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Japan's whale meat obsession

What drives whale eating in Japanese homes and schools? Culture? Propaganda? Gen. MacArthur?

Among the proposals now under discussion is one that would allow Japan, Norway and Iceland to conduct limited commercial whaling in return for a huge cut in the size of the current “scientific” catch.

Pro-whaling officials blame the moratorium for the artificially high prices that prevent whale meat from re-establishing itself as a key part of the Japanese diet.

“Although current supply of whale meat is just 2 percent of what it was 40 years ago our unique dietary patterns and diet culture are still ingrained in various regions,” said Kubo.

“It is not true that young people don’t eat whale meat because they do not like its taste. When we organize special classes at schools, most of the children, who ate whale meat for the first time, said they liked it.”

Despite the damage whaling inflicts on Japan’s international standing, its fate could be determined not by backroom deals at the IWC but by shifting attitudes at home.

Morikawa hopes that Japan’s progressive government, which took office last autumn, will “consider ending research whaling and at the very least promote a public debate on the issue.”

It is a debate he believes the power brokers in the whaling industry would lose: “Young Japanese people would rather watch whales than eat them. They’re more interested in protecting wildlife than in destroying it.”