The whaling company Kyodo Senpaku in Japan launched a new vending machine store with whale meat products on Tuesday to boost the country’s demand for the marine animal’s meat.
The whale meat vending machine venue is the company’s third store; two others opened in Tokyo last month. The company plans to have 100 shops selling whale meat in Japan over the next five years.
“There are many people who want to eat whale but can’t. Therefore, we are opening stores with the thought that we can provide a place where those people can eat,” Hideki Tokoro, Kyodo Senpaku’s president, told news agency Reuters.
Japan argues that whaling is an important part of its food culture. “Many 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,” said 80-year-old Kunitake Suzuki after he purchased frozen whale products from the vending machine.
Katrin Matthes, head of Japan policy for Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC), said the whaling company is trying to increase the declining demand for whale meat in the country: “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 added that the government had heavily subsidized Japan’s whaling industry but that subsidies had been cut, so companies are increasing their promotional activities to try to stay profitable.
The machines sell whale meat products like frozen sashimi, steak, bacon, and canned stews. The products mostly use meat from whales killed in Japan’s waters, but some of the stews could contain meat from whales from Iceland, a Kyodo Senpaku spokesperson said.
“I’ve eaten whale before. I’m interested, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to come (to the store). I usually eat chicken,” 28-year-old Urara Inamoto said.
In 2021, whale meat consumption in Japan was around 1,000 tonnes, compared with 2.6 million tonnes for chicken and 1.27 million tonnes for beef, government data show.
Japan, Norway and Iceland are the only countries still allowing commercial whale hunting, with Noway killing most whales. In February 2022, Iceland announced its plan to end whaling in 2024 as demand for whale meat declines.