Whale meat distributors claim that whale meat is high in protein and low in calories and have alleviated the problem of toughness associated with whale meat through improved freezing techniques. Tail meat is sold for as much $70 a pound and is prized for whale sashimi. Which is eaten with grated garlic or ginger to mask the odor.
The health benefits of whale meat are the subject of some debate. One study found that Japanese in Wakayama Prefecture that eat pilot whale have high levels of mercury in their hair.
The amount of whale meat consumed rose from 2,450 tons in 2000, to 5,560 tons in 2005. In a survey in 2002, 63 % of the people over 60 years old and 47 % of those between 20 and 24 said they ate whale meat, but of these 40 percent said they only eat it “sometimes."
The Japanese were encouraged to eat whale meat after World War II to stave off famine and school children ate whale meat for lunch into the 1960s. One elderly man who ate a lot of whale when he was growing up told the New York Times, "After the war, there was nothing to eat in Japan, and we would have starved if it were not for the whale bacon and steaks that the government provided us in school lunches."
Polls indicate that 56 percent of Japanese approve of eating whale, with support especially strong among men and people over 40. “Much of this support isn't because people are pro-whaling or are willing to eat whale meat," Atsushi Ischii, specialist in environmental policy at Tohuku University told the Los Angeles Times. “People are against the anti-whalers. They don't like being told what to do by outside groups."
Many Japanese consider American, European and Australian criticism of eating whale to be "culinary imperialism." One whale meat lover told Time, "Japanese think it is strange that Americans hunt deer. But I don't tell Americans not to kill deer. Why should they ask us not to eat whale?" Other Japanese say that raising cattle in small enclosures with hormones and killing them with electric prods is much crueler than whaling. Another man told the New York Times, "We may eat whale but we also revere it. How can a total stranger tell us not to hunt whales without knowing how much this meat means to us?"
Even people who don't like whale support the right of the Japanese to hunt whale, from the point of view that others don't have the right to tell the Japanese what to do. One Japanese lawmaker told the BBC: "In Japan we have pet dogs. But we don't tell the Koreans to stop eating dogs".
Joji Morishita of the powerful government Fisheries Agency told the Los Angeles Times, “What would the Americans say if India suddenly said they should stop eating beef because the cow is special to their culture? That's what is happening to us. "
Japanese Whale Hunting
There are four main whaling ports: Ayukawahama in Miyagi Prefecture, Abashiri in Hokkaido, Wadamachi in Chiba Prefecture and Taijicho in Wakayama Prefecture.