Food taboos pertaining to dolphins and whales exist in many parts of the world, while people in other countries celebrate this food. Those who eat whale and dolphin meat argue that their cuisine isn’t any different that meats from cows, chickens or pigs preferred by other societies.
Taboo Foods: Eating Whales
Residents of Norway, Iceland, Japan and Inuit communities of Alaska consider whale meat a delicacy. Japan is one of the world’s largest consumers of whale meat, which became increasingly popular as a source of protein after World War II.
While consumption in Japan has declined, the practice is still legal. Although commercial whaling has been banned world-wide since 1986, an annual whale hunt by Japan is allowed as a scientific program. Whale meat not used for study is sold for eating in Japan, while international sales are outlawed.
In 2001, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) launched a controversial campaign called “Eat the Whales.” It encouraged meat eaters to only consume the meat of larger animals like whales, who swim freely in a vast ocean before being slaughtered, rather than chickens, cows and pigs, who are often kept in inhumane conditions.
Eating large animals also cuts down on the total number of animals that need to be killed. The organization argued that the meat of one blue whale was equal to that of over 1,200 pigs.
The aim of the campaign was to draw attention to what the organization deemed hypocrisy by people who were outraged by whale hunting but had no qualms about eating other animals. PETA distributed vegan “whale meat” at the launch of the campaign.
Cultural Taboos: Eating Dolphins
While many residents of Western nations equate dolphins with aquarium wonders or the classic American television show Flipper, other people around the world see these animals as food. Many rural communities in Japan consume dolphin, as do others in the Asian continent.
Dolphin meat shouldn’t be confused with dolphin fish, also known as mahi-mahi. These fish, with no relation to dolphins, are consumed by many people in the United States, the Caribbean, Europe and Australia.
The Cove, the Oscar-winning documentary feature of 2010, exposed a dolphin and porpoise harvesting industry off the cost of Japan where 20,000 creatures are killed annually.
Not only do supporters of this film find this slaughter one of the worst in a wide world of food taboos, but meat from these mammals has been found to contain toxic levels of mercury. The meat is often sold in Japan and other Asian countries as whale meat.