As this is the week for rallies against the Taiji Cove Drive Hunt in London on Friday 23rd and Tokyo and other places on Saturday 24th, I thought I would examine the issue more closely. I have posted several times on the capture and slaughter of the cetaceans but I would like to understand the issues surrounding this practice as much as I can. There is a lot of information in several articles on the internet so I thought I would read them and bring some kind of summary together and I can educate myself at the same time.
The dolphin hunting season starts in early September usually and continues until the end of March. About 20 out of 60 hunters take part in each hunt. The have a permit from the national and prefectural governments to hunt and have to abide by 2,800-dolphin-a-year quota set by the fisheries agency. Th method used is oikomi ryo or drive fishing. This method is only used in Taiji Cove. Approximately 25 fishermen in special speed boats spot a pod of dolphins offshore, encircle it, drive it into a bay by beating steel pipes with a hammer. This creates a noise from which the dolphins reflexively flee.They bang trombone-like metal pipes to disorient the acoustically sensitive dolphins to the shallow shore. The net is then put in place to trap them and slaughter them with lances. The Cove turns red with their blood. . The area is heavily guarded by fishermen and police and any interfering trespassers are prosecuted.
The meat from a single dolphin can fetch up to 50,000 yen (£330), but aquariums will pay up to £90,000 for certain types This is very lucrative. If people think that dolphins are bred in captivity so they do not know anything else then they need to think again. Captive breeding is rare.
The japanese Embassy and the hunters insist that hunting is an important part of their tradition and what they do is no worse than other countries killing animals in abbattoirs and that we are disturbed because we are used to seeing our meat ready packaged on the supermarket shelves. I was told by the Japanese Embassy in London that we look at the dolphins as akin to humans because of their smiley faces.
I have learned that the World Society for the Protection of Animals and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals drafted a statement to present to the United Nations called the “Universal Declaration for the Welfare of Animals” (UDAW). The aim of the inter-governmental agreement would be to highlight and acknowledge the importance of the sentience of animals and the corresponding responsibilities that all have to uphold the following principles: to recognize that animals are conscious, to respect their welfare needs, and bring an end to animal cruelty. As stated from their text :
1. The welfare of animals shall be a common objective for all [states].
2. All appropriate steps shall be taken by [states] to prevent cruelty to animals and reduce their suffering.
Japan and its method of drive hunting blatantly violate the principles of this declaration as the hunt shows scant regard for animal welfare by imposing no regulations on how the cetaceans are killed. The Fishery Agency advises their fishermen to cut the spinal cord, rather than the throat of the cetacean, to reduce the death time for the dolphin or whale. But this is not easy to achieve from a boat on a frantic dolphin and the animal definitely suffers terribly.
One of the key reasons that the brutal drive hunts remains profitable is the entertainment industry being fuelled by the demand for live dolphins in marine parks or aquariums worldwide. It is far more lucrative to sell a live dolphin compared to the cost of its meat. So obviously the fisherman and trainers from aquariums have a huge financial incentive to capture live dolphins.
Studies have been done on the effects of wild dolphins moved into captivity. The capture of cetaceans from the cove in Taiji is highly stressful for them. One study demonstrated that during the capture of these animals, their cortisol levels, a sensitive measure of stress in marine mammals, increased three times higher than normal levels.
There is another key problem attributed to the drive hunt. Many analyses have demonstrated that the mercury levels found in dolphin meat at local supermarkets and schools far exceed the acceptable safe levels that the Health, Labor, and Welfare Ministry of Japan has stipulated. So mercury which is toxic in high quantities is present in the meat that is sold on the market and in school lunches.
Evidence of hand harpoons and porpoise skulls found in Jomon burial mounds show that Japanese whaling originated in about 10,000 B.C. The Japanese people then used almost every part of the whale. They mixed such as its oil with vinegar for pesticide and the bones for fertilizer. In those times it was about subsistence so the hunts were focused on getting food and by-products needed by the hunters for survival. The hunters developed an extensive knowledge of the ecosystem which the hunter and the prey shared. To be successful you had to have sensitivity to the psyche of the hunted.The Japanese novelist Natsuki Ikezawa described subsistence whale hunting as requiring “a compassion with Nature, a harmony with surroundings. To eat and to be eaten are the two sides of the same deed.” Various cultures like inuits and aborigines throughout North America, Australia and Asia had rituals of compassion and respect for the animal that was sacrificng its own life for them.
Smaller cetacean hunting which involves dolphins has only been practiced over the past 400 years. It is tradition that is at the core of the issue between Japan and non-whaling countries. Japan insists that whaling is a crucial component of their culture, that whale meat is part of Japan’s food culture so other countries should respect that. It is argued that Japan continues whaling for nationalistic reasons and refuses to stop because other countries are being imperialist and trying to impose their views onto them.
The Japanese would argue that the dolphins are “pests” as they eat all of the fish so they
have the right to eliminate them. Actually their hunting practices harm the marine ecosystems near fishing towns like Taiji. Dolphins and whales play critical roles in marine ecosystems. The Earth as a whole can be considered one big ecosystem, the biosphere, which houses a large number of interacting smaller ecosystems. If you change things in one system you will affect the other individual systems and the whole. Everything is part of the biosphere and is therefore connected. Anything that we do to our environment will affect other animals, plants and ourselves too, and every descendant of ours.
It could be argued that there have historically been instancies of bullying of oriental powers, including Japan by European powers since the colonial period. This was of course exacerbated by the defeat of Japan in World War Two and the use of nuclear weapons in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Japanese are very defensive about Americans and allied countries interfering in how they manage their own resources. I can understand this reticence but this is a new age with new issues. We cannot always justify our activities with reference to the past and we cannot keep adopting a tit for tat stance or the world will be in constant conflict. There are so many good things about Japanese culture. It is a real shame that this practice is tarnishing its image for so many people.
Japan is often more technologically advanced than most nations and therefore has the technology and expertise to see what other scientists are proclaiming. The scientific evidence supports an argument for dolphins being sentient beings which deserve the same protection as humans under the law. You cannot just pick and choose which scientific arguments to take on board and which to throw out if you are a leader in the profession. You either respect and follow scientific evidence or you do not. This highlights issues of objectivity. The Japanese are not accepting these scientific findings which means that they are being unscientific because it does not suit Japanese business (of course, us in the UK experience the same double standards. We have the proposed badger cull machinations to illustrate that point)
Loyola Marymount University Professor Thomas White, the author of “In Defense of Dolphins: The New Frontier,” addressed a panel on the “Ethical Implications of Dolphin Intelligence: Dolphins as Nonhuman Persons.”
He and other experts discussed scientific research which demonstrates that dolphins are not only highly intelligent, but like us humans, appear to be self-conscious. This means that they are each unique individuals with personalities, memories and a sense of self. This means that they, like us, are vulnerable to pain and suffering and experience fear, dread and grief. This is highly important. These highly intelligent and sentient beings live in pods or families. They form strong social attachments. The pods are driven into the Cove by the hunters and watch their family being slaughtered. They are either slaughtered too or captured to be sold to the entertainment industry or if too small for monetary exchange, are brutally driven back out to sea.
“Dolphins should be considered nonhuman persons,” says White, “because they have the kind of consciousness that, in the past, we thought was unique to our species. They’re not just aware of the world around them but they have the ability to look inside and say ‘I.’ They have a sense of choice and will.’”
White argues that these attributes prove that dolphins should be given “moral standing” as individuals. Moral standing as an individual entitles humans to special treatment. White argues that dolphins should be regarded similarly.
Although theLondon Japanese Embassy told me that anti hunting in Taiji is merely a western view, we know that there are people in Japan who dislike the dolphin hunts and want them to stop. These people are incredibly brave and risk the negative attention of the Japanese government, the fishermens’ unions, and of some extreme nationalist group. Predictably, as in all internal struggles within countries, the latter have proclaimed the issues of whaling and dolphin hunting as ‘pro-Japanese tradition’ issues.
“Protest march against the killing of Taiji Dolphins & Research Whaling in the Antarctic will take place in Tokyo on 24th November 2012, as a part of “Taiji Action Day for Dolphins 2012”.
There will be counter-demonstration by pro-whaling nationalists group as well. Please make sure that do NOT be provoked by their rude behaviour, and control yourself. Follow the instructions of the police during our rally.
Your safety as a protestant is going to be protected by Tokyo metropolitan police, and the freedom of expression of all alien resident are completely secured under the Japanese law.
Don’t stay away, please come and help us and let’s make this event success as an international movement. Be part of it!”
May the day be a success for these excellent people in Japan and may they be instrumental in turning the tide for the cetaceans of Taiji Cove.
For Japanese arguments for whaling luna.pos.to/whale/icr_camp_kalland.html