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David @ Tokyo

Perspective from Japan on whaling and whale meat, a spot of gourmet news, and monthly updates of whale meat stockpile statistics



Beef, Pork & Whale Stockpiles

People have asked me whether Japan's Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries also produces statistics for other animal products, such as beef.

The whale meat statistics are included in the fisheries statistics, but beef and pork figures can be obtained from an Independent Administrative Institution, known as The Agriculture & Livestock Industries Corporation (ALIC)

The graph below illustrates the relative size of the Beef, Pork and Whale stockpiles in Japan, based on statistics from ALIC, and the usual Ministry stats for Whale.

Feel free to send in your thoughts on how this might be interpreted.

* * *
Beef stats - Japanese Excel, Japanese HTML
Pork stats - Japanese Excel, Japanese HTML

There are some English stats available too, but the Japanese are slightly more up to date, and hence I've used those here.


I have an explanation!
Japanese people are vegans, they don't eat meat anymore...They prefer "green peas"! :p
Dear David@Tokyo:

My name is Atsushi Ishii at Tohoku University, JAPAN. I have a comment on your treatment of the stock pile statistics of whale meat. As you have mentioned about the Survey Specification in the "Statistics on Distribution of Frozen Fishery Products" (hereafter Statistics) and its change in January 2008, I would like to put it in different terms. Take for example the year 2006, the Statistics specifies that at the outset the number of surveyed factories was 721. For the same year, the “Zenkoku-Reizou-Souko-Ichiran” (published in 2007 by Nihon-Reizou-Souko-Kyoukai) indicates that in Japan there are 3,378 factories for refrigerating, of which 2,676 factories that are capable of refrigerating whale and fish meat colder than minus 20 degrees Celsius. This is not only valid for the year 2006 but also for most recent versions of the Statistics because there is no drastic change in the numbers of the relevant factories. When these numbers are compared to the surveyed factories of the Statistics, it means that the Statistics is only representing 21.3% of Japan’s total refrigerator capacity in terms of the number of factories. The implication of this is that it is logically possible to have a "paper" increase: increasing the outgoing stocks of whale meat by only transferring whale meat from factories subject to the Statistics to uncounted factories. In other words, increase in the outgoing stocks of whale meat cannot automatically be interpreted as increase in the whale meat demand. Therefore, your argument that “the Whale consumption doubles - 50% increase in shipments since 2002 alone” in your Blog article cannot be confirmed by the Statistics but can be confirmed only until the real comprehensive situation of the whale meat distribution is known.

Thank you for your attention.
Sincerely yours,
Atsushi Ishii
Dear Atsushi,

Thanks for your comment.

As you note, the Statistics are based on a survey which does not have 100% coverage, and so it's not impossible that significant amounts of whale meat aren't showing up in the statistics.

I've written about the limitations of the Statistics myself previously (here).

Also, I've heard other remarks of a slightly different nature.

One person suggested to me that the Ministry may be simply manipulating the statistics, the numbers themselves.

Other people have also noted that whale meat being shipped around in increasing volumes does not mean that people are actually eating it, either. It could actually be being thrown away, and the costs of shipping it around are being bourne by distributers or retailers rather than consumers. Or consumers could be paying for it, but then throwing it out themselves.

Yet, whale meat certainly is being sold in various place here in Tokyo, and personally I've heard and read various information suggesting a whale "boom" in recent times (since the big supply increase in 2006). Even Greenpeace Japan seems to be suggesting that whale meat is valuable commodity these days, as we see in their recent allegations of whale meat embezzlement by Kyodo Senpaku crew members.

Of course, such annecdotes are not quantitive in nature, but I suspect that there is no organization willing to fund a (serious) study that would do a better job of it than the Ministry.

Best Regards,
Dear David@Tokyo

Thanks for your response. As I agree with you that “there is no organization willing to fund a (serious) study that would do a better job of it than the Ministry,” I would emphasize that we have no means to say anything about the real demand of whale meat. This means that there is no way to confirm the winner in this debate. So, I do not intend to have a debate, but I have a question when you say that there is a whale boom. Why did the Geishoku-Labo have to close their internet shop down if there is any whale boom?

Sincerely yours,
Atsushi Ishii
Dear Atsushi,

I believe we are agreed that the official ministry survey is not a perfect representation of the whale meat market.

However, as for whether the survey can be regarded as generally indicative of trends in the actual market, allow me to say that I don't feel that the assumptions that need to be made of the survey data for this to be the case (i.e., that increasing outgoing stock volumes be indicative of increasing consumption) are unreasonable.

Nonetheless, while I make these assumptions myself, I don't mean to assert that they are definitely correct, nor intend myself to have a debate about it with anyone who wishes to believe otherwise.

One other comment I would add is that I prefer to interpret these figures in terms of "consumption" as opposed to "demand", as the survey doesn't include retail price information, and strictly speaking "demand" in the economic sense can remain constant at the same time as a "consumption" increase, if prices have decreased.

Finally, I'm not familiar with the circumstances of the closure of that individual on-line shop, although I recall the Asahi newspaper reported on Geishoku Labo's difficulty in establishing itself earlier this year. I see on the site closure notice of the subsidiary that they invite customers seeking whale meat to get in touch with Geishoku Labo directly now.
Mr. Ishii is an economist featured prominently elsewhere along such pillars of anti-whaling as the director of HSUS, Greenpeace, and the propaganda machine which is Whale-Dolphin Conservation Society.
Not exactly pillars of science and free thought.

Here you can see his paper --
Admittedly, I stopped reading after the first page.
His hypothesis that the "whaling camp" (very scientific and objective terminology there... doesn't evoke "us vs them" at all) does not seek to resume commercial whaling -- and this is all just a ruse to continue Article VII whaling -- was already disproved this past year.
While the IWC compromise did not go through, it was surely not from a lack of effort and commitment from Japan. It's hard to call a 75% reduction (what the other side of the table was demanding) a "compromise" to begin with.
Japan's commitment towards finding solutions and compromises is also easily demonstrable via the decisions made on Humpbacks in 2007 and every year since. Humpbacks are not endangered, but realizing that anti-whalers see them as even more special and magnificent than other whales, Japan has decided to not hunt them as a gesture of goodwill towards compromise. The mistake here is that Australia, New Zealand, and the US are not interested in compromise at all. They're interested in using whaling as a green-wash for their own politics, something politicians can stir up the rabid masses about to distract from their failures domestically, and a stick with which to beat Japan with.

We could also delve into Japan's repeated attempts to secure secret ballots -- which would spell the end of the vote-buying championed by Australia and emotional NGOs which bought and paid for votes to pass the temporary moratorium in the first place.

And all this to say nothing of how much money is surely spent on researching whales -- and not just in JARPA or JARPN, but SOWER as well.
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