Whaling in Japan might have begun as early as the 12th century. During the 20th century, Japan was heavily involved in commercial whaling until the International Whaling Commission (IWC) moratorium on commercial whaling went into effect in 1986. Japan continued to hunt whales using the scientific research provision in the agreement, and Japanese whaling is currently conducted by the Institute of Cetacean Research. The meat from these scientific whale hunts is then sold in shops and restaurants. This is allowed under IWC rules, although most IWC members oppose it.
These hunts are a source of conflict between pro- and anti-whaling countries and organizations. Nations, scientists and environmental organizations opposed to whaling consider the Japanese research program to be unnecessary at best and a thinly disguised commercial whaling operation at worst.
Japan maintains that annual whaling is sustainable and necessary for scientific study and management of whale stocks. Japan also argues that objections to whaling are based upon cultural differences and emotional anthropomorphism.
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