Why Are Whale Meat Products in Japanese Vending Machines?

This rebranding of whale meat is something conservation groups are keeping an eye on.

A storefront in Japan houses vending machines that sell whale products, including frozen sashimi, steaks, bacon and canned stews.

The whaling industry has been limited by conservation laws that aimed to preserve marine life, but the vending machine’s owner says whale meat is part of Japanese culture he would like to revive.

Kunitake Suzuki, a retiree, told Reuters, “a lot of childhood memories come back [when I eat whale]. At that time, people from overseas ate beef, but many Japanese people grew up eating whale meat.”

This rebranding of whale meat is something conservation groups are monitoring.

Katrin Matthes, Whale and Dolphin Conservation’s Japan Policy Head, told Reuters, what they are “probably trying” to do is make the meat “more popular.”

“Make it more popular, make the people more aware about it. Telling the people this is part of our national identity to make them increase their demand, so that they will hopefully be able to sell more. So that is what we think is going on right now. So it's a big question if they will be successful in the end. As of now, to us it looks [like] the people are not getting really influenced by that,” she said.

Reports say in that people in Japan consumed just 1,000 tons of whale meat in 2021, as opposed to 2.5 million tons of chicken and more than 1 million tons of beef that same year.

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