Outrage has erupted around the world after Kyodo Senpaku chose to open their whale meat vending machines in two locations across Tokyo. The first stores have gone live this month, following successful trials last year; despite fierce backlash from animal rights activists who demand that the Japanese whaling company close up shop immediately. With these “kujira” (whale meat) stores causing such criticism, it is clear that now would be an ideal time for them to cease production and back down before matters escalate further.
With costs for whale meat in the vending machine ranging from 1,000-3,000 yen (or approximately eight to twenty-two dollars), animal rights activists have labeled it a “cynical sales scheme” designed to get customers to purchase their goods.
Astrid Fuchs of Whale and Dolphin Conservation declared in a public announcement: “This latest cynical sales ploy comes at a time when the fisheries agency in Japan is aiming to expand the nation’s whale-catch quotas – and possibly increase the list of species that can be killed.”
Japan has traditionally had a taste for whale meat, given the country’s isolated geographical position. However, as other sources of protein like beef and chicken have become more easily accessible in recent decades, Japan’s consumption of whale meat has dropped off substantially since the 1960s.
In 1962, the Japanese population consumed an impressive 233,000 tons of whale meat. Yet by 2021, their consumption habits had drastically changed; with only 1,000 tons being eaten across the entire Asian island nation that year. This represents a drastic reduction in Japan’s appetite for whale meat over time.
In spite of the protests and negative feedback, the Japanese whaling company is still determined to push for more Japanese consumers to taste whale meat. To do so, they recently launched a series of vending machines that exclusively sell whale meat products. A spokesman of Kyodo Senpaku said: “Sales have outstripped our expectations, even though the products aren’t exactly cheap.”
He added that “Some of the items have sold out.”
Although the international community is unsupportive of Japanese whaling, Japan’s government went forward and spent a staggering five billion yen to uphold the industry in 2020. Even though whale meat sales have been steadily decreasing and enthusiasm for it has dwindled among its citizens, they still insist on keeping this traditional practice alive.
In 2014, the international court of justice ruled that Japan must cease its yearly massacre of over nine hundred whales in the Southern Ocean. Although Japan insisted it was performing these hunts for scientific study purposes, it still withdrew from the International Whaling Commission and renounced its whale hunting activities in waters abroad. Nevertheless, they did concede to continue whaling along their own coastlines.
In 1986, the International Whaling Commission issued a call for an end to commercial whaling; however, Japan was still celestially accepted to hunt whales in the Southern Ocean annually during winter. Unsurprisingly this year, so far the Japanese government assigned a quota of 379 whales over three distinct species.