A Japanese company has been criticised by animal rights activists after unveiling vending machines selling whale meat.
The three machines in the country’s second-largest city Yokohama offer customers whale steak, whale bacon and whale sashimi.
The prices range from around 1,000 yen (£6) to 3,000 yen (£19) and contain whale mainly caught in Japan.
Hideki Tokoro, president of the whaling firm Kyodo Senpaku, said he hopes the “unmanned store” revives sales of the food which has been shunned by many shops.
“There are many major supermarkets that are afraid of being harassed by anti-whaling groups so they won’t use whale. So there are many people who want to eat whale but can’t,” he said.
“Therefore, we are opening stores with the thought that we can provide a place where those people can eat.”
Some passers-by near the store said they would be open to eating whale but they wouldn’t make a special effort.
“I wouldn’t go out of my way to come (buy it). I usually eat chicken,” said Urara Inamoto, a 28-year-old customer service worker.
The company has recently set up two similar outlets in Tokyo and plans to open a fourth in the western city of Osaka in February.
It also hopes to grow to 100 locations in the next five years.
But while the government maintains eating whale is an important part of Japanese culture, consumption has dramatically declined in recent decades.
Just 1,000 tonnes of whale meat was eaten in Japan in 2021, down from 233,000 tonnes at the peak of its popularity in 1962.
In comparison, consumption of chicken and beef totalled 2.6 million tonnes and 1.27 million tonnes respectively.
Conservationists have criticised the vending machines.
Katrin Matthes, head of Japan policy for the Whale and Dolphin Conservation, said: “Most Japanese people have never ever tried it. So how can it be something you call a nationwide culture if nobody’s really participating in it?”
The International Whaling Commission (IWC) – a global organisation that oversees whale conservation – banned commercial whaling in 1986 after some species came close to extinction.
However, Japan continued whaling for what it said were research purposes. The country later pulled out of the IWC and resumed commercial whaling in 2019.
This story originally Appeared on skynews