A controversial ruling by an international court on whale hunts has certainly had the Japanese public divided. The International Court of Justice ordered a stop to Japanese whale hunts in the Antarctic recently, saying the research hunts are in reality a cover for commercial hunting. A survey conducted by The Asahi Shimbun newspaper with 1,756 respondents showed 60% are in support of the lethal whaling, while only 23% are against it.
With the higher number of people in support of whaling, it was a surprise, however, to learn that out of all the respondents, only 4% eat whale “sometimes,” while 10% consume it “fairly infrequently.” Though not readily available in the whole of Japan, whale meat may be ordered from upscale restaurants that offer it, or be purchased from coastal town markets that openly sell the meat. 48% of the respondents answered they have not eaten whale meat in “a long time,” and 37% said they have never eaten it at all. Which would beg to contest Japanese whalers’ claims that it is an integral part of the Japanese people’s diet. Whale hunts began in Japan centuries ago, and while during that time the meat was an important source of protein for the nation, it may not hold true for the present time, when there are other sources of food and fuel to choose from.
Japan has been mulling over whether to continue with its other research hunting in other waters. As the ICJ ruling only covers the area of the Antarctic Ocean, Japan has confirmed that “research whaling” in the northwestern Pacific will continue on a revised program, focusing on scientific objectives. Yoshimasa Hayashi, the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries announced that they plan to “submit a new research program by this autumn to the International Whaling Commission (IWC), reflecting the criteria laid out in the verdict.”
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