the support of the Japanese people.
In a press release, the International Fund for Animal Welfare tried to put a positive gloss on the survey, which questioned people aged 15 to 79 nationwide over a 13-day period in October.
“The good people of Japan are taking whale meat off the menu,” said Patrick Ramage, director of the IFAW’s global whale program, citing the 88.8 percent of respondents who said they had not bought whale meat in the last year.
The survey did not provide results for how many people actually ate whale meat during that period.
The Fisheries Agency reportedly plans to start selling whale meat by mail order, saying the move is aimed at boosting consumption after demand fell as prices rose.
The IFAW opposes all commercial and scientific whaling and advocates whale-watching programs that it says generate around $2.1 billion a year for coastal communities.
The whaling fleet is expected to set sail for Antarctica in the next few weeks. The militant conservationist group Sea Shepherd plans to take every measure to thwart the hunt.