Japanese are losing their appetite for whale meat thank God

NEWS AND COMMENT: Ayukawa in north-eastern Japan have a long history in the whale meat industry. They are linked to whaling and they are proud of it. For 30 years they weren’t allowed to whale commercially. This is because of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) ban except for a loophole which allowed the Japanese to whale for ‘scientific purposes’. This was actually commercial whaling and we all knew it. The Japanese government paid for “research” into whale numbers ostensibly. The whole thing was a thinly veiled pretext to keep the Japanese whaling industry alive.

A whale is unloaded at a port in Kushiro
A whale is unloaded at a port in Kushiro, in the northernmost main island of Hokkaido, Monday, July 1, 2019. Japan is resuming commercial whaling after 31 years. Photo: Masanori Takei / AP

But since the Japanese left the International Whaling Commission, they’ve no longer been party to the ban and therefore they can recommence commercial whaling after 30 years. Ayukawa was pleased. They are trying to revise the modern diet by introducing whale meat into local schools twice a year. There was a time when, in 1962, about 200,000 tons of whale meat was sold annually. In 2016 the figure was 3000 tons compared with 2.6 million tonnes of pork and 2.4 million tonnes of chicken.

The picture is that whale meat is losing its attraction in Japan. Nothing that Ayukawa can do can change that. In fact, the government has to subsidise Ayukawa Whaling to the tune of £34 million a year to keep it alive. It is an unprofitable business.

The costs are high because they have to travel long distances to find whales. And they have to process the whales in faraway ports and transport them back to Ayukawa. The subsidies will dry up. And there is still a strong background anti-whaling movement in the world.

I’m sure that the youth of Japan recognise this and indeed, I expect they have the same feelings about the business. Whaling is on the way out as a commercial enterprise. And as whaling is now commercial, less whales are being caught and killed. The commercialisation of whaling is going to kill it because it is unviable.

It is said that the government took up commercial whaling to save face but the result is that the number of whales killed is far less.

Boris Johnson once described whaling as “blasphemously cruel”. I and perhaps billions of others would agree. It can’t end soon enough for me.


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