Office Hours: 9:00am - 5:00pm

Why do Japan continue whale hunting?

Why do Japan continue whale hunting?

Outdated, barbaric and uneconomic – yet officials claim whaling is an ancient part of Japanese culture, saying Japan will never let ‘foreigners’ tell it people what they can and cannot eat.

Yes, coastal whaling is part of Japanese culture, like Norway and Iceland. But only Japan continues to sail a fleet of ships half way across the globe to hunt whales in the Antarctic and maintains a large factory ship that can process hundreds of whales at sea – Japan’s main factory ship is ageing and there is speculation as to whether the government will fund another.

Nothing about these Antarctic whale hunting expeditions is historic. Japan’s first whaling voyage to the Antarctic took place in the mid-1930s but the really huge hunts didn’t get going until after World War Two.


Japan’s other justification is that it needs to kill hundreds of whales each year to study them. But the International Court of Justice has systematically dismantled that argument. In 2014 it ruled that there was no scientific case for Japan’s programme of “lethal research” in the Southern Ocean, and ordered Tokyo to stop.

For a year Japan stopped. But last year it sent its fleet to sea again insisting, to widespread disbelief, that its new, smaller, Antarctic whaling programme satisfies the ICJ’s requirements.

It may seem cliché, But Japan’s determination to continue whale hunting may come down to a handful of MPs from whaling constituencies and a few hundred bureaucrats who don’t want to see their budgets cut.