Hundreds of Japanese officials and pro-whaling lobbyists have eaten whale in defiance of a international court ruling that ordered the country to stop its Antarctic whaling program.
The 26th whale meat tasting event in Tokyo was hosted near the nation's parliament and was attended by lawmakers, officials and pro-whaling lobbyists.
Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi told attendees that the country must protect its whale-eating culture.
"[Japan] has a policy of harvesting and sustainably using the protein source from the ocean, and that is unshakable," Associated Press quoted Mr Hayashi as saying.
Meanwhile, a lower house MP criticised the arguments against whaling as emotional and not based on reason.
"Japan’s whaling is based on scientific reasons, while counterarguments by anti-whaling groups are emotional, saying they are against the hunts because whales are cute or smart," the Japan Times reported Shunichi Suzuki of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party as saying.
The International Court of Justice last month ruled the program invalid, finding that it was a commercial activity disguised as scientific research.
Japanese leaders have said the country plans to abide by the ruling, but the Institute of Cetacean Research has indicated whaling could resume in a different format.
In a memorandum lodged in a US lawsuit against the anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd, the institute says whaling permits would not be issued for 2014-15 season because of the ICJ decision, but they could be issued in the following summer.
"Plaintiffs expect that they will be conducting a Southern Ocean research program for subsequent seasons that would be in accord with the ICJ decision," the memorandum says.