It’s official in Japan. The whale is not a mammal but a fish.
Japan is the world’s largest consumer of fish, having eaten the piscatorial dish for centuries. To make whale culturally palatable, it becomes crucial to redefine the creature as a fish rather than what it actually is, a mammal. The re-classification also justifies Japan's killing of whales as an intrinsic part of its culture.
It's also necessary to reject the barbarian world's claim of whales being mammals, because without doing that, eating whale meat in Japan could only take on a dietary significance that started from the post War II period, when the food situation in Japan was bloody desperate, and any meat was welcome. But then, a mere 60 years-old experience with whale meat - an adopted practice of desperation that in fact faded away once better alternatives became available as the post War years rolled on and Japan grew wealthier - would blow the argument of whale eating being a Japanese centuries-old tradition out of the water!
In fact, research findings question the dodgy claims that whaling has deep cultural roots in Japan. Mind you, these findings are hardly likely to be aired widely in Japan, not unlike Japan’s WWII war crimes.
Dr Keiko Hirata of California State University, in the Social Science Journal of Japan, also cast serious doubts on the 'tradition' angle. She states historical evidence indicates that even up to the early 20th century, some people in northern Japan resisted killing whales, which they considered as mystical gods who looked over communities and helped bring them wealth.
She counters the main pro-whaling arguments with explanations and the real reasons for Japan's insistence on hunting and eating whale meat.
To some Japanese, eating whale meat is an expression of nationalism - a Japanese right and bugger the world. Some Japanese whaling supporters viewed the right to kill and eat the whales as a patriotic backlash against racist Western opponents. These people see themselves as footsoldiers in a battle between ‘meat eaters’ (westerners) and ‘fish eaters’ (themselves). They attribute the whaling controversy to Western racism and cultural imperialism, especially since the anti-whaling movement is led by the United States, whom they see as an aggressor in international relations.
Such nationalistic feelings are not surprising as could be witnessed in repetitive Japanese attempts to indulge in nationalistic historical revisionism, and re-invent themselves as WWII victims or even liberators rather than the despicable brutal aggressors they were. These manifestations are symptomatic of an extremely wealthy and economically powerful country that feels it is no longer obliged to genuflect to anyone anymore. Hirata mentions that unfortunately, criticisms of Japan play to nationalist passions.
Of course it’s just a mere coincidence that the school district that is putting whale meat (does one call a *fish* fillet, meat?) on the kids lunch menu is in Wakayama, a province whose small whale and dolphin hunting fleet needs customers.
The Japanese whaling activities involve principally one company that employs 300 people. It supplies all the whale used in the scientific program that costs Japan about $2.9 billion per year, certainly no small change even for Japan.
But there is simply no price that nationalism would not pay.