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article imageJapanese schools serving whale meat to children

By Lynn Curwin     Feb 3, 2011 in Environment
Students at one Tokyo school were recently served whale meat as part of a national week to commemorate lunches in public schools, but they are not the only children for whom whales are on the menu.
Responding to questions, the School Affairs Section of the Secretariat of the Minato Board of Education, provided a statement explaining that schools can plan special menus including traditional, local, historical, and cultural dishes during the week.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the statement did not say where the meat came from, but it said it was not chosen because of an “economic reason.”
According to the statement, whale meat had previously been served at other schools in the area without complaint.
Eighteen per cent of the schools who responded to a survey said that they had served whale meat at least once during the March 2009-March 2010 period.
In 2005, Japan increased the whale catch, claiming there had been an increase in the populations of the species it hunts.
As a result, stocks of the meat piled up so it was offered to municipalities for school lunches at one-third of the market price, reported Japan Today.
There have been some health concerns related to consumption of whales. In a 2007 Reuters article an assemblyman in Taiji said samples of whale meat being served at schools had mercury levels 10 to 16 times more than advised by the Health Ministry.
"Under a loophole in the 1986 International Whaling Commission (IWC) ban against commercial whaling, Japan has continued to kill hundreds of whales every year for scientific research," states a 2007 Time article. "Once a whale is killed, scientists collect data from the animal's remains on its age, birthing rate and diet; the meat is then packaged and sold."
Taxpayers’ money is used to subsidize the hunt, reported Japan Today.
Commercial whaling resulted in several species of whale becoming endangered.
"As whales were increasingly watched, filmed and studied, their high intelligence, rich social lives, and ability to feel emotion and experience pain became apparent," states Animal Planet. "These revelations galvanized activists like Paul Watson, who helped start the anti-whaling movement in the 1970's. They also influenced scientists, policy makers, the public — in fact, entire nations — leading to an international moratorium on commercial whaling in 1986."
A 2006 Gallup poll indicated that 83 per cent of Japanese people had not consumed whale in a long time, or had never eaten it.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society reports that whaling is not as much of a tradition in Japan as many people believe, with less than one per cent of the population participating in whaling as consumers until 1908.
“The modern day pelagic whaling fleet of Japan is actually the creation of the United States,” says society president Paul Watson. “In 1946, General Douglas MacArthur proposed the creation of a Japanese whaling fleet to secure protein for the conquered Japanese people. He did so in order to cut down on the United States' costs of transporting food to post war Japan.
“It was on August 6th, 1946 that MacArthur signed the directive authorizing two factory ships and twelve catcher boats to begin whaling in the Antarctic for the 1946-47 season.
“The deal was that Japan would get the meat and the oil would be turned over to the United States.”
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