Whale Burgers
June 24, 2005 5:30 PM   Subscribe

Minke whales, known as cockroaches of the sea are now available in burgers from Japanese fast-food chain Lucky Pierrot. This is somewhat controversial.
posted by quiet (52 comments total)

 
The whaling tradition isn't as old as the Japanese would have you believe, in most cases it only started around WW2, with the exception of a few villages that have been doing it for a few hundred years.

On of the reasons Japan is taking such a hard line on this is that they are concerned that once all whaling is illegal that the similar bans may be introduced to species of fish as well. The Japanese love their seafood.
posted by furtive at 5:48 PM on June 24, 2005


Wow. I'm going to be in Hokkaido in two weeks. I might just have to try one. I hope they still have those baby seal shakes that I like.
posted by Alison at 5:49 PM on June 24, 2005


Terrific post, thanks. I was wanting to post something like this.

Save the whales.
posted by Chimp at 6:18 PM on June 24, 2005


I hope they still have those baby seal shakes that I like.

What about dolphin dogs? That sounds delicious.

Last year the fisherman in Taiji Japan reported rounding up and hacking to death almost 1,200 dolphins. The dolphins were slaughtered and sold for "human" consumption.
posted by joedharma at 6:22 PM on June 24, 2005


Seriously, I love Lucky Pierrot. Good hamburgers are hard to find in Japan, but this might keep me from eating there.

Is it bad that I'm curious about the taste? I've always wondered what it is like to eat whale. It's kind of frightening how torn I am about eating whale burgers.
posted by Alison at 6:26 PM on June 24, 2005


The solution for this seems to be straightforward. Find or engineer an otherwise harmless bacteria that makes the flesh of whales inedible--revolting. Then mix it up with Purina Whale Chow and start feeding it to them.

Something that tastes like a cross between chinaberries, skunk, and 'Old Spice' would do nicely.
posted by kablam at 6:29 PM on June 24, 2005


Is it bad that I'm curious about the taste?

Well, it's human of you. But I don't think it's good.

My advice is to stay away from dolphin burgers, whale burgers, monkey burgers, orangutan burgers, human burgers, etc.........
posted by joedharma at 6:42 PM on June 24, 2005


Technically, the lobster is a better candidate for "cockroach of the sea," being a tough, hard-shelled scavenger.
posted by SPrintF at 7:24 PM on June 24, 2005


Alison writes "Is it bad that I'm curious about the taste?"

The subject of ivory comes up on old tool mailing lists every once and a while. The problem being that there really isn't a good substitute for some usages so occasionally someone will pine for a chunk of ivory. What's really unfortunate is that there is a small amount of sustainable ivory available but because of the ban on trade to prevent wild populations from being decimated you cannot buy that sustainable product. I think I've aquired an unfixable piano with ivory keys and I'm practically salavating at the chance to salvage them.

More on topic: the uses to which whale oil was put to in the 17th and 18th centries boggles the mind. Basically think of anything that you put refined dinosaurs in today and it was probably lubricated by whales 150 years ago. Different whales were known for having oil with different properties. I've seen an owner's manual for a turn of the last century car and it specified a specific species of whale oil for the gearbox.
posted by Mitheral at 7:31 PM on June 24, 2005


Japan has a fast food chain named after Lucky Pierre? Man, they've got everything!
posted by gurple at 7:43 PM on June 24, 2005


You are what you eat.
posted by ColdChef at 7:49 PM on June 24, 2005


I've eaten whale. It's not that great. There ARE a lot of minke whales and I'm not against sustainable whaling, because if a resource is important to people they tend to take steps to protect it, plus a couple whales here and there isn't going to make a big difference to the survival of most species. Having said that: selling whale meat in a fast food chain doesn't sound sustainable at all.
posted by fshgrl at 8:14 PM on June 24, 2005


But swordfish and ostrich are AWESOME!! Try it if you have a chance!
posted by Balisong at 8:24 PM on June 24, 2005


Given what Alison's curiosity got her, I'll refrain from expressing (explicitly) my desire to try minke sashimi.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 8:27 PM on June 24, 2005


damn, stupid fast hitting post after preview

Indeed Balisong Ostrich is *awesome*... and farmed. (So is emu, but I've never tried that particular fowl)

Swordfish, however, I feel more guilt eating. otoh, I prefer Ahi ahi over swordfish, and feel a comensurate increase in guilt in eating.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 8:30 PM on June 24, 2005


But swordfish is like the red meat of the sea!
And ostrich is like red meat if cooked almost Ahi rare, to where it still has juices.
I used to work in a microbrewery as a prep-cook (soux chef) and we would have semi-outrageous entrees as a nightly special.
They made so much money off the beer. .03 to make, 3.50 per pint to sell. We were encouraged to come up with crazy dishes for specials, if they didn't sell, it wasn't a drop in the bucket to profits.

That was a cool kitchen to work in!
posted by Balisong at 8:51 PM on June 24, 2005


*Warning* FP
I first tried Ostrich in a Thai restaurant in Richland, Wa. Reminded me greatly of beef, coarse texture, all dark, very rich in spite of the 5* sauce I ordered with it. Choked up my dinner comrade when he tasted my fork. However, I am in favore of ALL carnivores participating in at least SOME food procurement. IOW, if you eat it, you should at least experience what you're actually doing to obtain said protein. -just saying....
posted by primdehuit at 8:55 PM on June 24, 2005


Minke whales, cockroaches of the sea

No no, shrimp are the cockroaches of the sea. They crawl around on the floor, eating dead fish and fish shit.
posted by BoringPostcards at 8:57 PM on June 24, 2005


5* Thai sauce ROCKS!
posted by Balisong at 9:13 PM on June 24, 2005


if a resource is important to people they tend to take steps to protect it

Laughably untrue, even within the realm of seafood, and even if we restrict "people" to mean only the Japanese.
posted by aramaic at 9:14 PM on June 24, 2005


If it's edible, someone, somewhere is going to eat it.
I don't see what the big deal is.
It's odd how, in the face of new statistics on whale populations, the arguments against whaling have changed from "they're endangered!" to "they're smart!".
posted by nightchrome at 9:41 PM on June 24, 2005


That said, the Japanese ability to eat literally anything that comes out of the ocean can be a little disturbing. I'm not making it up when I say I've been to a Sea-World style aquarium and heard someone seriously say "mmmm, now I'm hungry" in regards to an exotic fish display.
posted by nightchrome at 9:43 PM on June 24, 2005


aramaic: I guess I mean that if the resource is culturally important people will try to protect it. Recreational and subsistence hunters and fishermen do a lot of lobbying for wildlife protection and conservation.

Obviously big corporations don't, but that's where the whole "sustainable" bit of my arguement comes in and my disagreeing with the whole idea of selling whale in a chain fast food joint. Most commercial fishermen would be happy to fish less and get more for their catches but they're forced to keep up with everyone else by economic pressures. Dockside prices haven't increased in years despite rising costs, particularly for fuek and skyrocketing retail prices, largely due to a few companies having a monopoly on the wholesale market. There was a huge salmon price fixing lawsuit in Alaska about 4 years ago, unfortunately the fishermen lost.
posted by fshgrl at 10:16 PM on June 24, 2005


Originally posted by Nightcrome

If it's edible, someone, somewhere is going to eat it.
I don't see what the big deal is.
It's odd how, in the face of new statistics on whale populations, the arguments against whaling have changed from "they're endangered!" to "they're smart!".



I would say that animal intelligence should be a primary consideration in making a decision on whether it is moral or not to slaughter it.

If an alien race came and started massacring humans for their purposes, and justified it based on our high population rather than on our high levels of awareness and desire to live, there'd be a problem no?

That said, I still cannot personally ethically justify slaughtering animals for food, even though I'm not (yet) a vegetarian.
posted by spacediver at 10:29 PM on June 24, 2005


Not a cockroach.

When I was in Peru, some of the natives informed me that killing river dolphins caused flipper babies in the fisherman's infants. So they didn't kill the river dolphins.
I tried to explain that it was the pesticides from the banana farms that cause the flipper babies, but they weren't having it.
Maybe we should just start a rumor that eating whale makes Japanese men's testes shrink.

check me out. just said "natives" and "flipper-babies" and made fun of Japanese mens' penis sizes in a single post. I'm so not pc tonight that I should make my wife get me a beer.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 10:39 PM on June 24, 2005


Flipper Babies Wins!
posted by Balisong at 10:46 PM on June 24, 2005


spacediver: there would be a problem, but it would not be because of the logic the aliens use. The problem would arise from the fact that I am human. If aliens needed food and we were a decent choice for them, I'm not gonna fault them for trying to chomp down on us. But I'm certainly not going to let them.

I guess the key point in your post is your last statement, what you can "personally ethically justify". You have your personal view, someone from another culture has theirs, an alien has theirs. You can spend all your time arguing over it if you want, but in the end, people gotta eat.
posted by nightchrome at 11:06 PM on June 24, 2005


Right - the changing moral perspective depending on whether you are predator or prey :p

All i'm saying is animal intelligence is not an unreasonable principle on which to base moral decisions concerning their slaughter.

That said, I appreciate that your original post may have been faulting the inconsistency of anti-whalers - perhaps they should have used the intelligence thing all along. (perhaps they did, i haven't read much on this issue)
posted by spacediver at 11:19 PM on June 24, 2005


Basically what fshgrl said: As long as whaling doesn't lead to the extinction of a species, i.e. if it's sustainable, let the Japanese go for it. In any case, the IWC is essentially already giving the Japanese a quota of 600 or so whales through this scientific whaling nonsense.

The "whales are too intelligent" is very weak. Cows and pigs are intelligent too, yet nobody complains against slaughtering them either. Well, nobody that counts anyway. Wasn't there a move about a piglet outsmarting everyone around him?
posted by sour cream at 12:17 AM on June 25, 2005


spacediver writes "All i'm saying is animal intelligence is not an unreasonable principle on which to base moral decisions concerning their slaughter."

I agree, and was about to make a comparison to bushmeat. But a lot of the sites about bushmeat (the practice of eating apes, our closest animal relatives), unfortunately, suck.

Sheer suckiness didn't prepare me for this, though.
posted by BoringPostcards at 12:23 AM on June 25, 2005


sour cream Just because we do not apply a certain principle to other animals doesn't render that principle bullshit. It renders us inconsistent.

There are very sound arguments to be made against taking a creature's life, if that creature possesses intelligence.

Of course, this is a whole discussion unto itself. Intelligence is broad concept, and its relationship to capacity for suffering and life potential are fertile fields of enquiry.

i.e. does having a more highly developed cortex facilitate a sharper sense of self? And if so, does the threat to such a creature's life pose a greater potential of suffering, since it can appreciate the dimensions of its fate on a more personal and complex level?

These arguments do not inherently support the idea that slaughtering animals of "lower" intelligence is justified, however. It is clear that when you attempt to slaughter just about any animal, you are going against its will. This is enough of a condition for me, personally, to consider it morally wrong.

But consider the fact that we do not think much of stepping on an ugly simply worm, but that we abhor the idea of killing beautiful kittens with the same capriciousnes.

Either you accept that you have a double standard (in which case your own moral compass is bullshit, not the competing arguments), or you consider some other factor along a certain dimension to be relevant in basing a choice. (i.e. the more beautiful it is, the worse it is to kill it. Or, more plausibly, the more intelligent and mentally developed it is, the worse it is to kill it.)
posted by spacediver at 12:31 AM on June 25, 2005


Ostrich is not "like" red meat, it IS red meat. And a fillet grills up exactly like fillet mignon (beef tenderloin). It's wonderful, we eat it all the time in South Africa. I had it before moving here, in Europe.

Eat a whale? Sounds blubbery, but I might like it (I, for one, have a passion for fatty food). I don't know about minke whales, but I'm not keen on eating higher mammals. I'm not even happy with the fact the monkeys by my house are scared away when I try to watch them. They get something from my pseudo-bananna trees they're welcome to--So long as they stay out of the garbage.

As for vegetarianism: When some vegetarian comes to my house with the food and prepares it, I'll eat it. Until then, I'll eat what I'm happy to eat. If what makes me happy changes, that's fine.
posted by Goofyy at 1:12 AM on June 25, 2005


Human burgers would solve many of our problems.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:25 AM on June 25, 2005


This thread has ruined my desire to eat lobster or shrimp ever again. (I was already on the fence about crayfish.)

/hates cockroaches more than Winston Smith hates rats
posted by meh at 2:16 AM on June 25, 2005


It is clear that when you attempt to slaughter just about any animal, you are going against its will. This is enough of a condition for me, personally, to consider it morally wrong.

While I can see the logic and emotion in this point of view, I really have a difficult time understanding it. We are meat eaters. Sure, we can eat things other than meat, but there are things we need to get from meat. It's that simple. The natural world consists of beings eating other beings, either when they are alive (carnivores eating animals, herbivores eating plants) or when they are dead (plants "eating" dead organic materials in soil). Consumption is the name of the game.
It's probably a good idea for people to think about their food more than we do in our modern society. We should probably appreciate that we have it, and appreciate that we have a choice regarding what we are going to eat.
Likewise, we should probably give some thought to the source of the food, and seek to not do any more harm than is absolutely necessary in acquiring what we need. Currently, we're pretty horrible in regards to the way we treat the sources of our food.
Anyway, I'm just saying that we all have to eat (unless you're a Breathearian), and it's good to put some thought and emotion into your choices regarding the food you eat and how you go about getting it. But in the end, you just have to accept that you're gonna consume something.
posted by nightchrome at 2:39 AM on June 25, 2005


Having eaten dogs, rats, bats llamas and a variety of other animals - some anthropomorphic and cute, some less so, I have to reluctantly conclude that there is nothing wrong with eating wales as long as they are not endangered. That said, the Japanese record on fish conservation is appalling, so at the time being I don't think it's really defensible. On the plus side, forest rat tastes pretty good. Much nicer than dog.
posted by rhymer at 2:49 AM on June 25, 2005


I should also point out that I'm not defending Japanese fishing practices. In just about all areas I am aware of, food related and not, the Japanese are an obscenely wasteful society. Thankfully, that is changing for the better.
posted by nightchrome at 3:00 AM on June 25, 2005


"Cows and pigs are intelligent too, yet nobody complains against slaughtering them either."
uhhhh cows? ill give you pigs. but cows?

"In just about all areas I am aware of, food related and not, the Japanese are an obscenely wasteful society."
uhhhhh just the japanese?

this isn't about "people gotta eat", this is about a delicacy. That said, I don't know that intellignce dictates the depth to which an animal can experience pain and terror so 'just kill the dumb ones' may not be such a good rubric. Also, there are humans with the intelligence of fish/cows. May we eat them?
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 3:29 AM on June 25, 2005


Cows are probably the dumbest mammal around. After working with them, I have no problem whatsoever eating them. It even adds a little bit of sinister satisfaction.

The best argument in the articles given was that the demand for whale meat is actually declining and thus the Japanese push to legalize whaling is outright illogical. If there isn't a huge demand for whale meat, and the meat they're harvesting from "scientific whaling" isn't in such demand to be outrageously expensive, why do they feel the need to bribe countries to vote against the whaling ban?

What we really need to worry about are the impending bans on foie gras. I'll fully support France's attempts to bribe whoever is in a position to vote against that BS. Mmmmm fatty goose liver.
posted by mek at 5:27 AM on June 25, 2005


It's actually not a delicacy. It was the standard fare in school cafeterias for a very long time, I've got many friends who remember eating it when they were kids. I dunno about you, but I didn't get served delicacies at school.
posted by nightchrome at 5:58 AM on June 25, 2005


derail/ Maybe if our government gave even a single thought to upholding and honoring international treaties, they'd be able to occupy some ethical and political high-ground and exert some influence in this situation.
As it stands, any country can say, in regards to any international infraction, "Yeah? What's the big deal? Look at what you're doing!"
/derail


As far as sustainability goes, we've got a really really bad record with whales. They're endangered because the past century or so of human hunting. Smaller communities and cultures, on the other hand, have a much better record of preservation. Not only do they not have the commercial/industrial mechanism that facilitates the excessive hunting, but they also have a more harmonious and spiritual connection to the activity. I've always had a hard time when people get outraged about the annual, traditional native Alaskan whale hunts. Hell, let them do it. It's part of their way of life.
On the other hand, there are creatures that have been previously endangered that we repopulated by and for farming. There was a while when buffalo were pretty scarce in the US. Now, you can go to the store and buy their meat in burger patties. These buffalo are being systematically farmed. Hey, if you can farm it, go ahead and eat it. If someone can come up with a whale farm, then I don't really have any problem with it (aside from the nagging ethical issue of their potential intelligence). But as it stands, they're getting their whale meat from the fragile and wild whale population. That's a pretty shaky place to be, especially if a few other countries decide to embrace this trend.
posted by Jon-o at 9:08 AM on June 25, 2005



posted by peacay at 10:08 AM on June 25, 2005


I agree, and was about to make a comparison to bushmeat.

Yeah, but cows and pigs are at least as intelligent as Bush, and no one complains about eating them.
posted by pterodactyler at 12:49 PM on June 25, 2005


*Zing!*

Two points to pterodactyler.
posted by Jon-o at 1:33 PM on June 25, 2005


There'll be no accusations, just friendly crustaceans, er, cockroach whale burgers, under the sea!
posted by papakwanz at 2:06 PM on June 25, 2005


Good one peacay.
Is that a Japanese war flag the guy is wearing?
posted by sour cream at 2:17 PM on June 25, 2005


Nightcrome, my own personal view is that if I have the intelligence to be able to appreciate the suffering caused by slaughtering another being, and if the slaughter is not necessary (vegetarian alternatives), then it is a simple matter to declare that slaughter morally wrong.

For I would not wish to be treated in that manner by another being.

I can appreciate the "I wasn't put on this planet to eat cabbage" point of view - but I do not subscribe to "what is natural is moral" equation.
posted by spacediver at 7:51 PM on June 25, 2005


This is great, But I'm hungry watching this thread
I'll be back.....
posted by primdehuit at 10:55 PM on June 25, 2005


Alison : "Is it bad that I'm curious about the taste? I've always wondered what it is like to eat whale."

Very strong and odd meaty flavor (er, obvious, being a mammal). I had it once, hated it, decided that I probably just had it at a lousy place, tried it again elsewhere, and hated it for the same reason. The flavor is too darn strong, and somehow bad (it's been too long for me to remember how it was bad).

I'll also vouch for the point that it isn't a delicacy. It's rare, but for some reason not expensive. Presumably because people don't like it all that much (though there was quite a bit of news recently about an elementary school that returned whale to the menu).
posted by Bugbread at 2:07 AM on June 26, 2005


In the interest of balance and harmony, I think that Lucky Pierrot should also serve burgers made from ground-up Japanese businessmen.

As a plus, it would also make Japanese schoolgirls safer...
posted by Enron Hubbard at 6:50 AM on June 26, 2005


That said, the Japanese ability to eat literally anything that comes out of the ocean can be a little disturbing.

we eat the grossest ones ourselves, though. We consider Giant Sea Insect with lots of butter to be a delicacy. And we eat the slithery legs of the octopus, too. Honestly, I think we cover all the nasty stuff.

Cows are probably the dumbest mammal around. After working with them, I have no problem whatsoever eating them.

weird, I had a totally different experience. I spent some time on a ranch in chile, and meeting the cows there totally reinforced my vegetarianism. They each had their own style and attitude, and watching them roped & branded depressed me. They slaughtered one cow while I was there, in celebration - this was the new herd being branded, not the slaughter-for-sale. Anyway, the smell and the blood was unpleasant, but what got me most about the whole thing was how much it seemed to be about domination and machismo. I'm sure that's partly specific to chile, but the whole "real men hunt & kill" thing extends throughout our culture - real men don't eat tofu, etc.

anyhoo. that's off topic. I don't have a major problem with sustainable whaling - at least they get to live a life in the wild, unlike the pigs and cows we cage and kill. Maybe those dumb cows you met were dumb because they'd been brought up without a chance to roam and explore things - I bet humans brought up in little stockyards would be pretty uninteresting... (not that cows would suddenly be brilliant if we exposed them to calculus or something, just that it seems entirely reasonable whatever potential they do have may not be realized in factory farms.). It's also possible that the cow brain just works in a way you don't relate to, but that doesn't mean it's not working - we used to think autistic people were just simply retarded, and now we tend to think there's something going on, but it just plays out in a different way (see oliver sacks / temple grandin, eg).

all right, I managed to get back off topic within a sentence. apologies :)
posted by mdn at 7:43 AM on June 26, 2005





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