Dolphin Slaughter in Taiji, Japan
Tuesday, September 6, 2005 Posted: 09:28 AM JST
Every year between October and April many hundreds of dolphins are slaughtered in the small town of Taiji, in the Japanese prefecture of Wakayama, a few hours drive from Osaka. Marine mammal specialist Ric O'Barry of One Voice-France, who has been leading protests against the killing, explains his reasons and methods:
(by Richard O'Barry) - In response to our call for October 8 to be an international day of protest at Japanese consulates and embassies against the Taiji dolphin slaughters, we have received much correspondence suggesting that we should either hit Japan with an all-out boycott, or just meet quietly with the Japanese officials. Both approaches have already been repeatedly attempted, and both were big mistakes.
Having witnessed the dolphin slaughters myself, I can report with absolute certainty that the Japanese people are not guilty of these crimes against nature. I saw only 26 whalers in 13 boats drive dolphins into a cove and slaughter them. The vast majority of the people in Taiji and surrounding villages were exceptionally friendly toward our small group of protesters, and should not be targeted and punished for something they are not guilty of.
The Japanese people don't need a boycott. They need access to the information that we take for granted. If they knew the truth about the dolphin slaughter, they would help us to stop it.
The fishers who hunt and kill dolphins in Taiji agree with us. They revealed this to us at a meeting we had with them at Taiji City Hall. When they asked us why we had come to Taiji, we told them we wanted to document the methods used to conduct the dolphin massacres and let the Japanese people know the truth about their hunt. The fishers reply was, "The Japanese people have no right to know about the dolphin slaughter. It is none of their business."
The fishermen in Taiji spend much of their time hiding their activities. They erect a roof of blue tarpaulin over the lagoon in which the dolphins are killed, for example, to avoid being photographed while killing dolphins. They know that if the images reach the Japanese public, their days as dolphin hunters are numbered. For that very reason, we will continue to travel to the remote Taiji fishing villages to document what is going on.
Boycotting Japan was the chosen strategy of most of the well-funded US animal welfare and environmental groups who pooled their money in 1975-1976 and took out full page advertisements in leading newspapers to promote their campaign. This misguided effort did not save any whales, but some Japanese/American children were beaten up on U.S. playgrounds and called "Jap whale killers." Surely, this is not a situation that we would want to repeat.
I spent most of 1975-76 traveling from Coconut Grove, Florida, to several cities in the U.S., and eventually Japan, with scores of Japanese and American musicians and environmentalists, including Fred Neil, Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, Shigado Izumia, Warren Zevon, Harry Hossano, John Sebastian, former California governor Jerry Brown, the Paul Winter Consort, and a great many other concerned artists.
Known as "The Rolling Coconut Review," we tried to put a stop to the boycott, and eventually succeeded, but not before the "Boycott Japan!" rhetoric had given the entire Japanese whaling industry the opportunity to pretend that western opposition to whaling was based on racism. Japanese opposition to whaling, already rising then, has struggled against that stereotype for 30 years.
It is the Japanese people who can stop the dolphin massacres. In order to make this happen, we need to build bridges, not burn them. But building bridges requires working outdoors, in plain sight.
We have already tried quiet meetings with Japanese officials, in Paris, London, Brussels, Miami, Bern, Seattle, Vancouver, New York, Washington D.C., and just about every other location where a Japanese embassy or consulate office exists.
During these closed-door meetings, we were made to feel comfortable, even welcomed. We were served tea and coffee and everyone was cordial. We even bowed to each other as a sign of mutual respect. We filed our usual complaint, the meeting was adjourned, we bowed again, and the door closed behind us as we left the building. Nothing changed for the dolphins.
In Taiji, the dolphin slaughter started on October 1, as it does most years. The killings continued through April, and 20,000 dolphins were killed with little public outcry. We should have known all along that the only way to stop this madness is to expose it to the world. What goes on in Taiji will forever play in the minds of those who have seen it. The smell of death and fear lingers, the dolphins' cries never go away, and neither does the sound of the fishers banging metal poles to drive them into the shallows, where they cannot escape.
We who tried to stop the killing through diplomatic meetings behind closed doors--and I was one of them--failed miserably. The Taiji dolphin slaughter takes place so far away that it is invisible and silent to the diplomats. Even if they privately deplore it, ending it has no urgency for them.
What we need to do on October 8 is show the Japanese people exactly what goes on in Taiji. We need to do it in a way that gives strength to Japanese opponents of the dolphin massacres, who are just beginning to recover from the previous "Boycott Japan!" fiasco. We need to be friendly, respectful, and visible.
For information on the October 8th international protest: www.savetaijidolphins.org.
Marine Mammal Specialist
Miami Florida Office
ricobarry [at] bellsouth [dot] net
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