Thursday, December 01, 2005

Your support of the captive dolphin industry when you go to Sea World, etc. directly supports dolphin slaughter. Is it really worth it?

Read on to see what I mean....

Sick, sick, sick issue this is. You'll see in the article below. And you'll see, they not only kill dolphins to eat, but also to supply the international dolphin captivity industry, to be kept in aquariums, trained to perform at dolphinariums or for swim-with-dolphin
programs. So you see, your support of the captive dolphin industry when you go to Sea World, etc. directly supports dolphin slaughter. Is it really worth it?

'Secret' dolphin slaughter defies protests

Special to The Japan Times

Japan's annual slaughter of thousands of dolphins
began Oct. 8 in the traditional whaling town of Taiji
on the Kii Peninsula of Honshu's Wakayama Prefecture.
These "drive fisheries" triggered demonstrations, held
under the "Japan Dolphin Day" banner, in 28 countries.
The protests went almost entirely unreported in Japan,
where only very few people are aware of what goes on.

The culling, spanning a period of six months, is
officially condoned as part of traditional culture,
and is described as "pest control" by practitioners.
However, it is the inhumane way in which the mammals
are killed, by stabbing and spearing them, that
especially provokes such widespread revulsion.

Taiji fishermen begin the oikomi (fishery drive) by
going out to sea in motor boats to locate pods of
dolphins. They then place long steel poles with
flared, bell-like ends into the water and bang them to
create a wall of sound that amplifies underwater and
drives their prey into a narrow cove. Once there, the
dolphins' escape is cut off by nets strung across the
mouth of the cove. The following day -- after they
have rested so, it is thought, their meat becomes more
tender -- they are herded into another cove nearby
where the slaughter is carried out. Much of the meat
is then processed for human consumption -- even though
eating it could well be a very foolhardy thing to do.

A video with footage shot at Taiji in January 2004 by
One Voice, a French-based animal rights group, and
other footage from a similar oikomi in Futo, Shizuoka
Prefecture, by a cameraman who requested anonymity,
shows dolphins thrashing about wildly as they try to
escape and the water turns red.

Drive fisheries appear to be carried out in as much
secrecy as possible, and the killing cove in Hatagiri
Bay at Taiji is hidden between two mountains. There, a
gigantic tarp is strung over the shoreline to cut off
the view from land, and paths leading to the cove are
closed off with chains and posted with signs reading
"No Trespassing!" and "Keep Out, Danger!" said Ric
O'Barry an official with One Voice.

O'Barry, a former trainer of the dolphins used in the
U.S. television series "Flipper," recently returned
home to Miami from Taiji after shooting footage of
freshly killed dolphins being lifted onto a pier in
the harbor there. Speaking prior to his departure,
O'Barry said that the Taiji dolphin-killers are proud
of what they do, and boast of a tradition dating back
400 years. "However," he commented, "if they are so
proud of this, why do they take such pains to hide
their activity?"

O'Barry said he met with the local Taiji fishery group
and offered them a subsidy to stop the killings, but
was rebuffed and told the dolphins were "pests" that
competed with the commercial fishery. Noting that
there are no scientific studies showing dolphins are
responsible for falling fish stocks in the area,
O'Barry cited overfishing as the probable cause.

But it is not just those doing the killing who make
every effort to hide it from the world. Japanese
officials also strongly discourage outsiders from
seeing, recording or protesting the blood-letting.

During a fishery drive on Nov. 18, 2003, two members
of the Washington state-based Sea Shepherd
Conservation Society were arrested by police from
Taiji's neighboring town of Shingu for jumping into
freezing waters and releasing 15 dolphins trapped in a
net awaiting slaughter. The pair, Alex Cornelisson
from the Netherlands and American Allison
Lance-Watson, were held without bail and only released
on Dec. 9, 2003, after being indicted and fined for
"forceful interference with Japanese commerce."
Meanwhile, two other Sea Shepherd members staying in a
trailer park in Taiji had their cameras, film,
computer and some personal belongings confiscated by
police, according to an online news release from the
group. Undeterred, Sea Shepherd is offering a $10,000
reward to anyone who provides the best footage of the
drive fishery.

In response to allegations that the oikomi dolphins
suffer from shock and die slowly, in a Sept. 19, 2005,
letter to British-based animal welfare and
conservation charity the Born Free Foundation, Jun
Koda, Counselor of the Japanese Embassy in London,
said: "In some small parts of our country we have a
long tradition of consuming dolphin meat. Japanese
fishermen are careful to minimize suffering as soon as
possible and cause as little pain to the dolphins as

Koda went on to say that the dolphin "almost instantly
meets its end within a maximum of 30 seconds and does
not suffer any pain."

A rebuttal from Born Free said the data in which Koda
based his claim is taken from Faeroe Island dolphin
hunts in the North Atlantic, which have not been
subject to independent scrutiny and hence have no
bearing on the Japanese culls. Koda's assertions are
also countered by observers from One Voice and Sea
Shepherd, who have reported seeing wounded dolphins
writhe in pain for almost six minutes before
succumbing to their wounds.

Meanwhile, another Japanese official was equally
forthright in countering critics' objections to
killing dolphins for food. In a telephone interview
this month, Hideki Moronuki, assistant director of the
whaling section in the Far Seas Fishery Division of
the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries,
expressed the view that, "If someone eats a cow, why
should one object to a dolphin being eaten; they're
all mammals."

He added, "If Australians want to eat kangaroos, we
don't care. . . . Please do not care what Japanese do.
. . . Dolphins and whales are part of Japanese food

Furthermore, speaking in English, Moronuki expressed
his view that dolphins are killed humanely in the
fishery drives. Then, comparing the slaughter of a
dolphin to that of a cow or a pig, he declared:
"Killing is killing."

O'Barry believes this is the attitude of most Japanese
fishermen. "They don't think of dolphins as
intelligent, highly complex animals that love to play
and interact with people," he said.

But such sentiments are not confined to welfare and
conservation groups.

On April 6, 2005, U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, a
Democrat from New Jersey, sponsored Senate Resolution
99, "Expressing the sense of the Senate to condemn the
inhumane and unnecessary slaughter of small cetaceans
. . . in certain nations." The submission, currently
referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations, not
only cites the fact that "those responsible for the
slaughter prevent documentation or data from the
events from being recorded or made public," but it
describes how, "each year tens of thousands of small
cetaceans are herded into small coves in certain
nations, are slaughtered with spears and knives, and
die as a result of blood loss and hemorrhagic shock."

C.W. Nicol, the renowned environmentalist, author,
whaling expert and Japan Times columnist, recently
made an M.B.E. by Queen Elizabeth II, witnessed the
Taiji dolphin slaughter while living there in 1978.
Speaking last week, he said: "It's been a cancer in my
gut ever since. It's no good to kill an animal
inhumanely, and to do so is not to the advantage of

However, not all the captured dolphins are killed.
Every year, an unknown number of healthy young
specimens are selected and removed from the killing
coves to be sold into the international dolphin
captivity industry, to be kept in aquariums, trained
to perform at dolphinariums or for swim-with-dolphin
programs. At Taiji, those involved appear to reap rich
rewards in this way, and O'Barry said he was told
there that the fishery drives would stop and those
carrying them out would go back to catching lobsters
and crabs if they were not offered huge sums for
"show" dolphins.

Echoing this, Nicol said he vehemently opposes the
dolphin massacre, adding, that "dolphins not selected
for dolphinariums should be returned to the sea."

However, in a further, darkly ironic twist, serious
health issues would seem to surround meat from the
slaughtered animals, which is available at
supermarkets in Shizuoka Prefecture and Kyushu.

At present, Hiroyuki Uchimi of the Japanese health
ministry's Food Safety Division explained, the
provisional advisory safety levels set in 1973, and
still in effect for methyl mercury, are 2 micrograms a
week for pregnant women and 3.4 micrograms a week for
all others, including children, for each kilogram of
body weight.

But according to Tetsuya Endo, a member of the
Pharmaceutical Sciences faculty at Hokkaido's Health
Science University, mercury in a sample of the meat he
tested in 2003 from a supermarket in Ito, Shizuoka
Prefecture, was 14.2 times higher than the
government's maximum advisory level. "It is terrible,"
he said this month.

Endo's finding was amply supported by those of a
2000-2003 joint survey of small cetacean food products
sold in Japan by the Daichi College of Pharmaceutical
Sciences in Fukuoka, Kyushu, the university where Endo
works, and the School of Biological Sciences in
Auckland, New Zealand. Published in 2005, this found
that all dolphin food products "exceeded the
provisional permitted levels of 0.4 micrograms per wet
gram for total mercury and 0.3 micrograms per wet gram
for methyl mercury set by the Japanese government. The
highest level of methyl mercury was about 26
micrograms per wet gram in a food sample from a
striped dolphin, 87 times higher than the permitted
level." Methyl mercury is a particularly dangerous
form of mercury, a neurotoxic metal.

The paper concluded, "The consumption of red meat from
small cetaceans . . . could pose a health problem for
not only pregnant women, but also for the general

Despite this -- and that Senate Resolution 99, which
cites "warnings regarding high levels of mercury and
other contaminants in meat from small cetaceans caught
off coastal regions" -- health warnings are not posted
on the labels of such food products sold in Japan.

In addition, critics of the drive fisheries claim
there is little monitoring of government culling
quotas, already the highest in the world. At present,
these quotas set by the Ministry of Agriculture,
Forestry and Fisheries -- with drive fishery licenses
then issued by prefectural governments to local
fishery cooperatives -- stipulate that in the current
2005/06 season, 21,120 small cetaceans can be killed,
besides those selected for captivity. O'Barry
estimates that "more than 400,000 dolphins have been
killed in Japan by dolphin hunters over the past two

O'Barry, who added that he is passionate about banning
dolphin hunts, said he even reversed his position on
hunting cetaceans "to be clowns" in aquarium shows
after Cathy, one of the dolphins that portrayed
Flipper, died in his arms. As a trainer, O'Barry said
he discovered that dolphins were among the very few
creatures in the animal kingdom that were not only
highly intelligent, but also self-aware, like gorillas
and humans, as evidenced by recognition of themselves
when they saw their reflection in a mirror or watched
themselves on a TV monitor.

Perhaps a similar self-awareness on the part of
dolphin hunters would point a way forward. This may
already be happening, as film-maker Hardy Jones of the
California-based Blue Voice conservation group found
last month when he was in Futo, where recently there
has been a drastic decline in dolphin catches.

In a phone interview last week, Jones explained that
while in Futo he heard from a source close to former
dolphin hunter Izumi Ishii that "Ishii has switched
from hunting dolphins to conducting 'dolphin watch'
tours. So far this year he's taken 2,600 tourists, who
pay 4,000 yen each to enjoy seeing dolphins in the

As Jones observed, "With Ishii making more money from
the tours than he ever did as a dolphin hunter, he is
setting a great example for the Taiji fishermen to
follow as well."

Boyd Harnell is a Japan-based journalist who has
worked for Time Life TV, UPI, Kyodo News and other
media outlets.

The Japan Times: Nov. 30, 2005

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