As Japanese whalers ply the Southern Ocean and as Sea Shepherd Conservation Society activists try to prevent harpoon crews from killing cetaceans, a Tokyo restaurateur is campaigning to make whale meat tasty in an age where demand is in steep decline.
"We serve slices of whale sashimi. We serve deep-fried whale meat as well as stewed whale and whale bacon," boasted Shintaro Sato, owner of Taru-ichi restaurant, to ABC News.
If that doesn't tantalize the taste buds, Sato has a three-foot-long dried whale penis hanging above the entrance, to further demonstrate to patrons the special nature of his establishment.
To his credit, whaling is rooted deeply in Japanese culture, and Sato is quick to defend that against critics from anti-whaling civilizations. "What if we asked Australians to stop eating kangaroo or if we ordered the English to stop eating fish and chips -- what would their reaction be?" Sato said.
While whaling is culturally important to some Japanese, demand for whale meat is dwindling, as younger generations seemingly no longer want to eat flesh carved from a giant oily mammal.
A 2008 Greenpeace survey determined that only about 5% of Japanese people eat whale meat. More recently stories have stated that stockpiles of frozen whale meat has reached historic highs, providing more evidence of a shrinking demand.
As for Sea Shepherd, whose harassment techniques have hampered the whalers' efforts, that's a sore subject as far as Sato is concerned.
"Sea Shepherd is engaged in terrorism," he said. "Their actions are violent and illegal. They are not logical so I cannot understand them."
Japan conducts its whaling missions under a "lethal research" loophole in the wording of a global ban on commercial whaling, with an annual quota of 900-plus minke whales. That any research effort would require the killing of so many whales might also seem illogical.
-- Pete Thomas
Minke whale photo courtesy of Discovery Channel