Whale meat again?

Whale meat for sale in a Japanese market.A trendy bar in fashionable Hoxton, East London had its collar felt last week. 

Its crime wasn't watering down the drinks or allowing uncool punters through the door. 

No, the alleged crime in question was serving bits of a whale in a cocktail called a Moby Dick. 

The drink was described as containing whisky, brandy, ale and bitters, along with a "whale skin infusion". 

Thankfully, there is a Europe-wide ban on the sale of whale meat and products, except under strict restrictions in Greenland and Denmark. 

According to media reports, police were tipped-off in October that the bar was serving whale skin illegally, and raided the City Road premises on December 3. 

The raid was carried out by officers from the Metropolitan Police Wildlife Crime Unit and an officer from the United Kingdom Border Force.

"One item from the premises was seized," said a police spokesman. "This has been sent for analysis."

No arrests have been made and the bar owner was quoted as saying: "We did have a drink on this year’s menu which included a small amount of scotch whisky infused with a single 2 x 5cm strip of dried whale skin."

The whale skin was said to have been brought to the bar by an employee who bought it during a visit to Japan.

It's good to see that the sharp eye of the law is keeping even the more sophisticated establishments on their toes when it comes to using even small amounts of products from the cruel, unnecessary and, thankfully dying, whaling industry. 

The International Fund for Animal Welfare opposes whaling because it is inherently cruel - there is no humane way to kill a whale and footage of Japanese whaling has shown harpooned whales taking more than half an hour to die.

Yet much of the meat from slaughtered whales ends up stockpiled or sold cheaply to schools and hospitals because of poor market demand.

On a recent visit to Japan, where the lack of appetite for whale meat, particularly among the younger generation, is very apparent, I met with local whale watching operators who are keen to promote the only truly sustainable 'use' of whales.

An IFAW report on the global whale watching industry found that in 2008, it generated US $22 million (almost £14 million) in Japan alone.

There are currently around 30 whale watching operators working from a dozen locations around the Japanese coast.

The whale watching industry has proved beyond doubt that it offers a humane and profitable alternative to the cruelty of whaling, better for people as well as whales.

IFAW urges members of the public to avoid any whale products when visiting whaling countries or wherever you may come across them. We believe that whales should be seen and not hurt.

-- RM

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Brian Sharp, Emergency Relief Officer, Stranding Coordinator
Manager, Marine Mammal Rescue and Research
Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
Program Director, Marine Conservation