The story may be of special interest to me for a couple of reasons: For one thing, I'm descended from whalers. Four great-uncles of mine were born aboard whaling vessels. For another, I lived in Japan briefly, teaching English there after college. I still remember the whale meat wrapped in cellophane at the grocery store and Japanese students who mocked us gaizin for our repulsion at the idea of it.
Turns out, however, that demand for whale meat is in steady decline in Japan, especially among the youth, who have to be enticed to choke it down by stewing the meat in ketchup or disguising it with sweet and sour sauce. So then, why does Japan go to such great lengths to defend its right to whale? "It’s not because Japanese want to eat whale meat," a Japanese policy researcher tells the Times. "It’s because they don’t like being told not to eat it by foreigners." Ahhh.
My own ancestors whaled until quite late in the game -- the last of the Cape Cod whalers. What killed the livelihood for them was not the collapse of whale populations or any moral repugnance at the idea of eating whale meat. Few Americans ever did. It was the oil they were primarily after, for lighting. As I understand it, what killed whaling in America was kerosene, which fed the gas lamps much more cheaply than did spermaceti. Which leaves me to wonder: If the rest of the world had been insisting that they stop killing the whales, would my ancestors have kept at it anyway, out of a mixture of spite and sheer Yankee cussedness? Hard to say for sure, but they might well have. Banzai!