Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Whaling in Japan
So one of the bigger stories going on in Japan right now is about a whaling "research" vessel that met some hard times down around Antarctica this past week - a fire broke out, leaving it drifting there next to its friends for something like 9 days or so. I hear that once word got out about the fire, Greenpeace had the closest ship to them and offered to help, but they refused. The funny thing is, because of the whole whaling thing a lot of Japanese people see Greenpeace as basically a terrorist organization - I find that hilarious! So of course there's no way that they'd let their #1 enemy lend a helping hand... in fact, a bunch of people think that they just wanted to sabotage the ship more or something from what I've heard.
In case you don't know, whale meat is pretty big in Japan - I actually had some for the first time last night, and personally I don't see anything really that special about it though. I figured I should at least try it once, and I did... just like the horse meat I had a few weeks back (which was actually not half bad). So since commercial whaling has been banned for the past 20 years or so I think, they do all this "research" on whales and then sell the meat on the domestic market since just throwing it away after they kill them would just be wasteful. Other than that, if you ask most Japanese people why they like whale meat, the only real answer you'll get is basically because it's "tradition". They've been eating whale forever, so they want to keep eating whale.
It makes you think though... or at least it makes me think. If they're not endangered, is whaling wrong? Is killing a whale for food different than killing a cow, or a dog? Why stop there - why not go for dolphins and monkeys? Now you may think I'm a horrible person for saying that, but try and take a step out of your own cultural background for a second and think about it. How do you decide what animals are edible and which ones aren't? Is it intelligence? I hear pigs are smarter than dogs, but I'd rather make bacon out of Porky than take a bite out of Lassie personally. I've also heard that pigs make decent pets, so the pet factor isn't really there either. Oh, and in China, where they eat dogs, they still have dogs as pets as well. Most all the pets are pure breeds, and the mutts wind up on plates. Also, I'm sure that Indians aren't wild about the rest of the world eating their holy cows, just like plenty of people aren't happy about Japanese whale eating.
One argument I have heard that makes sense though is that with whales it's an international issue, not merely a domestic one for Japan (and Iceland, and Norway I think). If you want to go after whales, you have to leave your waters to get them, meaning you shouldn't step on anyone's toes to do so. Japan does follow the international rules on things though, and they aren't endangering any species. I actually hear the number of whales is increasing, which is good.
So all in all, although I draw the line with what I consider domestic animals like cats and dogs, I will try eating weird things, if only once. I have tried shirako once, which is basically the equivalent of a fish's scrotum. I would recommend you cross that one off your list of things to try right now as they taste and feel just like they look - slimy and nasty. I don't think I'd like to try monkey or dolphin meat either, but if I was stranded on a deserted island with only monkeys and dolphins 'o-plenty, pass me some Flipper with a side of Bubbles - it can't be worse than eating a fish's scrotum. Other than that though, I think being adventurous is good, but then again this is coming from a guy that moved halfway across the world. Oh, and sometimes it's better not to ask what it is that you're about to eat in strange lands - you may not want to know. Oh, and just because twice may not have been enough to gross you out, I ATE FISH SCROTUM AND IT WAS DISGUSTING!!!!