Japan's prime minister has told parliament he will boost efforts towards restarting commercial whaling, despite the UN court ordering Tokyo to halt killing whales in the Antarctic under the current program.
Shinzo Abe's comments on Monday (9Jun14) were likely to cause dismay for those who had hoped the ruling by the international court of justice (ICJ) would herald the beginning of the end of the whale hunt.
"I want to aim for the resumption of commercial whaling by conducting whaling research in order to obtain scientific data indispensable for the management of whale resources," he told a parliamentary commission. "To that end, I will step up efforts further to get understanding from the international community."
Abe said that in contrast to the foreign perception that whaling communities mercilessly exploit the marine mammals, whaling towns show respect to the animals, with religious services at the end of every hunting season. "It is regrettable that this part of Japanese culture is not understood," he said.
Australia, backed by New Zealand, took Japan before the ICJ in 2010 in an attempt to stop the yearly hunt. The court said the hunt was a commercial venture masquerading as research so Tokyo called off its 2014-15 Antarctic whaling season, and said it would redesign, not end, the mission in an effort to make it more scientific.
Inviting people to dine on whale in his ministry, he said a "whale week" campaign, which began on Monday, was part of efforts to let Japanese people know that whaling and eating whale meat are part of their culture. At the opening event, Hayashi ate whale meat steak with other MPs who support whaling, before moving to a cafeteria in the farm ministry building, where he had a lunch set of whale meat tataki, a dish similar to carpaccio, seasoned with shredded green onions.
Japan's consumption of whale meat has diminished greatly in recent decades and it is no longer a regular part of most people's diet. But powerful lobbying forces have ensured the continued subsidisation of the hunt with taxpayer money.
Tokyo has always maintained it was trying to prove whale populations were big enough to sustain commercial hunts.