Again the girls ordered omakase, and when they asked specifically for whale they were allegedly served a plate of it. While they ate, Psyihoyos, the "Cove" director, who was in town getting ready for the Academy Awards, sat with Hambleton in a van in the parking lot, monitoring the audio feed.
Meanwhile, a pair of agents from the N.O.A.A. and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had set up a base of operations at the Beverly Hills estate of an animal-loving former rock- and-roll manager. Leaving the restaurant with more samples, Crystal and Heather headed to Beverly Hills. The house, vast and contemporary, with a waterfall, a room with a piano and eight guitars, and an extensive art collection, was also home to six rescue dogs. The agents turned a guest bathroom into a lab, and tried to ignore the fact that the owner of the house, who has MS, was walking around with a joint. "The look on their faces was great, like, Keep that away from us," Hambleton said.
In the bathroom, the agents worked late into the night debriefing Heather and Crystal and preparing the samples. Hambleton secretly kept a little meat for himself; he didn't trust the feds to resist political pressure if someone decided it would be inconvenient for U.S.-Japan relations to find sei whale for sale in the U.S. But he didn't have cause to use it: the NOAA lab the meat was sent to identified it as sei, too.
In early March, 2010, the investigators asked Crystal and Heather to make a final trip to The Hump. This time, they checked their purses before they went in, and stationed three of their own undercover agentsfrom NOAA, Fish and Wildlife, and U.S. Customs and Border Protectionat the sushi bar. The girls did their thing: omakaseincluding blowfish building up to kujira, requested by name. According to the affidavit, when the chef left to go outside, the Fish and Wildlife agent followed him and watched from a stairwell as he appeared to walk away from an old white Mercedes in the parking lot, carrying a hunk of meat wrapped in clear plastic. Trailing the chef back inside, the agent said he saw the chef slap it on the sushi bar in front of an underling, who cut it into small strips. Then, the agent said, he and his colleagues instigated speculation among the other patrons at the bar as to what kind of meat it was. Finally, the chef slicing it muttered "whale," at which point it was delivered to Crystal and Heather.
Of all the things she ate in the name of saving animals, Crystal Galbraith, the young vegan operative who went undercover at The Hump, found the alleged horse meat most disturbing. Whale had the strange but not unpleasant flavor of "fishy beef," but horse she found altogether unpalatable. "It was pungent and gamey, really disgusting." she told me. To eat it, she had to fool herself back into a pre-"Skinny Bitch" mentality. Self- deception, as it happened, was not the only trickery at work on Crystal's visits to The Hump. So committed was the restaurant to serving the outrageous and off-limits and hard- to-source that it resorted to a little subterfuge of its own. When Scott Baker's D.N.A. tests came back, the horse that had assaulted her palate with its strangeness was revealed to have been beef.
A few days after "The Cove" won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, the Hump's chef, Kiyoshiro Yamamoto, and Typhoon Restaurant, Inc., Vidor's company, were charged with violating the Marine Mammal Protection Act. People were shocked. "Short of putting human body parts on the menu, there isn't anything worse than serving whale to restaurant customers," Mark Gold wrote on his blog, Spouting Off. (His brother merely linked to his piece about eating whale in Korea.)
An apology posted on the Hump's Web site doubled as a defense of culinary relativism. "The charge against the restaurant is true," it said. "The Hump served whale meat to customers looking to eat what in Japan is widely served as a delicacy." The message also said that The Hump would close, donate to conservation organizations, and pay whatever fine the court might deem appropriate (usually $100,000 for individuals and $200,000 for businesses). But then the charges against the restaurant and Yamamoto were abruptly dropped. Vidor, when I asked him about it in 2011, said he couldn't discuss the case. Prosecutors filed a separate chargea misdemeanoragainst the supplier, from whom, they claimed, Yamamoto had been getting whale for years. Using genetic information, Baker traced the whale served at The Hump to the Japanese scientific hunt.
Excerpted from Anything That Moves by Dana Goodyear. Copyright © 2013 by Dana Goodyear. Excerpted by permission of Riverhead Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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