Skip to main content

Japan begins whaling season with meat feast for school children

By Sophie Brown, CNN
updated 10:07 AM EDT, Fri June 27, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Coastal town teaches children about whaling, serves up fried whale meat
  • An international court has banned Japan's scientific whale mission in the Antarctic
  • Japan is eager to revise and resume the program
  • Despite the ban, small-scale coastal hunts and whaling in northwest Pacific continues

(CNN) -- Whalers from a Japanese coastal town have celebrated the start of this year's hunting season by slicing up a whale in front of a crowd of school children.

In the town of Wada, 62 miles (100 kilometers) south of Tokyo in Chiba prefecture, dozens of 10-year-old students watched Thursday as workers carved up a 30-foot Baird's beaked whale during an educational field trip, before being served a meal of fried whale meat.

Whaling remains a way of life for fishermen in Wada, and they are eager to pass on the trade to the next generation. Children are taught about the history of whaling, the biology of the animals, and how to cook the meat.

Whalers say they've been catching and eating whales in the area for centuries. This year's hunting season, which began on June 20, is the first since an international court ordered Japan to end its controversial research whaling expedition in the Antarctic, after failing to find evidence the program had legitimate scientific value.

Japan pushing to resume whaling
Japan whaling rulling called definitive

The city of Minamiboso, of which Wada is a part, has one of a handful of ports that is exempt from the ban under a small-scale coastal whaling program.

So far this year, Gaibo Whaling Company has hunted six whales in the city's coastal waters and plans to catch another 24 before the season ends in August.

Despite the Antarctic ban and growing pressure from the international community, Japan has continued its northwest Pacific scientific whaling mission. It is also eager to revise its Antarctic program to allow the hunt to continue while satisfying the demands of the U.N.'s International Court of Justice.

In Japan's parliament last month, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he would like the country to resume commercial whaling "in order to obtain scientific information indispensable to the management of the whale resources."

But environmentalists say Japan's whaling research program is a thinly veiled attempt to circumvent a ban on the commercial whale meat trade.

Patrick Ramage from the International Fund for Animal Welfare believes it's time Japan moved from killing whales to conserving them.

"Respect for cultural differences is fundamental, but friends of Japan and fans of Japanese culture around the world are watching this with sadness," Ramage told CNN's Will Ripley.

"Japanese school children should be meeting whales through whale watching, not eating whale meat," he said.

Japan's supporters of eating whale meat say that it is a tradition that dates back hundreds of years, and accuses western critics of cultural imperialism. But consumption rates across the country have fallen in recent years, leading to large stockpiles of whale meat.

Last month, Japan's Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry released a photo of the agriculture minister Yoshimasa Hayashi eating a bowl of whale meat to encourage other Japanese citizen to do the same, and visitors to the ministry were given free samples of the delicacy.

In a survey of Japanese people released in April, only 4% of respondents said they ate whale meat occasionally, compared to 37% who said they didn't eat it at all.

READ: Japan's PM suggests return to Antarctic whaling

READ: Japanese whaling fleet set to sail despite ruling

READ: U.N. court orders Japan to halt whale hunt

CNN's Will Ripley contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 10:42 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Successful launch of lunar orbiter, seen as a precursor for a planned mission to the surface of the moon, marks significant advance for the country's space program.
updated 3:15 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, shot while standing guard at Ottawa's National War Memorial, was known for his easygoing manner and smile.
updated 4:06 PM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
Non-stop chatter about actress' appearance is nasty, cruel, hurtful, invasive and sexist.
updated 6:08 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
CEO's 30-min Putonghua chat is the perfect charm offensive for Facebook's last untapped market.
updated 11:45 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Chinese leaders want less odd architecture built in the country.
updated 4:58 PM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
Air New Zealand's new 'Hobbit' safety video stars Peter Jackson, Elijah Wood, elves and orcs.
updated 10:14 AM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
A 15-year-old pregnant girl is rescued from slavery, only to be charged with having sex outside of marriage, shocked rights activists say -- a charge potentially punishable by death.
updated 11:33 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
After sushi and ramen, beef is on the list of must-eats for many visitors to Japan.
updated 12:07 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Airports judged on comfort, conveniences, cleanliness and customer service.
updated 1:48 PM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
Scientists use CT scans to recreate a life-size image of the ancient king.
updated 5:59 AM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
Despite billions spent on eradicating poppy production, Afghan farmers are growing bumper crops, a U.S. government report says.
updated 6:21 AM EDT, Fri October 24, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT