For the last several years, Japan's whaling industry has come under increasingly intense international criticism from countries like Australia. Japanese whalers are also engaged in a quasi-war with a group called the Sea Shepherds -- a self-styled conservation group that has been attacking Japanese whaling boats in an effort to end the practice (just this week a U.S. court labelled the group as pirates for their aggressive tactics).
Yoshimasa Hayashi, Japan's newly appointed fisheries minister, will brook no criticism of the country's whaling practices. He told the AFP that criticism of whaling amounted to "prejudice against Japanese culture.... In some countries they eat dogs, like Korea. In Australia they eat kangaroos. We don't eat those animals, but we don't stop them from doing that because we understand that's their culture."
He also vowed that Japanese will never stop eating whale meat. But just how much whale meat do the Japanese eat? Australia's ABC estimates that only five percent of the population regularly consumes the stuff. There is reportedly 5,000 tons worth of whale meat simply lying around in cold storage.
Meanwhile, the whaling industry itself is struggling to stay profitable, relying on costly injections of government subsidies to stay afloat (if you will).