Friday, February 10, 2006

Whale meat 'made into dog food'

Nisshin Maru factory ship in the Southern Ocean (Greenpeace/PA)
Japan has recently expanded its whaling programme
Meat from whales caught under Japan's "research" programme is so abundant that it is being sold as pet food, according to a UK conservation group.

Thousands of tonnes of whale meat has been stockpiled as more animals are killed each year, says the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS).

The Japanese government has attempted to sell the whale meat to schools but the price has continued to fall.

A company is selling meat on the web as "healthy and safe natural" dog food.

"A quiet whale meat boom is starting," says the website

"The number of pet-owners who care about their animals' health are growing, recognising the nutritious value of whale meat," it adds.

"Now the demand and the sales are soaring."

We have heard many arguments from Japan... but they have never stated that they needed to kill whales to feed their dogs
Mark Simmonds
The website describes whale meat as "organic" and fished "freshly out of the water".

Mark Simmonds, director of science at WDCS, said: "Whaling is a cruel activity and the fact that Japan is killing these amazing animals to produce dog food is shocking.

"We have heard many arguments from Japan over the years about why whaling is necessary to them but they have never stated that they needed to kill whales to feed their dogs."

A global moratorium on commercial whaling has been in place since the 1980s, but hunting for scientific research is permitted under the rules of the International Whaling Commission (IWC).

The hunting is condemned by most conservation groups on the grounds that it is inhumane, unnecessary and may harm fragile populations.

Japan and Iceland run scientific programmes, while Norway lodged a formal objection to the moratorium and maintains an openly commercial operation.

A number of indigenous peoples are also allowed to hunt under tight restrictions.

Expanding the kill

The sheer volume of Japan's operations makes it the principal target for the wrath of conservation groups.

Whale burger on the menu

In the current hunting season, it launched a programme called JARPA-2 which doubles its annual minke whale catch from Antarctic waters.

JARPA-2 will remove 935 minkes and 10 fin whales each year; while its other research programme JARPN takes 100 sei whales, 100 minkes, 50 Bryde's whales and five sperm whales annually from the north Pacific.

The IWC obliges countries practising scientific whaling to process what they catch, and the meat from Japan's programmes has always found its way into restaurants.

Last year, it initiated a scheme to distribute whale meat to schools, and a fast-food chain began selling whale burgers.

But the latest news suggests demand from Japan's human population is running some way behind the recently expanded supply.

WCDS quotes research showing that the price of meat from Bryde's whales has halved over the last five years, with other species falling as well.

Protest for survival

Most whale species are at risk of extinction, and last year 63 members of the IWC's Scientific Committee condemned the JARPA expansion.

Find out about the different endangered whale species.

In graphics
"With the new proposal, Japan will increase its annual take... to levels approaching the annual commercial quotas for Antarctic minke whales that were in place prior to the moratorium," they declared.

In January a group of 17 countries, including the UK, mounted a formal diplomatic protest.

"The UK is totally opposed to any activity that undermines the present moratorium on commercial whaling," said Britain's fisheries minister Ben Bradshaw at the time.

"We urge Japan to reconsider its position and end this unjustified and unnecessary slaughter which is regarded by many countries and their public as a means to bypass the IWC moratorium."

Japan maintains that hunting is part of its cultural heritage, which other nations have no right to condemn.


Trib said...

Why don't the Japanese indulge just their peculiarities that the rest of the world is okay with, like bukake?

tokyo_tintin said...

as tokyo correspondent to this blog, i'm very intrigued to know how you knew about bukake, trib. is that something that's regular-ol after dinner conversation nowadays back in the western hemisphere?

Trib said...

It's approaching common knowledge. I'm sure there are many more deviations you could fill us in on, though.

Jennifer said...

Wait! Wait! I just went to Japan and I've heard of bukake, but I'm not sure what it is. TT, how come you didn't educated me? Qu'est ce que c'est?

tokyo tintin said...

oh, i think i'll let trib explain that one, since he brought it up...