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The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus
In-depth critical analysis of the forces shaping the Asia-Pacific...and the world.

Taiji: Japan's Dolphin Cull and the Clash of Cultures

David McNeill

Taiji: Japan's Dolphin Cull and the Clash of Cultures

By David McNeill

Dolphin and humpback whale are just two of the items on the menu in the fishing village of Taiji where the locals battle Hollywood environmentalists and ‘racist’ foreigners. David McNeill mingles with the suspicious locals and witnesses a clash of cultures. Below, too, see his interview with dolphin trainer turned activist Ric O'Barry.

In Taiji, the fishermen say that dolphin tastes like venison or beef. But eaten raw with a dab of ginger and soy sauce, the glistening dark flesh resembles liver with a coppery aftertaste that lingers on the roof of the mouth long after you’ve chewed it past your protesting taste buds. The ripe, tangy smell stays longer. “I hate cutting up dolphin,” says Motohata Toshihiro, who runs a nearby whale-meat shop. “The stink stays on you for days, even after several baths.”

Entrance to Taiji

Dolphin-hunting season has arrived again in this sleepy harbor town at the tip of the Kii peninsula south of Kyoto. Since October, perhaps 2,000 small whales and striped, bottlenose, spotted and risso’s dolphins have been slaughtered for meat that ends up on the tables of local homes and restaurants and in vacuum-packed bags in supermarkets. By the end of March, 1,000 more will go the same way, part of what is probably the largest annual cull of cetaceans – about 26,000 around coastal Japan according to environmentalists -- in the world.

Six hours from Tokyo and accessible only via a coastal road that snakes through tunnels hewn from dense, pine-carpeted mountains, Taiji for years escaped the prying eyes of animal rights activists, but the isolation has been abruptly ended by the Internet and the cheap rail pass. A steady trickle of foreign protestors – most Japanese people know little about the tradition -- now arrives in the rusting town square to cross swords with local bureaucrats and the 26 fishermen who run the hunt.

Long view of Taiji

As Taiji’s notoriety has grown, fueled by gruesome videos of the dolphin kill posted on YouTube and by celebrity criticism from Joaquin Phoenix, Ted Danson and other high-profile environmentalists, tensions have sharpened. Protestors have repeatedly clashed with the fishermen. Nets and boats have been sabotaged, activists arrested and several environmental groups have been effectively banned from the town.

Foreigners now almost inevitably mean trouble, especially when they come with cameras; locals speak with special venom of a BBC documentary that they say depicted them as barbarians. “One fisherman told me if the whalers could kill me, they would,” says the best-known protestor, Ric O’Barry, who once trained dolphins for the 1960’s TV series ‘Flipper.’ “But I always try to stay on the right side of the law. If I get arrested, I’m out of this fight.”

Around Taiji and in the nearby towns of Kii-Katsuura and Shingu, whale meat has been eaten for hundreds of years, claim local officials. Restaurants and shops offer dolphin and whale sashimi and humpback bacon, along with tuna and shark-fin soup. A canteen next to the Taiji Whale Museum, where trained dolphins and small whales perform tricks for tourists, sells Minke steak, sashimi and whale cutlets in curry sauce in a room decorated with posters of the 80 or so ‘cetaceans of the world’: whales, dolphins and porpoises.

According to local wholesaler Mizutani Ikuo, dolphin meat sells for about 2,000 yen (about US$16) a kilo, cheaper than beef or whale. Unlike most Japanese children, who have no idea what whale tastes like, Taiji kids know their cetaceans. “I don’t like the taste of dolphin because it smells,” says 9-year-old Utani Rui. “I prefer whale.” Inside the museum, out-of-towners are often stunned to learn of the local tradition. “I’m shocked,” says Shibuya Keiko from Osaka. “I couldn’t imagine eating dolphin. They’re too cute.”

Dolphin meat (iruka, left) and humpback whale in Taiji market

The hunts are notoriously brutal and blue tarpaulin sheets block the main viewing spots overlooking the cove where the killings take place to prevent picture-taking. Beyond the cove, a small fleet of boats surround a pod of migrating dolphins, lower metal poles into the sea and bang them to frighten the animals and disrupt their sonar. Once the panicking, thrashing dolphins are herded into the narrow cove, the fishermen attack them with knives, turning the sea red before dragging them to a harbour-side warehouse for slaughter.

The fishermen, who consider dolphins just big fish, like tuna, are bewildered that anyone would find this cruel, dubbing the weekend protestors ‘extremists.’ “If you walked into an American slaughterhouse for cows it wouldn’t look very pretty either,” says one, who identifies himself only as Kawasaki. “The killing is done in the open here so it looks worse than it is.” Most are descended from families that have been killing and eating the contents of the sea around Taiji for generations and reject arguments that dolphins are ‘special.’ Says Kawasaki: “They’re food, like dogs for the Chinese and Koreans.”

A 1994 statement [] by Taiji Mayor S. Hamanaka directly addressed environmentalists in making the case for tradition and the legitimacy of the whale hunt:

We believe we know more about our own sea in Taiji than anyone who lives hundreds or thousands of miles away from us. We also believe we are more concerned with its protection and assume more responsibilities than anybody else in the world. We are sure that the same view is shared by Alaskan Eskimos, Faroese, Greenlanders, Icelanders, Norwegians, and Russians in Chukotka as well. We hope many environmentally concerned people in the industrialized nations will understand our views and trust us as rational and humane people, and stop making whaling a "scape goat" of the environmental crusade and making inhumane attacks on whaling people.”

O’Barry claims, however, that he was told in private by town officials that tradition is not the real reason for the hunts. “It’s pest-control; they’re over-fishing and want to kill the competition for the fish. That’s unacceptable. These animals don’t have Japanese passports, they belong to the world. They’re just trying to get around this town and these 26 guys.” He calls the town ‘schizophrenic.’ “It’s as pretty as a 1950s postcard and the people are so friendly, but this secret genocide takes place every year.”

The schizophrenia is sharpest, say activists, in the Taiji Whale Museum, where tickets for “whale-watching trips” in dolphin-shaped boats are sold while the non-performing animals bump up against each other in a tiny concrete pool. Trainers here help sort the ‘best-looking’ dolphins from the kill and train them for use in circuses and aquariums across Asia and Europe.

The Taiji Whale Museum

The museum recently made the world’s science pages when the fishermen handed over a rare dolphin with an extra set of fins, possibly proving that they once had legs and lived on land. But O’Barry says the story had a dark side. “The Japanese media didn’t report that this particular dolphin was taken away from her mother by dolphin trainers. The mother’s throat was slit and then she was butchered in the Taiji slaughter house along with more than 200 other bottlenose dolphins.”

The bitter controversy over what fishermen in Taiji and other Japanese ports take from the sea is salted with nationalism, one reason why they are backed to the hilt by the Tokyo government. In a country that produces just 40 percent of its own food, fisheries bureaucrats bristle at ‘emotional’ lectures from Western environmentalists, and amid an intensifying fight for marine resources, they are determined not to yield to them. For some, cetaceans are a line in the sand. “If we lose on whales, what will happen next,” asks Nakamae Akira, Deputy Director General of Japan’s Fisheries Agency.

‘Next’ means tuna, a staple of the Japanese diet in contrast to whale, which is a minor delicacy now eaten by a tiny proportion of the population. Japan’s voracious appetite for tuna shows no sign of abating: a report last December claimed that Japanese fishermen poached a staggering 100,000 tons of the coveted southern Bluefin tuna above quota between 1996 and 2005. The Taiji fishermen deny they are taking too much from the sea. “We would be cutting our own throats,” says Shimetani Kazutoyo, the sales manager of the dolphin hunters’ co-operative in Taiji. The cooperative -- essentially a closed guild -- says it rigidly controls fishing, limiting dolphin hunting to just 26 of the town’s 500-odd fishermen.

Taiji’s growing Internet fame has widened the cultural gulf between the town and the rest of the world, and most senior officials will no longer talk to Western journalists. But the head of the local board of education, Kita Yoji, who lectures on whaling to schools and colleges, agrees to a brief meeting. Like many in the town hall, he accuses Westerners of failing to understand or explain Japan’s culture to their readers and of inciting protestors. But he is guardedly polite until a question about the dangerously high mercury levels detected in whales and dolphins sets him off. “Why pick on those as reasons to stop eating them,” he asks, voice rising. “The whole environment is poisoned. There is no point in talking to you because you don’t want to listen. That’s just racism,” he says, standing to terminate the interview.

“It’s very difficult,” sighs a clerk in the museum. “The town leaders are just so tired of having to deal with this. They want it to go away.” There seems little chance they’ll get their wish, despite an offer to fund the retirement of the dolphin hunters from a US environmental group. Few in the town took the offer seriously, and the fishermen say they would in any case reject it. “Why should we give up our tradition on the orders of somebody else,” says Shimetani.

In a world wracked with wars, greed and environmental destruction, the fate of a few thousand animals might seem small fry, but activists say the plight of the dolphins is connected to all three. “The dolphin hunt is a symbol of our utilitarian view of nature,” says O’Barry. “That we can use and abuse the sea. I honestly believe when the world finds out about this it will be abolished. It can’t possibly survive the light of day.”

Blue Voice, “Saving Dolphins and Whales. Protecting the Ocean provides podcast videos on the Taiji hunt.

This is an expanded version of an article that appeared in The Independent on Saturday January 6, 2006. Published at Japan Focus on January 6, 2006.

An Interview with Ric O'Barry

Ric O’ Barry is one of the world’s best known environmentalists. A former US Navy diver, he later trained the five dolphins that played ‘Flipper’ in the hit 1960’s TV series before turning against dolphin captivity in 1970. He has spent his life since as an animal rights campaigner and much of the last decade fighting what he calls the ‘secret genocide’ of dolphins in the Wakayama Pref. town of Taiji, where thousands of the animals are killed from October – March every year.

O’Barry travels to the small port town several times a year to film the annual dolphin-hunt for a coalition of environmental groups – He claims he is despised by the town office, trailed by goons and harassed and threatened by whalers. “One fisherman down there told me if the whalers could kill me, they would,” he says. “I was kind of flattered. They call me ‘Samurai dolphin man,’ which shows that at least they respect me.”

Oddly, the first time the 67-year-old visited Taiji in 1975, he met the mayor and was given the keys to the town after leading a campaign against a US boycott of Japanese products led by anti-whalers that he considered ‘racist.’ He still believes boycotts will not stop whaling. “Boycotts are completely useless because the Japanese people don’t even know about this. They are a blanket condemnation of the Japanese people, and dolphin hunt is led by just 26 fishermen.”

O’Barry believes the dolphin-hunt only survives because the Japanese media avoids reporting it. “This would not survive anywhere else in the free world. It’s amazing to me that the media ignores this. When you go there you’re photographing a cover-up. They’re trying to keep this a secret from the world.” He says the world is ‘gradually waking up’ and hints at a possible UN initiative to stop the hunt. “I honestly believe when the world finds out about this it will be abolished. It can’t possibly survive the light of day.”

What makes you so angry about this story?

That the Japanese people don’t know that the largest slaughter of cetaceans in the world -- 36,000 a year -- is taking place in their own waters, at Taiji, Iwate and Futo; and they don’t know that the Japanese people are hated around the world for this. The Japanese media is to blame for this blackout. That’s a story in itself. It’s very hard to get information on how many they capture in Taiji, but it is probably about 2,300 dolphins.

Tell me about why you switched sides in 1970.

I captured about 100 dolphins myself, back in the 1960s, including the five that played Flipper. I was the highest-paid animal trainer in the world. If I wanted I could set up one of these dolphin training programs and make 3-4 million dollars a year. I changed when Flipper died in my arms from suicide. I use that word with some trepidation but I don’t know another word that describes self-induced asphyxiation. Dolphins and other whales are not automatic breathers. Every breath that they take is a conscious effort, which is why they don’t sleep. If life becomes miserable, they just don’t take the next breath. Flipper looked me in the eye and stopped breathing.

In those days I was as ignorant as I could be. Now I am against captivity. It has no socially redeeming feature. It is not educational. How come I can’t find one person among the millions who have visited the 50 dolphin facilities in Japan who is against this industry? I organize a worldwide protest outside consulates every year and the only city where I can’t get a protest going is Tokyo. So what is the value of having dolphins on display if it doesn’t sensitize people? It is just casual amusement. It is a form of bad education that serves to perpetuate our utilitarian relationship with nature.

Flipper was the best and the worst thing that ever happened to dolphins. It exposed the world to dolphins but it also created these captors and the desire to hug them and kiss them and love them to death. Dolphins hate captivity. You’ll see them in the Taiji Whale Museum with their head lying up against the tank, saying ‘how do I get out of here.’ Do I feel responsibility? I have trouble sometimes sleeping at night. Guilt is not too strong a word. I’m not motivated by guilt, although I used to be. Now this is who I am: I eat, sleep and live this life and won’t stop this campaigning until I draw my last breath.

You say there are two parts to this trade, right?

Yes, in Taiji they separate out the best-looking dolphins and export them for use in circus acts, aquariums and so on to places like China, the Philippines, perhaps Germany. We know there are Germans down there hiding from the cameras. Those are worth about 100,000 dollars a piece; in my day a dolphin was worth 300-350 dollars. The rest are slaughtered and are worth about 600 dollars each.

The Fisheries Agency says that Japan is a very crowded island that depends on the sea for food. They get angry when they are lectured by Westerners.

Well, there is a way to harvest their food from the sea but they’re involved in over-fishing. The driftnets they use are a way of strip-mining the ocean. This is why all fish stocks are expected to collapse by 2047. It is not just Japan: all of the countries have been irresponsible. It is international corporate greed. I see the dolphin as a reference point and a symbol of our relationship with the sea, and look what we’re doing to them.

The truth is, Japan is a wealthy country and they don’t need to eat dolphin meat. The real reason for this slaughter is they are over-fishing and want to kill the competition for the fish. It is pest control. That’s what they told me in a closed meeting. That’s unacceptable. These animals are not owned by Japan; they don’t have Japanese passports, they belong to the world. They’re just trying to get around this town and these 26 guys.

If you go to the Tokyo zoo, the snake is given more consideration in captivity than the dolphin. The snake is given some grass, and tree limbs to climb over. But the dolphin, which is a sonic creature, is confined to a bare concrete box. You wouldn’t even do it to a snake! The tanks in the Taiji museum are some of the smallest in the world. It is more stressful for dolphins in captivity than any other animal in the world.

You’ve met the whalers?

Oh yeah. I asked them if they were worried about mercury poisoning. Dolphin meat contains very high levels of mercury. But they said: ‘The meat is safe and the government wouldn’t lie.’ So I asked them, what about Minamata? Governments protect corporations, not people. The whalers of course know not what they do, but the trainers do: that infuriates me. They know they are killing animals that are self-aware. They give them names, they look into the eyes of the dolphins and tell lies that they are helping to educate the public. Then they look on as they are slaughtered.

I don’t sit at the right hand side of god criticizing what everybody does, but if you’re asking me if it’s ok for Japan to export its poison to China and elsewhere, when they know it is poisoned, I think it is morally repugnant and ethically untenable; these are crimes against humanity. They put this stuff on the shelves where pregnant women and children can eat it. Go to the hospitals around Taiji and you’ll find evidence of mercury-poisoned people.

Of course, many Japanese would say, well, ‘why can’t we kill dolphins? What is special about them?’ People around the world eat cows, lambs and small birds; some also eat dogs.

Well, I stop them there because most people eat animals in captivity. They’re mixing domesticated animals with wildlife.

That doesn’t really make much difference to the animals though, does it? They don’t know they’re wildlife.

Yes, that’s true but people in the animal community are working on this stuff too. I’m not saying it is right to kill lambs either. I consider myself a vegetarian but if I’m in the jungles of Guatemala, Columbia, Brazil; remote places like that, I eat what I can. But given a choice, I wouldn’t consume animals.

There is very good documentation of dolphins saving the lives of human beings. That is altruism and something special. That is communication. Unlike other animals in the zoo, they’re self-aware animals that routinely make choices about their lives. They’ve been here for 65 million years and are very intelligent. They’re entitled to freedom. Driving them into a secret cove and butchering them is simply wrong.

When did you start going to Taiji?

I knew about the slaughter about 10 years ago but I was under the impression that other NGOs were working on it. I didn’t realize until I came here that all they’re doing is putting these graphic pictures on their websites and telling people to write to the prime minister of Japan. And that won’t stop it.

The Japanese groups are under an umbrella and they’re all upset with me because they don’t like westerners coming here and interfering. They say ‘we’ve been working on this for 20 years.’ I say, ‘So how come the Japanese people don’t know this is going on? What have you been doing for 20 years? They say we’re not against whaling, we’re for the whales. It is some kind of politically correct, fucking mumbo-jumbo, what does it mean?

You don’t accept that this is tradition.

Traditional whaling might be going out in a canoe and killing one dolphin for Christmas. I wouldn’t be opposed to that either. But that’s not what they’re doing. This is the largest slaughter of dolphins in the world. They’re creating the illusion this is tradition and it is not; it is genocide. We have to oppose this absolutely and I am doing everything in my power to stop it, short of breaking the law. If I do, I’ll not be able to return and I’ll be out of the fight.
In Japan, once you’ve been labeled a criminal you’re out of the fight and they’d love to get rid of me: I’m the biggest thorn in their side. I bring and encourage journalists to go there and report it, including the BBC. 300 million people saw a recent BBC documentary on Taiji. And that’s why the dolphin hunters hate me because they told me. ‘If the world finds out about this we’ll have to stop.’ This kind of evil only thrives in the dark.

Japanese will say you have no right to tell them what to eat.

They’re not their dolphins, they don’t carry Japanese passports; they belong to the planet. And this is a national park: what right do you have to kills animals in a national park. Is there another park that would do this? Also, they have no right to block people taking pictures of this. Japanese people can come to the US and take pictures of what they like in America.

But the fast food industry in America would hardly appreciate tourists taking pictures of US slaughter houses, would they?

Well sure, if you go into the slaughter house, but Japanese tourists can go to the slaughter houses and bear witness to what happens.

Do you think that people like you only make the whalers dig their heels in?
It does and I’ve come to believe that only the Japanese people can stop this problem. I’m just a spark plug. Japanese have to do it but they don’t have the information because of the suppression of information here. The media is in violation of Article 21. People are never told about it, so my job is to get the information out.

Who pays for these trips to Japan?

I’m part of a coalition of non-profit environmental groups. We can be found at the Earth Island Institute, Animal Welfare Institute and In Defense of Animals. Our members pay for me to go to Japan but it is a struggle to raise the money. We monitor the treatment of dolphins around the world; so tuna boats are a problem, because dolphins travel above the tuna and the boats put a net around everything and kill everything, including the dolphins.

The only thing that ended that practice in the US was public outrage. Now, when people buy their tuna in the US, they know it didn’t involve killing dolphins because it says so on the tins. We’ve also closed 50 substandard dolphinariums around the world. If there’s a dolphin in trouble anywhere in this planet, my phone rings and my e-mail box fills up. I have to rescue them.

Rick O’Barry’s website, including a video on the dolphin hunt in Taiji, is

David McNeill writes about Japan for the London Independent and other publications. He is a Japan Focus coordinator. Posted at Japan Focus on January 2, 2007.

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John K
I just watched the Animal Planet series "The Cove". I am interested in learning more about Dolphin Hunting... do you offer a charter service to go fishing with your group of fishermen for a fee? Please reply, best regards, John K
Patricia Dela Pena
If it is ok for japanese to terrorize an intelligent animal, coral them and slaughter them for food then I truly have no problem with cannibals hunting humans for food as well.Japanese have been eating marine mammals for years and it is a tradition, well so has it been a tradition for cannibals around the world who have been eating humans for many years too. I would love to let cannibals hunt for their food in Japan.
Patricia Dela Pena
Too late Japanese have already done the cannibal thing... in Chichijima in February 1945, when Japanese soldiers killed and consumed five American airmen. This case was investigated in 1947 in a war crimes trial, and of 30 Japanese soldiers prosecuted, five (Maj. Matoba, Gen. Tachibana, Adm. Mori, Capt. Yoshii, and Dr. Teraki) were found guilty and hanged.[96] In his book Flyboys: A True Story of Courage, James Bradley details several instances of cannibalism of World War II Allied prisoners by their Japanese captors.[97] The author claims that this included not only ritual cannibalization of the livers of freshly-killed prisoners, but also the cannibalization-for-sustenance of living prisoners over the course of several days, amputating limbs only as needed to keep the meat fresh.
Watch this animal cruelty!! we need to put a stop on foie gras farming and slaughter house THEN we can focus on other people's long as we practice it...who are we to say what people can and can't do.
Deborah Marchant'
Why is the mayor of Taiji, Japan currently defending the dolphin hunts? Is it because the community he is a leader of is undereducated? Is it because he is attempting to Save Face as a result of his community Being Made Wrong?? To help us better understand the reasons for the refusal to change, here is one reason why. There is a definite lack of higher education in that remote region of Japan. There is apparently a lack of a high school or university to help educate the people about helpful & better information that many more educated people take for granted. How does great information reach undereducated and prideful people? The same way it has already been done - with respect. Here is another good point to bring up. It is easy to act tough when you lack knowledge, so a main question to ask is "Why should the tough people of Taiji care about saving the lives of Dolphins?" Here is one good reason why. This is a great opportunity for the people of Taiji to receive and accept insightful information that could save their lives and community too." The people of the World who care the most about saving Dolphins care about the People of Taiji too.There is so much help that the people of Taiji could receive and feel grateful for. The next question to ask is "What help does Taiji need to make a new and different living that still gives the people there a purpose and a reason to celebrate?" Education! Education is a major way to create a living for a community. I understand that pearls provide an income there. So how about installing a high school and college that would provide jobs in construction, education, school administration, transportation and more? What about a technical college that teaches great information about how to manage a great pearl business? Creative ideas like these have probably already been thought of by the members of Taiji and their Friends. So Best of Luck Taiji. It is up to You to take hold of this great opportunity to improve your own lives, and the first place to begin though is by being honest with yourselves and each other. DM
Peter Rogaski
The Japanese people need to stop this. Dolphins are one of natures most intelligent creatures and we allow this to take place? We call ourselves civilized?
Peter Rogaski
So called "Chuck" AKA a Japanese citizen from Taiji, makes numerous interesting arguments. In the past, I can appreciate the conditions which existed in Japan after WW II. This argument is completely different today. Just because other food sources of meat are harvested unethically, does not justify the slaughter of dolphins or whales. If I thought all Japanese felt as Chuck does, I would sell my Honda, Toyota, and every other Japanese product in the house. This practice would end immediately, if the large Japanese corporations are determinately affected. Once Japan heads into complete collapse of their export market, then this practice will end. When unemployment reaches 15% because the "world" will not buy from a country whose support such practices --then this will end.
Hey.. Like I repeatedly said, if there is farm that can farm dolphins. Would it be OK to make dolphin bacon or dolphin ham for commercial harvest? Answer ME!! I would like your post to start like this; It’s OK to kill farmed cows, pigs, chickens, ducks, sheep, goats, lamas, ostriches, rabbits, alligators and all others because.. If dolphins can be farmed. It’s OK to…
Juan, I bet your comment gets removed within a few day's just like everyone else who has an opinion that doesn't agree with the Japanese (It makes China look tolerant). Don't think I will ever buy Sony, Panasonic etc. ever again.
Farming dolphins wouldn't get us anywhere, either. One of O'Barry's points in his fight is informing people of the high intelligence of dolphins. To farm dolphins for harvest would be just as insane if you were to farm orangutans to eat. Most who are behind O'Barry are against the farming of these other beautiful animals as well. There is activism to end those farms as there is activism to end dolphin slaughter.
Yes. I agree. Farming Orangutans would not be good at all. They take too long to grow and they can throw poo at farmers. That’s just crazy thinking for people working there.. Growing potential poo throwing animals… I would kill one with crowbar if I was farmer and some dumb ape throws poo at me. Plus Orangutans would not give much meat for profit. Maybe their brains would be sold for good money but need to kept live to be serve brain fresh out of skull.. Intelligent creatures = worth argument to live is dumb. O'Barry's group should go to where dogs are being kept to be killed to become food. They even have restaurants to serve dog meat. As far as Orangutans goes, I’m sad to post this but there are farm to grow other small monkeys for their brain to be served fresh out of skull.. Just so you know.. Dog (Darker their skins are better meat) meat and small monkey brains are thought about to be something delightful or pleasing to people.. I guess Dogs and monkeys can wait until O'Barry desire to gets to them for TV rating or his son can dip for TV rating..
James Stewart
Japanese people are generally ignorant when it comes to nature and the importance of sustaining the oceans marine life. I have just recently watched 'Sharkwater' and would recommend you do the same to get a grasp of the absolute insanity and stupidity of mankind. We have the audacity to call ourselves intelligent beings when we continue to kill the top predator of the oceans. A predator that controls the rest of the Eco-system which we are dangerously putting out of balance with 90% of the worlds sharks killed for their fins. The ocean supplies two thirds of the planet's oxygen and by continuing to allow this cruelty to sharks where they have their find cut off and are left to die an agonizing death over a long time, we are creating the end of the human race!!! Wake up people, stop the arrogance, greed and stupidity and end the killing of sharks today!! Please go to for more information on how you can help.
I checked out .. OK. now what. As long as you eat meat, you do not have rights to say I'm wrong.
Conscience Veggie Lover
I have to agree in some respects with 1 of the posters comments re: farming animals for food..I do agree corralling land animals they way its done in the states for mass consumption is truly as inhumane as hunting down intelligent creatures for slaughter...The root of the problem is MASS consumption.Which is fueled for sure by corporate greed more so than cultural practice.I don't think the comparing the similarities to the atrocities committed against animals worldwide for consumption is a valid argument for continuing the practice of slaughtering Dolphins. To quote the old cliche' 2 wrongs don't make it right...I also have to point out a considerable fact, which is the poisonous nature of the Dolphin flesh, relating to the high mercury content.So if the thought of the inhumanity of the slaughtering of the Dolphins isn't valid, then the inhumanity of the effects of unsuspecting, and unwilling victims of Mercury poison should be...As it relates to the Fisherman's right to slaughtering Dolphins and whales? I do think they have a right to sustain life for their families,comfortably. But there has to be a cost benefit analysis when it comes to any economic practice...I feel seriously repulsed at the idea that this practice poisons Human lives.
What do you value now? If it happened to Taiji people.. Would you been happy or do you even care? I guess we would never know because it didn’t happen to them but less dolphin eaters on face of earth is saying. You Win.. What do you feel?
So what I'm seeing is why get upset over dolphins and not the others? Regarding O'Barry focusing on dolphins, well what do you expect? He trained dolphins and considered himself to be close to them. Why is it that we(Westerners) make a big fuss over dogs and cats being eaten, even though they're not 'intelligent'? Because a lot of us have them as pets and love and care for them. Just as O'Barry did for the dolphins he trained. He's not doing this to make himself look big, he's doing it because he loves dolphins and cared for the ones he trained. When one of them committed suicide, he felt guilty. He even stated that in his interview. I'm going to assume he's also against dogs and cats being eaten, but he wishes to focus on dolphins as a way to help repent what he did. Not because he wants to look like an activist rock star. There's a lot of things wrong in our world, and it would be impossible to stop them all. Oil drilling, war, harvesting endangered species, carbon footprints, etc. So instead of tackling all problems of the world, O'Barry is tackling the ones that matter the most to him, and the ones who are viewing this are merely responding to the topic. There's plenty of topics about how farm animals are treated, so please don't assume that that topic doesn't matter to anyone here. Or that some how bringing that up will for some reason justify eating dolphin meat. It doesn't. If what the fishermen is doing isn't wrong, then why has there yet to be a good argument for it. The only counter-arguments I heard were, "Well farm animals and other animals are killed too, why not make a fuss about them too?" That's not a good reason, it's just a way to console yourself by bringing others to your level. Like how you feel better when you know the majority of your class got a bad grade, just like you. In which case, yeah maybe we are all bad, so shouldn't we do something about that?
Per pound per pound those fisher men make very little money when they kill for meat. Big money maker here is when dolphins are sold to aquariums around the world for much more money. Where do aquariums get their dolphins? They have to buy them from some where right? Do you think there is a magic wand they swing to make dolphins appear from thin air? If all aquariums get banned to buy additional dolphins around the world, how long do you think they can run their dolphin fish tank for? They even said on the show that good looking ones get sold to organizations all over the world and dolphin meats are often sold to consumers labeled as whale meat so there is really good market for dolphin meats in Japan. If those dolphin fisher men know there is not going to be high paying customers, they’ll stop hunting in few years because they have to lie to sell dolphin meat as whale meat now. I know for fact many people would NOT buy dolphin meat knowingly they are buying dolphin meat but if they do not know what whale meat taste like.. They might think dolphin meat as whale meat and they are paying premium price for this meat. Oh and next time when you go to some aquarium wherever in the world, wave to those dolphins because they are kept there with no freedom to escape to ocean where they came from and miles away from home and see them do some tricks for your entertainment to get fed.
Chris Komatsu
Wow, seriously? You guys are a bunch of over-romantic environmentalists who watch waay too many cartoons. Whales and dolphins are not self-aware. They are animals. They do not show despair as humans do (not at all the same as depression); they do not show any sense of being aware they will inevitably die; they do not have the ability to contemplate right and wrong let alone contemplate at all. They can be trained to do tricks and trained to do all sorts of neat stuff but notice that it doesn't occur on their own where as with human beings it does. They simply do those actions by responding to a stimulus. You can train a monkey to do simple mathematic calculations but notice how the monkey isn't able to come up with any of the theorems or concepts that follow from simple calculations on their own. All of you are judging a culture of which you have no knowledge. Being half-Japanese myself, I will reveal to you why the Japanese include so much sea food into their diet. Their entire philosophy is based off of the fact that they see the sea as their source of life. They believe that their primary sustenance, thus, comes from the sea. Because of this, they also have tremendous respect for the ocean and all of its creatures; far more than any westerner or environmentalist whacko does. They do not fear sharks in the water but respect them and thus they do not go fishing and hunting for them just to kill them for the hell of it but they only harvest and take what they need for sustenance to eat unlike here in the west.
Plant based future
Actually, Komatsu Chris, that view died out decades ago amongst scientists. It belongs to the 19th Century. It is not historically accurate to portray Japan as a fish eating nation. The amount of sea food it currently eats is a modern, post-war artificial high driven by the industry and the government ministry which profits from it. Up until after the WWII it is unlikely that anyone living in the mountains would eat ocean fish more than a few times a year at the most and river fish perhaps one a week. It has only even been a traditional in coastal areas, as it has the world over. This is a myth which has been constructed since the 1970s. It is not "tradition" to eat Mediterranean tuna and Icelandic or Antarctic whale. The traditional diet of Japan was primarily vegetarian, near vegan in fact because milk was not drunk until after the Americans came, for 1,000 years by Imperial edicts on the basis of Buddhist rule until the Americans came. Again, right up until the 1970s in the villages most of the women ate mainly vegetarian. People did not like to kill animals. Those who did were more then often untouchables and seen as impure. Japan's current dietary imbalance and food insecurity is unnaturally created by the consumer industry. It does not need to be so high. It is combination of a number of factors, American influence, brute capitalism, post-war land reforms and the migration away from the countryside. The issue is not as the propaganda nor as the mindless, immature trolls suggest. The division of this issue on racial or nationalist grounds is also false. This is not a "Japan versus the West", nor "The West versus Japan" issue. Unfortunately, I think both sides have lost focus of the bigger picture. The bigger picture is that, despite human population rising and need fed, around 87% of marine stocks are fully exploited or more.* Many species are being pushed to extinction and will never recover. We have no idea what will happen when the marine ecosystems collapses. In Japan, we are facing the collapse of both our fishing industry and our farming industry because of aging, declining stocks, and economic pressures. Perhaps at some point both sides can lift their heads above the conflict and consider the future and an alternative. Bigots and idiots will never comprehend compassion for other species. They have not evolve that far. They struggle with concept of not causing suffering for other human beings and relish being unconscious at the suffering their lifestyles cause. It is not necessary to eat meat or fish to survive. It is not necessary to cause suffering to others to survive. The only future is to return to a primarily plant based diet. Only a primarily plant based can sustain our planet's future population. * FAO marine stock figures 52% are fully exploited 17% are overexploited 7% are depleted 1% are exploited but recovering
Donnamarie Boyer
To His Excellency, Mr. Shinzō Abe The Prime Minister of Japan To His Excellency, Mr. YAMAZAKI Masaaki, The President of the House of Councillors To His Excellency, Mr. Bunmei Ibuki The President of the House of Representatives and to all of the members of the Japanese Parliament I am writing you these words to express my profound admiration and respect for your nation, but admitting at the same time, a deep pain and sorrow caused by the practice that still continues today in Japan: the mass killing of dolphins. According to long-term studies conducted by the scientists, dolphins’ intelligence is highly developed. Dolphins are recognized to be the second most intelligent species on our planet, after Homo Sapiens. Just like us, humans, they are capable of forming complex social relationships. From ancient times, the history recorded many cases of drowning people being saved by dolphins. This implies not just a great conceptual power but also empathy, as it involves understanding that a being’s life is in danger, that the life of that being has an intrinsic value and it is worth saving, and even more, it deserves the effort of saving it. Dolphins have repeatedly demonstrated that they do this for us. We, the humans, always find reasons for our actions based on philosophy and religious traditions. Buddhist Wisdom, for example, urges us to help the sentient beings if we can, and if we can’t, at least we should choose not to hurt them. Dolphins behave towards people as if they would follow these noble human morals. Another important source of morality is empathy. When we realize that another being is suffering, and we connect with it emotionally and support it, we have a more complete picture of his, her or it’s drama. Empathy renders distances, even distance in time, insignificant. Seeing the images of the massacres in the past years and the capturing of the dolphins these days, deleted the 9000 kilometers between Bucharest and Tokyo. Every scream of fear and pain of the dolphins that are captured and killed is a sharp stab into my heart. Every bloodshed in the sea trickles like a burn onto my soul. Watching the news and the images on this subject, I could not help the tears and I wished so eagerly that I could hug all those dolphins and somehow ease their pain and save them. I am convinced that most people seeing these images of the slaughtered dolphins share the same unsettling feelings and emotions. And there are many millions… I am writing this open letter as a citizen among those who that are connected by the invisible thread of the same compassion and pain caused by the suffering and killing of dolphins. At the same time, I am writing you as a member of the Romanian Parliament, my country being probably the only country in the world that has the national coat of arms displaying two dolphins. I have recently announced the introduction in the Parliament of a draft law that aims at recognizing dolphins as non-human persons as a legal basis for strengthening their protection in the Black Sea. The special relationship between people and dolphins in the Black Sea region is well known throughout history. About 2600 years ago, around the time of the first Emperors of Japan, the first city on the present territory of Romania was founded on the Black Sea shore. It was the famous ancient Greek colony called Tomis, where the great roman poet Ovid was exiled few centuries latter and wrote a large part of his work, and where the coins that were put into use by the ancient inhabitants were printed not with the image of some political figure, but with the images of dolphins. Nowadays, the images of dolphins captured and slaughtered in Japan, are shuddering the planet. The dolphins suffered terribly, understanding that they are going to be killed. Some have seriously injured themselves until bleeding in their desperate attempt to escape. I have also noticed among them a rare albino baby, that was swimming terrified next to his mother. I think that the white baby dolphin will become a symbol for all those who call for a humane treatment for the dolphins worldwide. I am convinced that you have received and you will receive many messages calling for a human and honorable solution to this problem. I sincerely hope with all my heart that you will take all these messages into account, and that the day when you put an end to such horrors is near. It is entirely in your power to stop the killing of dolphins in Japan.
Ronald Rucci
The Japanese people have a great love and respect for nature and a history of effective management of natural resources and the environment. Perhaps one of the better supporting facts to this assertion is that Japan's carbon footprint per capita is much much lower than most inductrialized nations including the USA which has one of the worse. The Japanese understand that natural resources need to be measured and managed carefully - this includes food resources. The Japanese people, like most people in the world view animals mainly as a resource. They do not believe that animals have rights. They believe that rights are negoiated and agreed only between humans. Since animals cannot really communicate with each other or with humans in a way that is meaningful regarding a discussion of rights, they cannot have rights like humans do. But because of this, humans have a special obligation to be good stewards to the enviroment which includes animals. We must be kind to animals and be sure to not tolerate abuse or cause undue suffering. Causiing undue pain or suffereing to animals is a very grave moral offence. At Taiji, the videos would indicate that the fisherman are causing unneeded pain to the dolpins as they harvest them. If this is a fact then it should be stopped and a more humane way of harvesting should be adopted. But I do not see how taking dolphin from the territorial waters of Japan is immoral and it is not illegal. It may also not be environmentally damaging although I do not know if this is the case. We need to get away from romantic, irrational notions and sentimentality if we are to make progress and live in harmony with each other, animals and the environment. Dolphins are intelligent, beautiful creatures. But they are a resource just like a chicken. So if you eat chicken then then you cannto criticize the JApanese for eating dolphin.
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Authors: For all articles by the author, click on author's name.   David McNeill