Commercial whaling has been outlawed since the mid-’80s , but last week Japan sent a whaling fleet into the South Pacific with the aim of killing up to 1,000 whales, including 50 humpbacks. It’s the first time humpbacks have been harpooned since a ban in the 1960s, when they were almost hunted to extinction; the population’s still regarded as vulnerable. Here’s the loophole: Japan’s hunt is for “scientific” purposes—what’s called “lethal research.” A Japanese spokesman says that “killing whales allowed marine biologists to study their internal organs.”

So how’s this connected to food? Well, the Japanese government has always argued that whaling is an important Japanese cultural tradition, and that eating whale meat is, too. In fact, once these whales are studied—whatever that means—the meat will be sold commercially in Japan: This week the Agence France-Presse reported on a Tokyo curry stand, Asian Lunch, that’s selling a ground whale curry. It’s unclear where this meat came from, but according to the story, “Japan has been trying to give young people a taste for whale, which has also been marketed in burgers. Asian Lunch, which is also planning other whale dishes, introduced whale after being approached by a seller set up with the government’s encouragement.”

It seems likely that if the high-volume uproar over this whale hunt doesn’t deafen the Japanese government, whale meat may be pushed even harder. As the New York Times wrote about Japan’s targeting of the humpback—a much-ooh-and-aahed-about species—“There is some thought among foes of whaling that Japan picked this marquee species intentionally to test the resolve of anti-whaling nations and groups.”

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