Diet members dine on whale meat in defiance of ICJ ruling

by Ayako Mie

Staff Writer

Lawmakers across party lines Tuesday held an annual whale-meat cuisine event to celebrate the country’s whaling culture in defiance of the International Court of Justice’s decision at the end of March to ban Japan’s whale hunt off Antarctica.

“Japan’s whaling is based on scientific reasons, while counterarguments by anti-whaling groups are emotional, saying they are against the hunts because whales are cute or smart,” said Shunichi Suzuki, a Lower House lawmaker of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

Suzuki, who heads an LDP whaling advocacy group, officially petitioned Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to allow the hunts to continue despite the ICJ ruling.

Japan has been arguing that it abides by the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, claiming that its hunts are purely for scientific research, which is permitted under international regulations, in order to gather data to analyze the impact of whales on Japan’s fishing industry and study the natural habitat of whales.

But the highest U.N. court in The Hague last month ruled Japan was violating the international rules by engaging in commercial, and not scientific, hunts, as prohibited by international law.

After the verdict, Japan said it would abide by the decision and has already decided to halt its 2014-2015 hunt. Yet Japan could continue its hunt under a new program. Since 2007, Japan has sought to hunt up to 1,035 whales, a number the ICJ found to be excessive and not scientifically justifiable.

Also, papers filed last week in a Seattle court by the Institute for Cetacean Research and Kyodo Senpaku, which carries out the whale hunts, said the two organizations expect to resume the hunts in future seasons.

Japanese only consume an average 40 grams of whale meat a year. But Tuesday’s 26th annual whale meat buffet, which served various dishes, including sashimi and deep fried whale, attracted more than 600 people, up 50 percent from the previous year. They are urging that whaling be preserved as a part of Japan’s culture.

“I don’t understand why only Japan’s whaling is attacked. What about Australians eating kangaroos or Koreans eating dogs?” said a woman in her late 40s, who said her elementary school used to serve whale meat for lunch.

Despite mounting international criticism against Japan’s whale hunts, whale meat sellers and restaurants said they’ve seen uptick in business.

“Our customers are worried that they will no longer be able to have whale cuisine,” said Mutsuko Onishi, president of Osaka-based whale eatery Tokuya. Onishi said her restaurant has seen a 30 percent increase in customers since the ICJ ruling.

  • VeryOldB

    I tried a lot of different food in Japan, most of it expertly prepared. Whale meat left me “kimochi warui” … I’d rather have ika shio kara.

  • midnightbrewer

    Assuming that woman’s comment wasn’t offensive and misinformed on so many levels, I think the fact that kangaroos and dogs aren’t hunted to extinction would be why people aren’t coming down on Australians and Koreans. They also don’t go into international sanctuaries to do it.

  • http://www.sheldonthinks.com/ Andrew Sheldon

    Maybe Sea Shepherd needs a different strategy. Maybe they need to start injecting toxins into the animals which are benign for the animal, but cause men’s pee to turn green when they ingest the whale’s meat. I’m sure there are a few scientists from the global warming lobby group which would be interested in such an environmental crusade.

    • JTCommentor

      I always enjoy the more creative of your posts!

  • Terry Towling

    Japan needs to address the underlying problem, which is the dysfunction in the International Whaling Commission. While Japan remains a member of this voluntary organisation in good faith, the organisation itself has been hijacked and diverted from its stated purpose and operates in violation of its own charter.
    Norway and Iceland opted out of its draconian redundancy and are able to whale commercially.
    It’s time for Japan to realise that the IWC has no intention of honouring its own charter and will continue to ignore science and reason in prohibiting commercial whaling. Japan must inevitably withdraw from the IWC if it wishes to conduct its legal and sustainable commercial harvest of whales.

  • Stephen Kent

    I wonder if there was a huge banner over the buffet displaying the word “RESEARCH”.

  • Mr_Gaijin

    I know I’m going to get a lot criticism over saying this, but I don’t think eating whales is essentially a bad thing. Why is it wrong to eat whales, but it’s not wrong to eat cows, chickens, and pigs? All animals feel pain and are living beings. We can’t pick and choose which animals we can or cannot eat. Either all animals are on the table or we stop eating animals all together. Who are we to push our cultural norms to the Japanese.

    What these people are doing in the picture are demonstrating a cultural stand against the rest of world and you can’t blame them. When you have outsiders try to tell you what you’re doing is wrong and call you barbaric, you become defensive and stubborn.

    The only reason I would say it’s bad to eat whales/dolphins is because the species is endangered and it’s very unhealthy to eat whale/dolphin meat because of the heavy metals in the meat. I overheard a girl saying eating whales/dolphins is barbaric and disgusting while she had a hamburger in her hand. I wanted to tell her that she was eating a piece of animal flesh between two buns.

    I’m not a vegetarian nor am I an animals rights activist. It’s just something I think about when I eat meat.

    • kension86

      “When you have outsiders try to tell you what you’re doing is wrong and call you barbaric, you become defensive and stubborn.”

      Except that’s NOT what the ICJ’s saying…

    • Mark Garrett

      First of all, I agree that if eating whale were a cultural norm in Japan it should be treated no differently than any other meat. However, it’s not. It hasn’t been for a long long time. The overwhelming majority of Japanese do not currently eat whale and many of the people I’ve talked to have NEVER eaten whale. Using culture is as bad an excuse as using science.
      What it’s really about is M O N E Y. (Isn’t it always??)

      The whaling industry is propped up by billions (yes, that’s right, billions) of dollars in government subsidies. The fishermen, lobbyists, JAkuza (JA-Zenchu) and politicians have no desire to see their cash cow…err. cash whale taken away. They even had the audacity to (mis)appropriate approx. $30M of the post-tsunami recovery funds!

      While it’s certainly true that there are a few species of whale on the endangered list, Japan doesn’t hunt those. In fact, the Minske whale which is what is sought in Antarctica is considered at no risk with numbers over 500,000.

  • alain

    The Japanese lawmakers had lead in their stomach and body after eating whale and dolphin meat. Now I can see that they also have lead in their brain. Soon they will irradiated of happiness when they are going to start again their nuclear power stations. I suppose no earthquake are predicted in Japan for the next 50 years and everything is fine in the most wonderfull world as Volaire used to say.
    The good news is that most of the Japanese are against whale hunting and nuclear energy. I am not sure that they are informed of the danger as most of the medias are owned by big group controlled by….lawmakers or lawmakers are controlled by these large meadia group.
    Arigato gozaimasu

  • sara

    I’m a vegan, so I don’t eat any animals. But I agree with your comment, the picking and choosing which animals are acceptable to eat versus not is just ridiculous.

  • Mark Garrett

    Exactly. And that’s the real reason it needs to end.

  • WillA

    Awesome post. Seriously, though, it looks like a lot of the guys in the photo are crowding in for the free food, especially the guy on the left and the guy in the middle. I’d wager that the majority of the folks in this photo haven’t touched whale meat in the past 12 months. Some whale meat culture…