This week Japan suspended whaling near Antarctica after headline-grabbing activists with Paul Watson's persistent Sea Shepherd Conservation Society forced the boats to turn around. Japan may even cancel its entire whaling season, which is good news for blubber-huggers and bad news for fans of reality TV show "Whale Wars."
Keep in mind, some of this whale meat was destined for dinner tables—despite the fact that the hunt only continues under a loophole in the 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling that allows whaling for "research purposes." Whale meat was once a staple in coastal Japan, although consumption appears to have fallen off and the meat now ends up where many cheap, over-produced commodities end up—on school lunch trays.
While it's easy to think that this process is repugnant and barbaric, it illuminates some double-standards we have when it comes to killing animals. For one, we find little wrong with keeping marine mammals locked up in captivity (sometimes with deadly consequences) for entertainment purposes while simultaneously feasting on domesticated animals from the top of the food chain. Just yesterday, Federal-inspected slaughterhouses in the United States killed 121,123 cattle, which, if you consider the chart above, roughly equates with 800 blue whales. Which may help put things in perspective.
Chart from The History of Modern Whaling.