Poll reveals support for whaling in Japan

A recent survey for the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has found that more Japanese people support their country’s whaling expeditions than oppose them, despite low consumption of whale meat. The survey of 1,200 Japanese people, released just before the whaling fleet is expected to depart for this year’s hunt, revealed that while 18.5% opposed whaling, 26.8% agreed with it, with the remainder not expressing a view.

In the light of what were perhaps disappointing results for anti-hunt activists, IFAW tried to put a positive spin on the news, focusing on the statistic of the 88.8% of those polled who had not bought whale meat in the last year. “The people of Japan are taking whale meat off the menu,” said Patrick Ramage, director of the fund’s global whale programme. “This is great news for whales and one of the clearest signals yet that the whaling industry is in its death throes.”

Greenpeace Japan expressed similar views, adding that the “mountain of whale meat in frozen storage” is significantly increasing. While the meat from “scientific” hunts is currently only sold to a small group of traders, it is thought that next year it will be sold directly to individuals and restaurants, and the quantity provided for school lunches will be doubled, to improve funding for the expeditions. Speculation that the industry’s poor financial situation would lead to a cancellation of this year’s hunt was dismissed after Japan’s agriculture minister, Akira Gunji, said it would go ahead as planned.

About 900 whales are killed each winter by Japanese hunting fleets. Though commercial whaling was banned by the International Whaling Commission over 25 years ago, a loophole in the moratorium allows Japan to hunt whales for “scientific research“, even though the meat is later sold on the open market to fund the expeditions.

The fleet usually leaves at the beginning of December each year, to hunt whales in the Southern Ocean. However the exact date of this year’s expedition has not been announced owing to fears that it may be disrupted by the militant conservationist group Sea Shepherd. Since 2005 the group of environmental activists have confronted whalers in attempts to stop the hunt. This year it will commit four vessels and more than 100 crew to the campaign. New Zealand also recently has joined Australia in attempting to block Japan’s whaling expeditions in the Antarctic following the failure of diplomatic efforts.

Sources include: The Guardian, Japan Today

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