~ Anti-whaling voice from Japan ~


An Open Letter to UNESCO about the Registration of "Washoku" (Japanese food culture) as a World Heritage


On last December 4, "Washoku," which Japan had applied for recognition, was officially registered as an Intangible Cultural Heritage by the intergovernmental panel of UNESCO at a meeting held in Azerbaijan. This registration can have an impact on international discussions in a variety of fields, especially animal welfare and the conservation of the environment, and we are very much concerned about that influence.

The resource management of highly migratory fish stocks such as eel and tuna is entrusted to international organizations by the rules of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. There is no room for doubt that one of the major factors that has led to overfishing is the "Washoku" of Japan which is a large consumption country, especially of seafood products. The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan has announced a policy to spread and promote "Washoku" abroad on this occasion of Washoku's registration as a World Heritage. But if consumption of fish is expand endlessly on the pretence of culture, those fish resources will surely be placed under further pressure.

Currently, commercial whaling is prohibited under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, and the Antarctic Ocean is regarded as a sanctuary. But Japan has continued its research whaling which is equal to commercial whaling in the Antarctic. In Japan, there are already several voices saying that "Whaling was recognized as a cultural activity by international organizations" with the registration of Washoku with UNESCO.

Today, international society is demanding the more humane handling for domesticated animals and pets, industrial animals and wildlife. Also international organizations such as the Council of Europe, Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, and the World Health Organization continue to prepare constant standards and regulations from the viewpoint of animal welfare. As you know, you yourself, UNESCO, provide standards for welfare in animal experiments.

There are traditional eating habits in the world like the "Sushi" of Taiwan. On the other hand, there are parts of "Washoku" which has a considerable lack of consideration for animal welfare. These are almost never been seen by the rest of the world. One of them is "Ikedukuri", a dish in which cut up fish and squid are kept alive and provided to guest. Another is "Odorigui," which is a kind of performance where people swallow the fish alive and enjoy the movement of the fish in the stomach.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan has been lobbying UNESCO along with the Japanese food industry, including chemical seasoning makers, for the purpose of raising the brand value promoting the exportability of "Washoku" and Japanese foods. A newspaper in Japan reported that Japan had been given a seat on an intergovernmental panel that should have gone to someone from Afghanistan in exchange for the restoration and assistance with the World Heritage site the Statue-of-Buddha. How do you feel about that in terms of fairness and morality?

I want to ask about the decision by UNESCO with the six questions below and demand that you supply an answer.

  1. Did you consider the influence to the environment with the registration of "Washoku"? If you reply yes, please supply details.
  2. Did you consider the point of view of animal welfare with the registration of "Washoku"? If you reply yes, please supply details.
  3. What do you think will be the impact on the resources of highly migratory fish species considering the registration of "Washoku" and activities of its promotion and dissemination?
  4. Are dolphin hunting and whaling included in the definition of "Washoku" which was recognized as World Cultural Heritage by you?
  5. Please present UNESCO's official opinion toward the voices in Japan claiming "UNESCO has endorsed Japan's whaling.".
  6. Please present UNESCO's official opinion toward such activities as "Ikedukuri". And also clarify your opinion about UNESCO's consideration toward animal welfare in the World Cultural Heritage registration process.


Approval group
- Choices for Tomorrow (CFT)

- CIOMS and ICLAS release the new International Guiding Principles for Biomedical Research Involving Animals
- Gateway to Farm Animal Welfare
- Bureaucrats seek to pick winners with $1 billion 'Cool Japan' Fund
- Two-thirds of department stores in Japan misrepresenting food: industry
- the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries is leading the registration of "Washoku" (Japanese text only)
http://www.asahi.com/articles/TKY201312050551.html (broken link)
- Farm ministry's efforts key in 'washoku' being added to UNESCO list
http://ajw.asahi.com/article/economy/business/AJ201312070010 (broken link)

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