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Whales used as petfood as Japanese go off meat
[February 10, 2006]

Whales used as petfood as Japanese go off meat

(Evening Standard Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)JAPAN'S controversial whaling industry is in crisis because the nation is losing its taste for the meat.

The government has moved to quell a surplus of the meat by putting it in school dinners, singing its praises in pamphlets and declaring whale hunting a "national heritage".

The country's whaling fleet is expected to bring in a haul of almost 1,000 minke whales when it returns from the Southern Ocean this spring - 40 per cent more than last year.

But the public appetite has dwindled and 2,700 tonnes of uneaten stock is sitting in industry freezers. Instead of cutting the level of whale hunting, the government has responded with a drive to promote the gastronomic delights of the "scrumptious whale".

One website for pet food has a picture of a dog with the slogan: "I'm Charlie. I love whale meat!" Whale burgers and whale spaghetti bolognese are appearing on school menus and the meat is being distributed in old people's homes.

The International Whaling Commission banned commercial whaling in 1986 but approved limited hunts for research purposes.

Japan plans to kill 1,070 minke whales this year, over 400 more than last year and more than double the number hunted a decade ago.

Prices for the meat, however, have fallen a third in five years.

"Japan's real whaling agenda has never been about science, it is primarily economic," said Mark Simmonds, scientific director of the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society. "By taking this into schools, they are trying to get children interested in eating whale meat so they continue to want it as they grow up, and create a new and enduring marketplace.

"WDCS hopes that this campaign, and the overt use of whale for dog food, will expose its scientific whaling programme as a sham."

Japan justifies its actions on the basis of research but many scientists say that although useful information about whale diets and their place in the food chain can be learned, it is not necessary or ethical to kill them.

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