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Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2012
HAVE YOUR SAY
Call to stop dolphin hunt in Taiji makes waves
Some of the many readers' letters The Japan Times received in response to the Sept. 11 Hotline to Nagatacho column, "Stop the annual Taiji dolphin massacre, make your children proud" by Deb Bowen-Saunders:
Dolphins are not people
My response to Deb Bowen-Saunders will mirror my Jan. 12 (Readers in Council) letter, "The moral case against whaling?" Once again, a person opposed to the killing of "intelligent mammals" has asserted that what happens to a dolphin is morally equivalent to what happens to a human.
Once again, I ask: On what basis? On what principle do you determine that certain intelligent mammals, such as dolphins, have a right to life, but other intelligent mammals, like pigs, do not. If your principle is "intelligence," then is it OK to only kill the unintelligent dolphins?
Furthermore, due to the long introduction, I suspect the majority of Bowen-Saunders' opposition comes from the way the dolphins are killed. If the fishermen of Taiji develop a humane and less painful way of killing dolphins, would that be satisfactory? If so, then your argument is based on ascetics, not morality.
I will not defend or attack the Taiji dolphin hunt, but I will assert that the right to life is unique to humans and is derived from our unique ability to be moral actors. Animals can be intelligent, or use tools or language, but they cannot evaluate their actions in terms of "right" and "wrong." Animals are completely captive to their instincts, but humans are not. In fact, all of human society is an apparatus designed to deter us from acting according to our instincts. It is not murder for a dolphin to kill a fish — not because the dolphin is hungry — but because the dolphin is not a moral actor.
It is illogical to apply moral terms to beings that are unable to act in ways that are contrary to their nature. If you assert that humans killing dolphins is murder, than we are obliged to police the dolphin community to make sure dolphins are not engaging in murder, or being murdered by other animals.
Rather than framing the debate from the standpoint of "dolphin's rights" we should frame the debate in terms of human responsibilities. A society may conclude that killing dolphins in such a painful way is unacceptable, but this does not mean that killing a dolphin is murder.
Unfortunately, such opposition will need to come from within Japan, and any attempts by foreigners to attack Japanese cultural traditions (however repugnant we may find them) will transform the debate into an us (Japanese) vs. them (foreigners) fight. Japanese people who were uninterested or undecided on the issue will tend to side with their own countrymen to resist what they surely see as another example of the culturally-imperialistic West trying to reshape the world in their own image.
Chance to show Japan's greatness
Thank you for publishing the letter about the dolphin hunt in Taiji. You have reminded us that the Japanese people are able to listen and consider the views of other people.
Many people in other countries are inspired by the honor, discipline, strength and loyalty that is so much part of what we know about Japanese culture. People in other countries need to understand that in Japan, for centuries, your diet has included food from the sea. No one has the right to ask or demand that your people stop eating fish.
However, the consumption of cetaceans that contain dangerously high levels of mercury is surely at odds with a country in which people eat such a healthy diet?
People in the West need to understand that their desire to see whales and dolphins in aquariums contributes significantly to the continued hunting of dolphins by fishermen in Taiji and change this practice before demanding change in Japan.
With the greatest respect, I ask for you to consider the evidence with regard to mercury levels in cetacean meat and also to consider alternative ways of capturing dolphins for captivity. If Japan and Taiji fishermen were to do this, the focus of groups who wish to protect this species and our bountiful oceans would turn towards the businesses that buy them from you.
Thank you for giving this consideration. The pictures published of the sea running red with blood are very damaging to the worlds' view of Japan. Japan will always be a proud and great nation; please take the opportunity to show the world just how great.
Dodgy foreigner types in Taiji
The end of summer means the arrival of a depressing season for the residents of Taiji. This is because the activities of Sea Shepherd get under way.
Sea Shepherd deploys its activists in Taiji to monitor the dolphin hunting that starts there at the beginning of September. The word "monitoring" sounds good, but in fact this mainly involves harassing local residents by directing cameras at them or stalking people who are in any way connected to the hunting. Although there are some activists who question these practices, Sea Shepherd is a growing cause of stress for the residents of Taiji.
Who then are these activists who come to Taiji? They can roughly be categorized into three different types:
• The first type includes those who come to Taiji to stop hunting by all possible means. They feel angry about the dolphin hunting after having seen the movie "The Cove," or having received one-sided information about the hunting by Sea Shepherd. These people are innocent and many of them feel disappointed with the actual activities they are involved in and end up leaving Japan. Some others suffer from problems in their personal lives or have mental issues. It is possible that these personal problems are their main motivation.
• The second type is those who come to Taiji to achieve results as activists or to promote their own fame. If you read activists' tweets and blogs, you occasionally come across people whose names are known from TV or magazines. Since people in English-speaking countries have no means of knowing what kind of activities these activists are undertaking in Taiji, celebrity activists can describe their achievements in whatever way they like. As long as they pay for the stay, they can make their claim to fame without having to do anything at all. For those with dubious titles such as "eco-racer," "psychic-medium," "artist-activist," such activities are very convenient.
• The third type is those who come to Taiji as curious onlookers without giving it much thought. These are most likely foreign nationals living in Japan. There are some among them who randomly harass local people when they pass by. This may be the most troublesome type to deal with.
What these people do is no more than make a small contribution to the local economy and they have been almost ignored by the Japanese public. Furthermore, since the town of Taiji and the Wakayama prefectural police are always keeping an eye on them and will come to the rescue in the event of any harassment, the activists have been increasingly discouraged. Most of their activities now center on aimlessly watching the sea and ensuring their own boredom.
Seen from a Japanese perspective, much of the overseas reporting on whaling is also unfair. There are many occasions when we feel antiwhaling public opinion is concocted by the media and politicians.
It is impossible to strike a chord with the Japanese public using hysterical external pressure devoid of any logic. We want you to calm down a little and reflect upon what whales and dolphins actually mean to you.
Captivity industry plays its part
I just wanted to add my deep concerns about the brutal dolphin slaughter that occurs in Taiji. There has to come a time when the need for money and greed is put aside and the treatment of these sentient marine animals becomes the main concern.
As one can see, there is obviously some shame felt by the people involved in this operation, as they try to hide their brutality behind tarps. The fact that mercury-contaminated meat is being taken from these animals for human consumption is also hard to understand.
After a worldwide protest held on Aug. 31 against the drive hunt held in Taiji every year, you would hope there would be a plan to stop this. The awful captivity industry needs to accept its part in this horrible hunt as they provide the monetary incentive to keep this happening every year. As I write this, there are 20-plus bottlenose dolphins being held in the cove at Taiji just waiting to be chosen to either spend a life in a chlorinated pool in a tourist attraction, doing tricks and receiving dead fish, or to be taken under the tarps for a vicious death.
As human beings we have to raise our awareness of the suffering of these animals and bring a halt to their destruction.
From one human to another
Please, as a fellow human who inhabits our Earth, I plead with you to stop the senseless slaughter of these magnificent creatures.
Porpoises, dolphins and whales have proved to be intelligent creatures, with feelings and the capability to reason. Most like humans and will gravitate towards them. There have been many reports of these same creatures actually saving people out at sea.
Why would anyone want to kill them — especially in the horrific way it is done in the "killing bay" in Taiji? It is shameful and so disrespectful of these incredible animals.
Feel the hypocrisy
I find it somewhat amusing. Really, I do. This gets people worked up, but when it comes to cruelty against animals in countries like Spain (bullfighting, which is utterly brutal and serves no purpose other than some fancily dressed "machos" pretending to be manly) or Italy (hunting songbirds) or even the EU-funded animal factories and live animal transports across Europe (just to name a few very prominent examples off the top of my head), there is only silence.
I can see the thinly disguised racism in the highly emotional appeal to "Stop the annual Taiji dolphin massacre, make your children proud." In fact, it's not even disguised, but rather perfectly obvious, screaming in our faces from every word.
I would also like to note that one can't murder dolphins. One can only murder humans. Dolphins are animals. While they may be more intelligent than the average cow, this difference matters little. They are not humans. They are not on the same level as humans. That is a simple scientific fact.
Humans are at this point the ultimate evolutionary "gold medal"; that too is a simple scientific fact. Humanizing dolphins and putting them on the same level as us homo sapiens is childish, utterly irrational, unscientific and demeaning for both species. We are not dolphins; dolphins are not us.
And finally, I find it appalling that foreigners feel the need to point their fingers at Japan over this issue, while the conditions of animals in their own countries are far from perfect. It's like the father who beats his own children complaining to the police how his neighbor beats his wife. This kind of protest boils down to one thing: wannabe superior white folks pointing fingers at the "yellow peril" and going on about how civilized and superior they are themselves, while completely ignoring the realities in their own countries.
There's a saying in German: "Vor der eigenen Tur kehren." It translates somewhat literally as "cleaning up your own doorstep" — aka, "mind your own business."
I agree, unnecessary cruelty should be avoided, but how is the dolphin slaughter any different from the Spanish bullfight, which is conducted by white people and not causing any international ruckus on the same scale?
What's the difference between killing dolphins once a year and shipping living animals under deplorable conditions from Poland to Spain practically every day?
Or shall we delve into Australia, where live animals are still exported via ship to such faraway places as Kuwait and Bahrain? A short search on Google reveals really ugly facts about Australia's export practices that are on par with what is going on in the EU.
So how is this any different? Is it because dolphins are so much more intelligent than sheep? Since both are animals, it's not a valid argument.
No, the reason for this is simple racism. The old angst of the "yellow peril" — the same kind of angst that, for example, triggered the utterly shameful and openly racist behavior of the German media after the Tohoku quake and tsunami.
And this racism is perfectly obvious. This is not about animals or the laughable notion of "animal rights" being on the same level as human rights. This is simply the old "holier than thou" attitude some people like to display because it makes them feel superior.
It's always easier to point out the faults of others rather than deal with your own. The moment Australia can boast a spotless record in dealing with animals, Australians can comment on Taiji and condemn it. Same applies for any other country. Until then, clean your own doorstep first.
'Roo slaughter 'cruelest in world'
While I too would like to see the annual slaughter of dolphins in Taiji come to an end, I feel I must correct a number of misstatements made by Ms. Bowen-Saunders regarding the treatment of kangaroos in Australia.
About kangaroo killing, Ms. Bowen-Saunders says: "I have heard the Japanese defend whaling and dolphin murder by saying Australia is hypocritical for killing kangaroos. This is done, however, when numbers have exploded, the animals have eaten all available food and are often starving. They are shot quickly and cleanly by professional shooters. The majority of the time there is no suffering, and the culls are regulated.
"They are not murdered slowly en masse. Almost all Australian wildlife is protected, and culling is done as a last resort, not for annual amusement."
The killing of kangaroos in Australia is the world's largest land-based animal slaughter. The Australian government has sanctioned the commercial killing of over 5 million kangaroos in 2012 alone. Rather than being "a last resort", kangaroo killing is undertaken on a huge scale and for significant commercial gain. It forms the basis of a multimillion-dollar skin and meat industry.
It is important to note that the annual kangaroo quota does not include the baby kangaroos (joeys) killed when their mothers are shot. Female kangaroos often have a joey in their pouch, as well as one at their feet. It is estimated that each year over 1 million joeys are either killed by shooters or left to die of starvation, predation or exposure. Joeys are decapitated, shot or clubbed to death.
Nor does the quota include the kangaroos left in the field because they have not been shot cleanly (and therefore cannot be accepted for processing) or that escape injured and later die. The relevant codes of practice require that kangaroos be shot in the head, but this does not always happen.
Former kangaroo shooter David Nicholls has said: "The mouth of a kangaroo can be blown off and the kangaroo can escape to die of shock and starvation. Forearms can be blown off, as can ears, eyes and noses. Stomachs can be hit, expelling the contents with the kangaroo still alive. Backbones can be pulverized to an unrecognizable state, etc. Hind legs can be shattered with the kangaroo desperately trying to get away on the other or without the use of either. To deny that this goes on is just an exercise in attempting to fool the public."
It is estimated that each year between 120,000 and 1 million kangaroos are mis-shot in this way (unfortunately, due to lack of monitoring a better estimate is not available). It is no wonder Australian animal protection advocates have called kangaroo killing "the cruelest wildlife slaughter in the world."
The quota also does not include the kangaroos shot for recreation. Yes, Australians do shoot kangaroos for their "amusement," including after a few beers. These shooters are not professionals and they do not undergo competency testing, so the animals are even more likely to suffer a painful death.
The fact that kangaroo killing is regulated means little. Policing and enforcement are almost nonexistent because the killing occurs in numerous remote parts of Australia under the cover of night.
There are many similarities between the slaughter of dolphins in Taiji and the killing of Australian kangaroos. In both cases, the animals are killed for their meat or as "pest control," and in both cases they suffer terribly. In terms of scale, however, the slaughter of dolphins in Taiji, while horrendous, pales in comparison to the bloodbath taking place in Australia.
As Australians we should not be seeking to defend the killing of kangaroos, or to downplay the extent to which it occurs. If we are horrified by the killing of dolphins in Japan, we should be equally (if not more) appalled by the killing of kangaroos in Australia. We should be pleading with our governments and fellow Australians "Stop the annual kangaroo massacre, make your children proud."
Creatures have much to offer
Thank you for publishing the powerful letter from Deb Bowen-Saunders about the dolphin/pilot whale slaughter happening in Taiji. We who are campaigning to end it do not want it to be perceived as an attack on the Japanese people and culture. We know many Japanese people have gone through terrible times with the tsunami and have suffered loss of life and their homes as a result.
The dolphins and whales swimming in your seas have a great legacy to offer Japan. The brutal murder of these intelligent mammals needs to end. Their captivity needs to end.
I have been lucky enough to be on a boat with them swimming alongside, keeping us humans company on our journey, allowing us to feel free with their jumping and happiness. I have also read a true story about dolphins who circled a stranded diver when a shark tried to attack her. You are so lucky to have them in your waters.
One day I hope to visit Taiji and see free, safe dolphins and pilot whales, to explore your country and witness the hospitality of the Japanese people. The fishermen could make a better living taking tourists out to sea to watch the dolphins, but right now all we see is them brutally murdering them. What is that doing for the country's tourism and reputation?
Please help end this for the environmental heritage of Japan, its children and the world.
The dolphins will forgive
I go to bed each night and I can't sleep — visions of suffering dolphins and whales crying out to their babies and swimming in pools of blood cloud my brain. And then when I do sleep, I dream of dolphins, their cries haunt me, I see them thrash and flail in their own blood as they are repeatedly stabbed by money-hungry fishermen.
I wake up and I can barely function knowing today will be another day of hell on Earth for these sentient souls. These intelligent, humanlike creatures who have looked upon us as friends, who have been our guardians of the ocean, who have saved countless lives, and whose lives we so callously slaughter without conscience, are looking to us to save them. We are their only hope.
How can this keep happening? How can we stand by and watch in horror and have all our efforts ignored or laughed at?
And the horror is compounded by the knowledge that the flesh of these beautiful creatures, tainted with mercury and toxins, will then be fed to children, pregnant mothers and the local population, who seem oblivious to the slaughter and ignorant of the dangers of the food the government labels as safe.
This is criminal behavior, all of it. The world is watching; the world is waiting for this to stop. We will not go away quietly into the night — we are the voices of those who cannot speak but who can certainly scream.
We will not go to your aquariums to watch these animals suffer in concrete water boxes, to live out their shortened lives in isolation and sickness, while the owners get fat and rich off the backs of these creatures. This hunt, slaughter and captivity must end in my lifetime!
I cannot cry enough tears for this tragedy, but tears are not enough. Tears will not make this go away; only education and awareness can touch the hearts of the world, and maybe, just maybe, the Taiji fishermen will wake up and walk away from this blood money and hang their heads in shame for their murderous ways.
And the dolphin will forgive.
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