Despite Japan going through an economic downturn due to COVID-19, its government has spent close to USD 40 million to subsidize a failing whaling industry. The industry is, in fact, so desperate to sell its product that they’ve begun turning it into pet food, have offered massive discounts, and resorted to promotional gimmicks.  

Japan used to be a part of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), which prohibited them from killing whales for commercial gain. However, they were able to get around this by receiving “special permits” for “scientific research.” Three years ago, after it was discovered what they were doing, Japan decided to pull out of the IWC so they could resume killing whales for food. 

Now, very few people seem interested in buying it. The sole remaining whaling company isn’t doing well financially, and the superfluous meat is being turned into pet treats. A Japanese researcher has found that, though much fewer whales are being caught, the stockpiles of meat have been growing for the past two years. During that time, the country saw a 40 percent decrease in its supply.  

A Japanese NGO called Animal Liberator discovered over 60 whale products marketed for cats and dogs. These include things like jerky, biscuits, raw meat, and an omega-3 supplement. One of the reasons Japan gave when they restarted commercial whaling was because it was part of their tradition, but feeding dogs and cats whale meat isn’t traditional at all.  

Sue Fisher, who is the acting marine program co-director for the Animal Welfare Institute, sees no reason why the government continues to support commercial whaling. 

“There is no justification for the government of Japan continuing to prop up this dying industry,” said Fisher. 

“These magnificent animals keep the ocean healthy and help fight climate change, yet the government of Japan is helping to turn them into pet treats.” 

There is some good news, however, as the government has informed Kyodo Senpaku that they will need to be to support themselves soon because taxpayer subsidies will end shortly. Given that they’ll need to spend close to $50 million to replace an old factory ship and the sale of whale meat continues to decline, they may be in trouble sooner than later.

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