In an effort to prop up the cruel and declining whale hunting industry in Japan, one company is desperately attempting to increased consumption of whale meat by selling it via vending machines.
Kyodo Senpaku Co., a Tokyo-based major whaling operator, is opening four unmanned Kujira (whale) vending machine stores selling whale meat and processed whale meat products in Tokyo and other locations by mid-February.
The Japanese government announced its withdrawal from the International Whaling Commission (the global body that regulates whale hunting) five years ago so that it could openly carry on killing whales for profit, and this latest, chilling marketing move is aimed at increasing uptake of whale-related foods as another step in trying protect the industry and reverse the decline in whale meat consumption in Japan.
In 2020, the Japanese government subsidised its struggling whaling industry with over 5 billion Yen (nearly £40m).
‘Only a small but influential group of politicians and whaling industry stakeholders drive the country’s whaling interests’, says Whale and Dolphin Conservation stop whaling campaigner Astrid Fuchs. ‘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 in around two years’ time, and possibly increase the list of species that can be killed.’
The vending machines dispense products including frozen items such as red whale meat, skin and sets of canned, cooked whale. Around 3000 tonnes of meat on route to Japan is currently passing east Africa after being shipped from Iceland at Christmas in an attempt to avoid publicity. The intention is to annually import fin-whale meat slaughtered in Iceland in a deal that could potentially keep the declining whaling industry in Iceland afloat.
Hopes were recently raised that the cruel practice will end there after Iceland’s fisheries minister, Svandís Svavarsdóttir cast doubt over its future, saying that there is now little justification for authorizing whaling. She also stated that whaling has damaged Iceland's reputation and negatively affected exports, comments echoed by the Icelandic Tourist Board.
Kyodo Senpaku plans to launch more unmanned stores, with the intention of increasing the number to about 100 nationwide over the next five years. Officials from the company have previously expressed concern that, unless domestic consumption increases, the so-called ‘traditional’ whaling industry won’t survive.
Past efforts to increase consumption have included putting the meat into school lunches, promotion of whale meat recipes and the creation of a website to showcase where to dine out on the meat. But lack of demand has meant that it ends up in dog food.
The whaling industry in Japan promotes the misconception that Japanese people have been eating whale meat for thousands of years, and that they have a whale-eating culture. In fact, eating whale meat only became commonplace after food shortages during and after the Second World War. Opinion polls have found that up to 95% of Japanese people now very rarely or never eat whale meat, which has also been shown to be toxic.
Whale hunting is cruel with many whales taking a long time to die after being shot with grenade-tipped harpoons that are often fired inaccurately from constantly moving ships.