Growing up on the tongue of sand, marsh, and pluff mud known as Charleston, S.C., I was aware from an early age that seafood there is far more than just food; it’s practically a religion. So I never thought I’d find myself among a people whose devotion to seafood makes coastal Southerners’ fancy for it seem like tepid apathy. There is nothing that swims, crawls, creeps, floats, bobs, dives, drifts, or filters that a Japanese person won’t eat, often whole and raw. This is a country whose per capita consumption of octopus is probably double that of chicken but still less than its taste for glistening, Twinkie-sized sacs of raw fish eggs. And don’t even get me started on squid.
Despite an 18-year-old international ban on hunting whales, Japan kills hundreds each year for what it claims is “scientific research.” Curiously, all the “research” ends up on supermarket shelves. I’ve never seen any, though, and I haven’t met anyone here who eat the stuff, which is saying something.
I read this morning on John Tierney’s science blog for The New York Times about the the ongoing battle between Japan’s commercial whaling association and the rest of the civilized word, including some remarkably tenacious Greenpeace activists. Straight out of the Department of Tortured Rationalizations, Japanese officials have offered this gem of an argument to bolster its case: according to one Japanese official, the whales are “depleting fish stocks.”
Something tells me this guy wasn’t on the debate team in high school.
But he’s not finished. In his closing argument, the guy also manages to squeeze in a dig at the Koreans, which always gets you bonus points in Japan.
“Yoshimasa Hayashi, a member of Japanese Parliament from the ruling party, crystallized the Japanese position in an interview with the BBC. ‘In Japan we have pet dogs,’ he said. ‘But we don’t tell the Koreans to stop eating dogs. Nor should people tell us to stop eating whales.’