Whale meat

Jared Nichol put together an interesting piece on whale meat, including a video he took

Butchers peeled the whale like a 10-tonne banana.

About 20 flensers and a pair of research assistants used their hands and knives to strip the fat from its flanks.

They drove a steel hook into a chunk by its neck, tied it by chain to a winch and yanked off its back in grinding jerks like a toddler tugs at Velcro shoes.

Children in the crowd squealed while under their feet the wooden slaughterhouse floor turned red with blood.

Seagulls swooped at chunks of flesh scratched off on the concrete slipway behind.

Sotobo Whaling company flensers annually carve up to 26 tsuchi kujira, Baird’s beaked whales, at an abattoir in the port town of Wadaura on Japan’s Pacific coastline. The meat and blubber is sold on-site or packed with ice and shipped to restaurants and supermarkets around the country.

These whales are not endangered.

They are not protected by the International Whaling Commission’s 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling, known as Article 10E in the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling.

Sotobo Whaling spokesman Yoshinori Shoji updates the company’s website everyday through the whaling season, from July 20 to August 31, to say when a whale is caught and when the public can see its slaughter.

It would be awesome to watch.  With so few done every year, I suspect the very job of butchering a whale is a privilege to learn and be allowed to actually do.

Caution – not for the squeamish…  

The Australian government lodged formal complaints against Japan in the International Court of Justice in 2010. It alleged Japan carries out commercial whaling under the guise of scientific whaling due to a weak research programme and the meat being sold as a by-product.

The New Zealand government then lodged a Declaration of Intervention in February, 2013, claiming Japan was ineligible to give out special research permits for the same reason.

The court heard the case, Whaling in the Antarctic (Australia versus Japan: New Zealand Intervening), over three weeks in The Hague from June to July and a decision is expected at the end of the year which can not be appealed.

Japan’s deputy foreign minister Koji Tsuruoka’s closing statement rounded back to his opening argument: “Pacta sunt servanda” – what you have agreed, you are bound to observe.

What you have not agreed, however, does not bind you.

His argument being that Australia and New Zealand’s claims do not change the fact that Japan complies with the convention by issuing special permits, he said.

So it is understandable that a team of about 20 flensers in Wadaura might get a little anxious when they see a foreign reporter with a big camera and a notepad turn up to their abattoir.

Some will fear an international commission, a court decision, and controversial Antarctic missions have tarred all Japanese whaling with the same condemning brush.

But theirs is a small port town on the coast of the Japan Sea where every year a dwindling economy gets a boost from at least one small part of an old industry with no sign of extinction.


Do you want:

  • Ad-free access?
  • Access to our very popular daily crossword?
  • Access to daily sudoku?
  • Access to Incite Politics magazine articles?
  • Access to podcasts?
  • Access to political polls?

Our subscribers’ financial support is the reason why we have been able to offer our latest service; Audio blogs. 

Click Here  to support us and watch the number of services grow.