Looks like Japan’s whaling fleet has slunk home with only half its hoped-for kill this season, thanks to the controversial high-seas efforts of Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd activists.

“Toshiro Shirasu, the vice minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, said it was “regrettable” that Japan’s whaling fleet was returning from its annual five-month hunt after killing just 551 whales, not its goal of 900 because of “offshore protests” by opponents of the hunt.”

Ever since 1982, when the International Whaling Commission placed a moratorium on commercial whaling on endangered species – which is another way of saying all whales anywhere – Japan has exploited a little loophole in the ban that allows for 900 or so to be butchered old-school-style each year for “scientific research.” Not by accident, all of this research ends up on supermarket shelves here. Not satisfied by this, Japanese officials want to resume historic levels of whaling, claiming it’s a matter of cultural tradition and national heritage (attention all Confederate Flag supporters: you’ve got like-thinking friends in Japan).

“Asking Japan to abandon this part of its culture would compare to Australians being asked to stop eating meat pies, Americans being asked to stop eating hamburgers and the English being asked to go without fish and chips.”

I don’t know about Australians and meat pies, but I actually eat – and like – hamburgers (or at least I used to eat them). But after eight months in country, I’ve met hardly anyone here who’s ever eaten whale meat, or kujira, as it’s called. And of those few, every one I’ve talked to thinks it’s downright disgusting (this, from a people who pour sea urchin eggs on spaghetti and wolf down grilled chicken cartilage with a smile). So it’s hard to understand the official campaign to force-feed kujira to a mostly unwilling population. In any case, it’s hard to feel bad for those harried Japanese whalers. After all, even a bad day fishing beats a good day at the office.