Hunting whales is part of the Japanese culture that comes under heavy criticism from environmentalists. Due to “disruptions by anti-whaling activists,” Japanese whale hunters killed fewer whales during their 2008-2009 Antarctic hunting season. 679 minke whales were killed short of the target of 850. Nearly one-third of those whales were pregnant.
The Humane Society International is denouncing the Japanese government for killing pregnant and lactating female whales.
Of 679 whales reported to have been killed during the 2008-2009 whale hunt in Antarctica, 304 were female. Four of the female whales were lactating, and 192 were pregnant at the time of death. The Japanese government’s “Cruise Report” gives gruesome details on the fetuses killed. The four lactating females killed would each have had a dependent calf who would inevitably have starved to death.
In 1986, Japan agreed to an international moratorium on whaling, but the country continues to hunt whales under the guise of scientific research. Any whale meat not used for research can be sold for human consumption. The BBC explains:
Whale meat not used for study is sold for consumption in Japan – which critics say is the real reason for the hunt. The meat can be found in supermarkets and restaurants across the country…Generations of children have been given whale meat for their school lunches, our correspondent says. Consumption of whale meat is now low, but attempts have been made to increase its popularity by marketing whale curry and whale burgers, he adds.
At the International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting in Portugual, IWC members agreed last week “to extend negotiations over the disputed hunting of the marine mammals for a year, avoiding a disastrous split in the group.” At stake is whether or not to allow Japan to reinstate commercial whaling in exchange for less “scientific whaling in the Antarctic.” Delegates fear that if an agreement is not reached by 2010, the IWC may dissolve.