Japan's fisheries minister said Tuesday his country will never stop hunting whales, despite fierce criticism from other nations and violent clashes at sea with militant conservationists.
I don't think there will be any kind of an end for whaling by Japan, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi told French news agency AFP.
Hayashi, who took the ministerial post overseeing the country's whaling programs in December, said the criticism of the practice is a cultural attack, a kind of prejudice against Japanese culture.
There is a long historical tradition about whaling. Japan is an island nation surrounded by the sea, so taking some good protein from the ocean is very important. “For food security I think it's very important” said Hayashi.
We have never said everybody should eat whale, but we have a long tradition and culture of whaling.
So why don't we at least agree to disagree? We have this culture and you don't have that culture he added.
Unlike Norway and Iceland, which openly flout the 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling agreed through the International Commission on Whaling Japan hunts using a loophole that allows for lethal scientific research.
Hayashi, a graduate of the prestigious Kennedy School at Harvard University who first entered parliament in 1995, said Japan was tired of being lectured by nations whose own culinary cultures can seem a little off-colour.
In some countries they eat dogs, like Korea. In Australia they eat kangaroos. We don't eat those animals, but we don't stop them from doing that because we understand that's their culture, Hayashi said in fluent English.
Whaling has long been part of traditional Japanese culture, so I just would like to say 'please understand this is our culture'.”
Australia and New Zealand in particular, voice outrage over Japan's annual expeditions in the Southern Ocean, which the International Whaling Commission considers a sanctuary for the ocean giants.
The anti-whaling Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has chased the Japanese fleet off Antarctica for several years in an attempt to stop the mammals being slaughtered.