Japan will “never stop” killing whales, says minister
KUALA LUMPUR: Despite growing international campaigns to end the global whaling and slaughter of whales, the Japanese government has fired back at activists and environmentalists, saying it would “never stop” their whaling industry.
Japan’s fisheries minister said Tuesday the East Asian country will never stop hunting whales, despite fierce criticism from other nations and sea battles with conservationist organizations.
“I don’t think there will be any kind of an end for whaling by Japan,” Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi told AFP in an exclusive interview.
Hayashi, who took the ministerial post overseeing the country’s whaling programmes in December, said the criticism of the practice is “a cultural attack, a kind of prejudice against Japanese culture”.
There is “a long historical tradition about whaling”, he told AFP in his large central Tokyo office, over which portraits of Japan’s revered Emperor and Empress gazed down.
“Japan is an island nation surrounded by the sea, so taking some good protein from the ocean is very important. For food security I think it’s very important.
“We have never said everybody should eat whale, but we have a long tradition and culture of whaling.
“So why don’t we at least agree to disagree? We have this culture and you don’t have that culture,” said the 52-year-old, who views the whaling port of Shimonoseki in Japan’s southwest as home.
Last year, Japan blamed bad weather for the poor harvest as activists claimed victory as their slaughter of whales on open waters saw a massive decline.
But activists praised Sea Shepherd Conservation Society for their efforts in hindering the whalers’ ability to kill animals.
“It is very obvious that they had a massive impact this year in stopping the horrific and barbarous attacks on whales this year,” said Sydney-based activist William Overtel, who told Bikyanews.com that “we know Sea Shepherd was responsible for this and let us give praise where it is due.”
During the previous Antarctic season, disruption at sea by protesters from the Sea Shepherd conservation group forced whaling boats to abandon chases. In the just-completed season, Japan stepped up countermeasures, but Sea Shepherd again disrupted some chases.
The whaling fleet is due back in Japan at the end of this month after crossing the Pacific.
The reduced catch might lead to the government reducing its funding for next season’s whaling. The catches are formally described as a research program. A world moratorium on commercial whaling began in 1986.
Whale meat is a delicacy to many Japanese and sold in supermarkets.