Japan defends commercial whaling but loses appetite for the meat,FT.com,19.7.5

Whale back on the menu but few takers,Financial Times,19.7.6

“The demand is just nothing compared with what it was,” said Kenkichi Tai, who has sold whale in Osaka for the past 50 years. “In the past, whale was a cheap lunch for kindergartens, elementary schools and restaurants. Now most young people have never eaten whale meat. Demand is less than a tenth of what it was.”------

For the first few years, Japan’s government plans to subsidise the whaling fleet, but the industry only has a future if it can bring its prices down. That will only be possible if it can hunt big whales on a large scale, so the next fight will be for higher quotas

.Nanami Kurasawa, a conservationist who opposes commercial whaling, said that most Japanese people are indifferent to both sides of the debate, regarding the whale as a large food fish they have no interest in eating themselves. “The attitude is, maybe somebody wants to eat it or somebody’s living depends on it, so go ahead,” she said.

More than food, the debate is about politics. Whaling is a treasured tradition in some towns and the public at large do not want to bow to foreign pressure. “For one group of politicians it’s a topic where you can show your patriotism without much opposition,” Ms Kurasawa said.

Some of Japan’s most powerful politicians represent whaling ports. The member of parliament for Taiji in Wakayama, a whaling base known for its dolphin hunt, is Toshihiro Nikai — secretary-general of the ruling Liberal Democratic party. The representative for Shimonoseki is prime minister Shinzo Abe himself.

The restart of commercial whaling came three weeks to the day before an election to Japan’s upper house where turnout is expected to be low and the LDP has to get its conservative, rural base out to vote.

Once whaling is commercial, though, politics will matter less than the demand for whale meat. Fisheries officials deny any plan to let the industry quietly wither, but unless Japan rediscovers its taste for whale, that will be its fate.











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