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Japan sells dead whale pieces in vending machines to boost trade

A Japanese whale-hunting company has started selling parts of dead whale in vending machines in an attempt to boost trade.

Tokyo-based firm Kyodo Senpaku last month set up four machines in the capital and other places, selling whale skin, frozen whale meat and canned, cooked whale pieces.

It plans to set up three more vending machines by next month. Prices range from 1,000 to 3,000 yen (£6.20 to £18.90).

If the meat sells well, the company plans to open up to 100 vending machines over five years.

Conservationists decried the move as a “desperate, cynical sales ploy” by a “cruel and declining” whale-hunting industry.

Whale meat sales have plummeted in Japan over the past 50 years, so this is an effort to boost trade to support continued hunting, according to the Whale and Dolphin Conservation charity. It says the company wants to convince the Japanese government it has a good business model to expand quotas in future.

From next month, the company plans to import 3,000 tons of fin-whale meat a year from Iceland, in a deal to support the whaling industry worldwide.

In December 2018, Japan pulled out of the International Whaling Commission watchdog so that it could continue killing the marine mammals.

In 2020, the Japanese government subsidised its whaling industry by nearly £40m.

“Only a small but influential group of politicians and whaling industry stakeholders drive the country’s whaling interests,” said Astrid Fuchs, of Whale and Dolphin Conservation.

“This latest cynical sales ploy comes at a time when the Fisheries Agency in Japan is aiming to expand the nation’s whale-catch quotas in around two years’ time, and possibly increase the list of species that can be killed.”

Japanese whalers with a captured minke whale (AFP via Getty Images)
Japanese whalers with a captured minke whale (AFP via Getty Images)

Last February conservationists’ hopes were raised that Iceland would stop whaling when its fisheries minister, Svandís Svavarsdóttir, said there was little evidence of an economic benefit to the practice.

She said whaling had damaged Iceland’s reputation and hurt exports.

Officials from the company have previously expressed concern that, unless domestic consumption increases, the so-called ‘traditional’ whaling industry won’t survive.

Conservationists say whale hunting is exceptionally cruel, as the marine mammals often suffer slow deaths after being shot with grenade-tipped harpoons that are often fired inaccurately and may explode inside the animal.

In the past, Japanese whaling firms have tried to increase consumption by putting the meat in school lunches, promoting whale meat recipes and a website to showcase where to dine out on the meat.

In Norway, lack of demand has meant that whale meat is sold as dog food.

Whales play key roles in maintaining the health of the oceans and fish populations, as well as carbon storage.

The Independent has asked Kyodo Senpaku to respond to the criticism.