Whale meat is a luxury food in Japan - and has been for several decades. An opinion poll conducted in 1999 showed that only 11 percent of Japanese adults support whaling, with a similar number of 14 percent of Japanese adults opposing it.
Whale meat - a luxury food and not a staple ingredient.
More recent research, in the summer of 2006, showed that 95% of Japanese never or rarely eat whale meat and that 69% of Japanese do NOT support whaling in the Southern Ocean.
According to the Japanese Hamburger Association, Japanese people are 40 times more likely to eat hamburgers than they are to eat whale meat.
This is not just because of the influx of Ronald McDonald - the Washington Post reported in 2005 that "last year, the [whaling] industry put 20 percent of its 4000-ton haul into frozen surplus." The whale meat surplus has led to desperate attempts to find new markets, including school lunches and dog food. Nevertheless, in 2007 more than 4,000 tonnes of whale meat sat frozen, unsold, and unwanted in Japanese warehouses.
Research by the Japanese Bureau of Statistics suggests that the consumption of beef, pork and chicken was rising, and that of whale meat dropping, from as early as the mid-1960s.
The whale meat scandal
Whale meat's market position as a luxury food was recently demonstrated when activists from Greenpeace Japan uncovered evidence that choice cuts of whale meat were being smuggled ashore by the crew of the Japanese whaling factory ship, Nisshin Maru. After being shipped in boxes disguised as personal effects to crew member's homes, the meat is said to be sold illegally, for massive personal profit, at the Japanese taxpayer's expense. The story drew massive media coverage in Japan, and the ire of many Japanese people, incensed at the corruption at the heart of the whaling industry. The box of meat intercepted by the activists contained 23.5kg of meat, with a potential value of up to USD$3000. Some crew members were said to be receiving as many as 20 of these boxes.