Anger over Japan’s new whale meat vending machines

A Japanese whaling company has been criticized by environmentalists for its new approach to increasing sales of whale meat – by selling it in vending machines.

Tokyo-based Kyodo Senpaku has set up four machines in the capital and other locations offering whale skins, frozen whale meat, canned and cooked whale parts.

Controversial snacks range in price from 1,000 to 3,000 yen (10-32 Australian dollars).

The company plans to add three more vending machines by next month, and potentially open up to 100 vending machines over five years if the meat sells well.

So far, sales are booming.

43-year-old housewife Miki Yamanaka said Japan News. “Today I came back again to buy more.”

The international charity Whales and Dolphins has raised concerns about the vending machines.

Astrid Fox, representing the organization, stated that the idea is a “cynical sales stunt” spearheaded by a small but powerful group of politicians and industry stakeholders.

Meanwhile, the UK charity’s head of communications, Danny Groves, called the plan “ridiculous” and noted that demand for meat was limited, and that the hunting methods used were inhumane.

“A lot of whales die a long time,” he said.

Conservationists believe the company is trying to persuade the Japanese government to expand quotas in the future.

In December 2018, Japan withdrew from the International Whaling Commission in order to continue killing marine mammals.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said fishing operations would be limited to Japan’s territorial waters and the exclusive economic zone along the country’s coast.

He said commercial whaling will begin in July 2019 after an absence of 30 years “in line with Japan’s basic policy of promoting sustainable use of living aquatic resources based on scientific evidence.”

“Unfortunately, we have come to the decision that it is impossible in the IWC to seek coexistence between countries with different opinions,” said Mr. Suga.

IWC is dominated by conservationists, Suga said, and Japan is disappointed by its efforts to manage whale stocks even though IWC has a treaty mandate to protect whales and develop a whaling industry.

The IWC imposed a trade ban in the 1980s due to the dwindling whale population.

Japan turned to what it called whaling research and said stocks had recovered enough to resume commercial fishing.

The research program has been criticized as a cover for commercial hunting where the market meat is sold at home.

Environmental group Greenpeace continued to dispute Japan’s view that whale stocks had recovered, noting that ocean life was also threatened by pollution and overfishing.

Originally published as Conservationists rally against new whale meat vending machines in Japan

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