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Posted by on Jan 26, 2014 in Environment, Featured, International, Law | 8 comments

Japanese fisherman try to hide slaughter of dolphins in Taiji cove from media view

Luojie, China Daily, China

Luojie, China Daily, China

It always was brutal. It always aroused anger in the west. But this year there was something even more ominous and — if it could indeed happen — even more unsettling about the butchering of dolphins in Taiji cove: the fishemen tried get in a position where they couldn’t be seen. Almost like someone grabbed from behind on an urban street and pulled into an alley for a beating, or worse:

Japanese fishermen drove a large group of dolphins into the shallows on Tuesday and, hiding from reporters and TV cameras behind a tarpaulin, killed at least 30 as the annual dolphin hunt that sparked protest in the West entered its final stages.

Both the U.S. and British ambassadors to Japan have strongly criticized the “drive killings” of dolphins citing the “terrible suffering” inflicted on the marine mammals.

Every year the fishermen of Taiji, in western Wakayama prefecture, drive hundreds of dolphins into a cove, select some for sale to marine parks, release some and kill the rest for meat.

On Tuesday, at least 30 dolphins out of the group of more than 200 held in the cove since Friday were herded by boat engines and nets into a killing area of the Taiji cove.

Fishermen waiting in the shallow waters by the shore, some in wet suits with snorkeling masks on their faces, wrestled the dolphins into submission and tied their tails with ropes to stop them from escaping.

But some video did surface on You Tube about the bloodshed and pain in the cove:


A graphic 15 minute video posted on You Tube 4 months ago shows what happens to the dolphins:

Websites trying to stop the slaughter run photos in the hopes that compassion, disgust and outrage will top the killing of the intelligent, beloved mammals. Like this:
japan-dolphin-cove-slaughter (1)

One of the most prominent websites is Save Japan Dolphins, which has an open letter from Yoko Ono which reads, in part:

Dear Japanese Fishermen of Taiji,

I understand how you must feel about the one-sided-ness of the West to be angry at your traditional capture and slaughter of Dolphins. But that tradition was made only when the world, and Japanese Fishermen did not know what it meant to do harm to the Dolphins. I’m sure you have heard so many speeches in which all of these things have been discussed. So I will not bore you with it.

But I think you should think of this situation from the point-of-view of the big picture. Japan has gone through such hard times lately. And we need the sympathy and help of the rest of the world. It will give an excuse for big countries and their children in China, India and Russia to speak ill of Japan when we should be communicating our strong love for peace, not violence.

I am sure that it is not easy, but please consider the safety of the future of Japan, surrounded by many powerful countries which are always looking for the chance to weaken the power of our country. The future of Japan and its safety depends on many situations, but what you do with Dolphins now can create a very bad relationship with the whole world.

The way you are insisting on a big celebration of killing so many Dolphins and kidnapping some of them to sell to the zoos and restaurants at this very politically sensitive time, will make the children of the world hate the Japanese.

Go to the link to read it all.

The mistake in this kind of news story, is for critics to blame the entire country of Japan and all of its residents for this one village. Meanwhile, Japanese officials defend the slaughter, CNN reports, and argue that there are solid reasons that support this kind of activity:

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters at a news conference Monday that marine mammals including dolphins were “very important water resources.”

“Dolphin fishing is one of traditional fishing forms of our country and is carried out appropriately in accordance with the law. Dolphin is not covered by the International Whaling Commission control and it’s controlled under responsibility of each country.”
Taiji mayor Kazutaka Sangen echoed the sentiments.

“We have fishermen in our community and they are exercising their fishing rights,” he said. “We feel that we need to protect our residents against the criticisms.”

He accused the Sea Shepherd of using the issue of dolphin hunting to raise funds and attract attention. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has been live-streaming video of events in the cove and posting frequent updates on Twitter.

The Wakayama Prefectural Government, where Taiji is located, gives an annual “catching quota.” This year, the government allows for the hunting of 2,026 small porpoises and dolphins (557 are for bottlenose dolphins).

The dolphin hunt has seen some changes, Sangen said. The town wants to create a whale/porpoise study with the aim of bringing a marine park to the city. And the method of hunting has been changing, becoming less crude, he added.

U.S. Ambassador Carolyn Kennedy came under fire from Japanese officials for her Tweet condemning the slaughter:

Japan accused critics of its annual dolphin hunt — including U.S. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy — of being hypocrites for not lamenting the killing of cattle and chickens in their countries for food.

The southwest fishing town of Taiji finished its annual roundup of bottlenose dolphins Tuesday, a longheld tradition that Kennedy called “inhumane” in a message on Twitter.

Japanese fishermen Tuesday trapped 250 dolphins in a cove using nets and killed about 40 of the animals for eating by severing their spines. About 50 were kept alive for sale to aquariums and the rest were set free, according to Sea Shepherd, an environmental group known for its anti-whaling activities.

Japanese officials and others were surprised that a diplomat from an ally would lash out at a traditional cultural food….

….Taiji Mayor Kazutaka Sangen said Kennedy is attacking ordinary fishermen.

“We have fishermen in our community and they are exercising their fishing rights,” he said. “We feel that we need to protect our residents against the criticisms.”

A State Department official who asked not to be named because it is against policy to discuss the matter publicly said Kennedy proposed issuing her statement last week. The final wording of her tweet was the result of collaboration between Kennedy and other embassy officials and reflects official U.S. policy, the official said.

Masayhisa Sato, a Japanese lawmaker, suggested Kennedy acted inappropriately in her role as an ambassador to criticize a hunting tradition in a host country that she finds distasteful.

“I wonder whether it’s appropriate for ambassador to comment on this,” Sato said.
Kennedy’s Tweet brought back counter Tweets:

“Deeply concerned by inhumaneness of drive hunt dolphin killing. USG opposes drive hunt fisheries,” Kennedy tweeted in both English and Japanese. “USG” refers to the U.S. government.

Some Japanese Twitter users who spotted her Tweet responded.

“The drive hunt is a traditional fishery that was established long before the foundation of the United States of America,” said one message posted in response.

“Isn’t it inhumane to kill millions of cows and sheep for consumption?” asked another.

But Kennedy’s Tweet reflected a reality: the brutal killing of the dolphins is seen in the United States and many countries in the same negative light as as the annual slaughter-by-clubbing of seals in Canada.

Business Week notes that Japan keeps killing whales, too, and international efforts are underway to try to halt that:

While it’s unlikely that appeals from John F. Kennedy’s daughter and John Lennon’s widow will do much to dissuade the dolphin hunters of Taiji, there’s a chance that international pressure of a different sort will make this year the final whale hunt. Australia’s government has taken Japan to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), arguing that Japan no longer has permission to conduct its whale hunt under the guise of research: “Japan’s continued pursuit of a large-scale program of whaling under the Second Phase of its Japanese Whale Research Program under Special Permit in the Antarctic (‘JARPA II’) is in breach of obligations assumed by Japan under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (‘ICRW’), as well as its other international obligations for the preservation of marine mammals and the marine environment.”

This is the first time the Japanese government has had to defend its whaling policy in an international tribunal. An Australian court ruled against Japan in 2008, but the Japanese didn’t accept the court’s jurisdiction and didn’t contest the case, says Donald Rothwell, a professor of international law at Australian National University who has advised the International Fund for Animal Welfare on whaling issues. “The Japanese didn’t even turn up,” says Rothwell.

Japan’s government did show up at the ICJ, though, so the case has already succeeded in forcing the Japanese to defend their scientific whaling policy. A ruling against Japan could put a halt to the Southern Ocean killing. Rothwell isn’t ready to predict which way the court will rule, but he does expect the ICJ will wait until after the Southern Hemisphere summer ends and this year’s whale hunt has concluded. “Given the politically contentious nature of the dispute over whaling, the court is mindful of not wanting to get itself too involved in international politics,” he says. A judgment in the middle of the whaling season “could create a lot of controversy.”

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  • JSpencer

    The future of Japan and its safety depends on many situations, but what you do with Dolphins now can create a very bad relationship with the whole world.

    Count on it. The practice is barbaric in the extreme and unforgivable in this day and age knowing what we do now. Btw, Japan isn’t the only country still practicing the wholesale butchery of intelligent sea mammals. Denmark’s Faroe Islands has a similar “tradition” in which Pilot whales (a species of dolphin) are also herded and butchered en masse.

  • ordinarysparrow

    Last year in India passed legislation that declares Dolphins and Whales Non-human person status….

    The world needs to do the same… and maybe with a little more time these barbaric practices can be totally banned.

    I would suggest anyone that has not seen The Cove to watch it…As well as Blackfish about the captivity of Orca Whales…

    From the Daily Kos on the growing movement to protect these awesome creatures…

    The effort to re-categorize Cetaceans (dolphins, whales, porpoises) as non-human persons has been gathering steam since a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2011 where a group of philosophers, conservationists, and animal behaviorists attempted to gather wide support for a Declaration of Rights for Cetaceans from the scientific community.

    The Declaration:

    1. Every individual cetacean has the right to life.
    2. No cetacean should be held in captivity or servitude; be subject to cruel treatment; or be removed from their natural environment.
    3. All cetaceans have the right to freedom of movement and residence within their natural environment.
    4. No cetacean is the property of any State, corporation, human group or individual.
    5. Cetaceans have the right to the protection of their natural environment.
    6. Cetaceans have the right not to be subject to the disruption of their cultures.
    7. The rights, freedoms and norms set forth in this Declaration should be protected under international and domestic law.

    And what does it mean to say an animal has “rights”?

    Unlike[…] positive rights, such as the ‘right’ to education or health care, the animal right is, at bottom, a right to be left alone. It does not call for government to tax us in order to provide animals with food, shelter, and veterinary care. It only requires us to stop killing them and making them suffer.

    Seems reasonable enough. Considering dolphin intelligence has been long been established, this declaration doesn’t seem to be a particularly radical move. They exhibit self-awareness, use tools, cooperate to solve tasks, don’t vote Republican, and very recently it was found that they possibly communicate to each other using individual names. The major real world implications of declaring them non-human persons would be the closing of dolphin and orca shows at marine parks, setting them free from aquariums and zoos, and a prohibition against kills, such as the one documented in Academy Award winning movie The Cove.

    Of course, the biggest implication is the whole idea of creating a new category of non-human persons. Do we stop at dolphins and whales? And, if not, where do we draw the line? Once we give rights to some animals how do we justify our continued exploitation of others?

    I am so ready for all of us to get fired up about this one…

  • bluebelle

    Thanks,Sparrow– I don’t have too much to add to that excellent comment-except that stories like this one and those about the poaching of elephants and tigers make me physically ill.

    There is a definite lack of humanity in anyone who can participate in these kinds of kills

  • sheknows

    “What drives the killings and training/export business is the explosion of demand for dolphins for swim-with programs and for dolphinaria around the world, particularly in Asian nations. When people swim with the always “smiling” dolphins or see them in shows jumping through burning hoops, they should know these dolphins are often survivors of the brutal drive fisheries in Japan in which dozens or hundreds of their pod mates have been killed.”

    “The first thing that is crucial to dealing with the horror of the dolphin killing in Japan is to be absolutely clear that it is not the Japanese people who are committing these atrocities. But the Japanese government does support this business as well as whaling. The United States and other countries are often complicit in these slaughters.” Blue

    I do not think even the Japanese officials can honestly compare the killing of very low intelligence animals bred for the purpose of food sources to that of highly intelligent sea mammals, but they make no distinction in their culture.
    I am so glad he didn’t use the comparison of our new/old found practice of slaughtering horses for food in this country! Equally abhorrent.

  • JSpencer

    There is a definite lack of humanity in anyone who can participate in these kinds of kills.

    Agreed. I have a hard enough time getting psyched up enough to shoot one deer a year for the freezer. I’m not a vegetarian and I draw the line there. I think a lot can be told about people by how they treat the creatures we share this planet with. I never did go for that “dominion” over all, blah blah blah bible nonsense. .

  • rudi

    Bull fights, inhumane butchering of sharks to appease wealthy Chinese are old traditions that need to end. Cannibalism is older than this traditional dolphin hunt …

  • rudi

    I never did go for that “dominion” over all, blah blah blah bible nonsense.
    Neither does Pope Francis.

    He said the theme of the encyclical, the highest form of papal writing, would be “the ecology of mankind”.

    Since his election in March, the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics has made many appeals in defence of the environment.

    His latest on January 14 was in his so-called “state of the world” address to diplomats accredited to the Vatican, when he said, “God always forgives, we sometimes forgive, but when nature – creation – is mistreated, she never forgives.”

    In a speech about two weeks after his election on March 13, the pope said he had taken his name after St. Francis of Assisi because he “teaches us profound respect for the whole of creation and the protection of our environment, which all too often, instead of using for the good, we exploit greedily, to one another’s detriment.”

    Francis of Assisi, the 13th saint, loved nature. He is said to have preached to birds and called the sun brother and the moon sister.

  • JSpencer

    Thanks for the link rudi. It will be interesting to see/hear what the pope says in his upcoming speech.

    Yes, trying to defend an indefensible practice by saying it’s a “tradition” is incredibly weak.

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