TOKYO — A fast food chain in northern Japan began offering a whale burger on Thursday, even as anti-whaling nations urged Japan to cut back on its catch at an international conference on whaling.
Restaurant chain Lucky Pierrot is serving a deep fried minke whale meat burger with lettuce and mayonnaise for $3.50 at its 10 restaurants in Hakodate on Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido, once a whaling hub in the nation.
Japan is facing increasing international criticism for its research whaling program in which the whales are killed in order to study them and their meat is then sold. Critics say it is commercial hunting in disguise.
Miku Oh, an official for Lucky Pierrot, said the chain is only utilizing stock meat obtained from the scientific research and that it wants to preserve the culture of eating whale meat.
“People in other countries may think (eating whale) is strange, but it is our culture,” she said.
Oh said that the whale for the burger is cooked in such a way that “it tastes like beef and tuna, and since it is deep fried it has no odor.”
At an annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission, currently being held in Ulsan, South Korea, anti-whaling countries passed a resolution Wednesday urging Japan to drop plans to more than double the number of whales it hunts each year for research.
The commission also has rejected a proposal earlier to end its almost two-decade-old ban on commercial whaling, dealing a blow to Japan and other pro-whaling nations that say stocks of some species have recovered enough to allow limited hunts.
Japan says it must kill whales to properly study them, including their stomach contents to glean details of their diets.
Environmental groups and anti-whaling countries, including the United States and Britain, say Japan’s research whaling program is a thinly disguised commercial whaling venture, stressing that meat from the whales is sold to Japanese supermarkets and restaurants to help fund the program.
Annually, Japan kills about 400 minke whales in the Antarctic and another 210 whales — 100 minke whales, 50 Bryde’s whales, 50 sei whales and 10 sperm whales — in the northwestern Pacific.
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