Japanese whalers cut into a 30-foot whale and served pieces of its fried meat to a group of young students on Thursday in the coastal town of Wada to kick off the hunting season, which began June 20.
The children visited the area, located in the city of Minamiboso, for an informational field trip, said CNN. For the fishermen, who believe that their trade is an important tradition in Japanese culture, whaling education is crucial.
Minamiboso is one of the few cities that is able to continue its custom of hunting despite recent restrictions that have compromised the long-standing practice.
This year, Japan was forced to halt its whaling expedition in the Antarctic when the U.N.’s International Court of Justice ruled it lacked scientific value, according to CNN. Only a small number of ports are immune to the regulations due to a small-scale coastal whaling program, including one in Minamiboso.
Since the program was barred, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he wants the practice to resume in places such as Antarctica, claiming it is necessary in order to learn information essential to the conservation of the whale population. Opponents say the program is merely a tactic to practice commercial trade.
Japan has also continued its northwest Pacific whaling research program despite mounting criticism, reported CNN.
Polls show that the majority of Japanese people are still in support of whaling, despite the recent controversy. The practice of whaling should continue, said 60 percent of respondents in a recent poll, according to a news release from The Asahi Shimbun. Out of the respondents who do not eat whale, almost half of them still wanted the program to continue.
Patrick Ramage from the International Fund for Animal Welfare told CNN that “respect for cultural differences is fundamental, but friends of Japan and fans of Japanese culture around the world are watching with sadness.”