The Japanese public has developed a mischievous reputation with the rest of the world over the past 100 years. They are notorious for going against the grain of modern society and tend to be rather impulsive during international disputes. There are many neighboring countries of Japan that oppose the actions of these “whalers”. The tension that the Japanese have created within the fishing trade by slaughtering dolphins is leading them into a downward spiral.
This seems to be the current path that the United States are headed down as well in regards to the illegal hunting, slaughtering, and production of dolphins for their meat and fins. The Japanese people who are involved in this trade believe that hunting dolphins is a significant aspect of their culture. They see their brutal actions as an ancient tradition that must be carried on, even at the cost of diminishing the already struggling dolphin populations. Obviously, the Japanese have resentment issues contingent to outsiders attempting facilitation of their actions.
This is completely understandable; however, the Japanese must realize the magnitude of the compulsory repercussions that correlate with committing genocide of an almost endangered mammal species. Essentially 100 percent of Japan’s dolphin slaughter is carried out in tiny coves off the coast in a town called Taiji, in Japan’s Higashimuro District. According to Justin McCurry of The Guardian, “the fisherman of Taiji successfully lure up to 100 bottlenose dolphins into these coves daily, harpoon, shoot, and stab them to death”.
It is a problem that has ultimately become an immense burden on the Japanese public as a whole. Without taking proper affirmative action to address this problem in the near future, there will arise serious repercussions not only for the dwindling dolphin populations and the Japanese public, but also the rest of the world’s population. The distribution of illegally acquired dolphin meat throughout the Japanese population will only add to the terrible effects of the initial wrongdoing of the Japanese fishermen. Whaling originated in Japanese waters as early as the 12th century.
However, the commercial hunting of dolphins superseded with little warning by the beginning of the 20th century. The switch was most likely due to the elevating demand for the fins of certain species of dolphins, as well as the meat they provide to the people of Japan. The Japanese fishermen of modern day are a product of many generations, realizing that there was a larger possibility for profit involved in selling the fins of dolphins’ to locations such as museums along with distributing the meat to markets throughout the population of Taiji.
This small town has become the processing center for all illegal acts related to the slaughter of dolphins. It has always been a community that relied heavily on fishing but in recent years, there have been countless underground operations taken on. Where there is conflict there is also usually some kind of judicial system in place. Hence, the United States was quick to establish the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in August 1946 to address the expanding ethical conflicts that large numbers of Americans had with the actions of the Japanese whalers.
According to Mark Palmer of Earth Island Journal, “In September, for the first time, fishermen in Taiji released 70 bottlenose dolphins after catching and retaining around 10 to 15 for aquariums” (21-22). This was ultimately a huge step for the American-run IWC and Richard O’Barry, the organization’s front man. The IWC and O’Barry have been directly involved in the conflict with Japanese whaling industries since the commercial ban on whaling and dolphin hunting was passed in 1986. This seems to be the major reason why the IWC is handling the Taiji dolphin situation so stubbornly.
Following the ban, the Japanese stated that they would comply with the new laws and regulations passed, however, continued to covertly manage new operations without the public’s knowledge. In 2005, just before the apex of the Taiji dolphin situation, O’Barry interviewed multiple Japanese fishermen, reporting one of his findings: The fishers who hunt and kill dolphins agree with us [IWC]. 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 fisher’s reply was, “The Japanese people have no right to know about the dolphin slaughter. It is none of their business. Not all of the fishermen involved in the Taiji slaughter are pro-dolphin hunting. This poses a few questions such as why these fishermen are involved in the trade when they don’t personally believe in the act, what’s keeping them around, and who it is that facilitates the actions of fishermen in The Cove. The Japanese reasoning for the continuation of dolphin slaughter in Taiji seems unreasonable at best.
The Japanese government and the men in The Cove that commit the murders don’t share a consistent explanation for why hunting dolphins is beneficial for the Japanese community. The fact that the Japanese public is completely oblivious to the actions performed by their government in The Cove is abhorrent and distasteful. The Japanese government is continuously adding to the already massive burden over the heads of every Japanese citizen by deceiving, committing murder, and failing to cooperate with any outsider humanitarian organization so as to meet a compromise on the situation.
This mass genocide can’t be deemed a tradition if the Japanese people don’t even know of its existence. Palmer also states in a 2010 article similar findings to O’Barry: Although the slaughter of dolphins continues, Earth Island International (EII) efforts have led to fewer dolphins being killed this year. More importantly, news stories are being published in Japan, for the first time, about the dolphin slaughter and about the dangers posed by the Mercury contamination of dolphin meat (23). The first breakthrough for EII and the IWC came in the form of this confession by the Japanese government.
This would lead to further speculation about all the happenings within The Cove. The Japanese public immediately started showing signs of distress and discomfort about the news. Mercury poses a serious threat to the human body when ingested. It is the most toxic non-radioactive element on Earth. When high-levels of mercury become present in the body, it can cause hearing and vision loss, psychosis, and even death. The most terrifying aspect of mercury poisoning, however, is that once it is present within the body, it will always be there because it never degrades (Nevada Division of Environmental Protection).
In The Cove, a documentary on the dolphin slaughter in Taiji, Joe Chisholm argues that the first serious threat of mercury poisoning actually occurred in Japan back in 1956, in a town called Minamata. It was a stressful time for all mammals living around the coast because factories in Minamata began dumping exorbitant amounts of mercury waste product into the waters outside of town. This became the illicit beginning for the dolphin slaughter. The efforts of the IWC in the past have been essentially futile because of the Japanese unwillingness to cooperate with any outsider organizations.
IWC headquarters has been located in the United Kingdom since its establishment in 1946. This distance between the UK and Japan may be a contributing factor to why the Japanese continue to disobey IWC regulations and laws. Ultimately, they may feel unthreatened by an opposition with a locale so far from their operations. There seems to be an outrageous sense of Nationalistic pride within the fishing community; the fishing trade in Japan is an industry that is massively subsidized by Japanese taxpayers. When these types of subsidies are put in place, there’s room for corruption, which has certainly taken place in the past.
David Phillips, director of the International Marine Mammal Project (IMMP), in the Earth Island Journal states: IMMP recently joined the Elsa Nature Conservancy (ENC) of Japan and One Voice, a leading French animal protection organization, to warn that dolphin meat sold to the Japanese people is highly contaminated with mercury, methyl mercury, cadmium, DDT, and PCBs. Despite evidence of dangerous contamination, the Japanese government provides no warning to its people that eating dolphin meat — often mislabeled in Japanese markets as whale meat — is a serious health hazard (14-15).
There is no way for the Japanese to hide these factors in their secret operations. Eventually the truth will be heard and the citizens of Japan will cause uproar of the situation. The Japanese government has been knowingly poisoning the public with mercury since the commercial ban on whaling in 1986. They have shown no signs of remorse or sympathy for their actions in the past 25 years. The act of disguising this dolphin meat in Japanese markets as “whale meat” is dubious and shows how corrupt this government really is.
It seems as though not even the Japanese government knows the actual reason why these kinds of operations are carried out. Children throughout the school systems of Japan were being poisoned with mercury by school lunchmeat on a daily basis until 2005 when two schoolteachers realized what was going on behind the scenes and acted to remove the “whale meat” school menus. This meat was essentially being given out to public schools free of charge as a form of propaganda by the Japanese government. More of the Japanese people are being made aware of this situation every day.
However, the profit made on each hunt is only about 50% of how many animals they pull in. The tumultuous behavior of the Japanese government only produces further questions on the situation. The Japanese fishermen and their supporters have exercised unorthodox methods of hiding their operations since the IWC banned commercial whaling in 1986. In the past 25 years there have been many unimaginably horrific events that have taken place around Japanese waters. This was exactly the case with Jane Tipson, a British dolphin activist.
According to Michael Horsnell of CDNN (UK) in 2003, while involved in a midnight operation to free some of the bottlenose dolphins being held captive overnight in one of the Taiji coves, a Japanese fisherman shot Tipson in the neck, killing her instantly. This was reportedly the 22nd killing associated with the Taiji coves. Instead of attempting to refine the laws in Japan in regards to dolphin hunting, the Japanese government is shielding their actions, which is only creating more, exponentially severe problems.
Even though the culprits in this situation are the Japanese government along with the fishermen in the coves, it is only fair to assess the situation from the perspective of the dolphins as well. Dolphins have evolved to be some of the most social and self-aware creatures on the planet. The fact that the Japanese hunt these creatures is cruel and outrageous. They are one of the only mammal species in the world that can comprehend language to the extent that humans do.
Richard Connor, professor of Biology at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth states, “Males mediate alliance relationships with gentle contact behaviors such as petting, but synchrony also plays an important role in facilitative interactions” (587-602). Denise Herzing, Professor of Biological and Psychological Sciences at Florida Atlantic University, claims that dolphins also crave social interaction with mammals of other species, not only between social clicks. Herzing states, “To engage humans in interaction, the dolphins often initiate spontaneous displays, mimicry, imitation, and ynchrony” (1452).
These instances relate to how dolphins not only have their own distinctly unique language, but how interactions between other mammal species are an important aspect to consider when discussing the social competence of dolphins. These creatures have proven to be excessively intelligent and possess the ability to interact with humans on many levels. Committing mass murder of dolphins in the secretive Taiji coves seems outrageously similar to The Final Solution exhibited by Hitler during the beginning of World War II.
The Japanese have no intentions of stopping until all of the dolphins in Japan are gone. With time, these types of hidden and illegal operations always meet their downfall. According to Tadamichi Morisaka, a dolphin psychologist at Kyoto University in Japan, “No comparative cognitive studies of dolphins were conducted in Japan until the mid-1990s, but several pioneering works on dolphin comparative brain studies in Japan had already implied the higher cognitive ability of dolphins by the 1940s” (168-176). Data has shown that dolphins have possessed a higher cognitive ability since the 1940s.
With this type of information being known for 70+ years, one would assume that further, more extensive research would be conducted on such an amazing creature. However, the Japanese continue their daily slaughter of these intelligent creatures solely for financial profit without concern for the potential scientific benefits. The Japanese government and fishing committees have been attempting to explain their actions since the beginning of this crisis. Their argument is that the traditions of their culture outweigh what PETA or any other American-based animal rights organization believes.
They simply will not stop their thousand-year-old traditions for what a few Americans believe is morally wrong. There is obviously a larger, more significant point of debate that lies beneath these ethical quarrels between governments. Americans breed their domesticated animals such as chickens, cows, and pigs for purposes of consumption. The Japanese use this argument as a justification for their wrong doings and state that Americans have been committing these same actions for virtually the same length of time.
With this in mind, there are also serious considerations made in regards to the number of animals slaughtered for purposes of human consumption. The Japanese have no such system devoted to regulating the number of dolphins remaining off the coast of Taiji or the number of dolphins being killed. The outstanding problem in Taiji is that these dolphins are simply being picked off one-by-one without the Japanese following any regulations set in place by the IWC. The active problem that the Japanese seem to have with the United States is that Americans domesticate all types of animals for purposes of consumption as well as financial gain.
The Japanese see this mindset as hypocritical. Chickens, for example, are constantly being mistreated and slaughtered on farms throughout the Southwest in order to feed the families that raise them. The problem with the Japanese using this as a counter argument is that it is completely irrelevant due to the animals’ cognitive intelligence. Beatrix Eklund, professor of Avian Behavioral Genomics and Physiology at Linkoping University in Sweden states, “Chickens are known to adjust synchronization and inter-individual distances depending on behavior” (251-252).
Influence on behavior is essentially the only way that chickens know how to react to the domestication process. The chickens that are domesticated in the United States are simple-minded animals with very limited cognitive abilities and are also copious in numbers, nowhere near endangerment like the dolphins in Taiji. This does not necessarily make it ethically right to slaughter these chickens for human consumption; however, it’s much more acceptable than how the Japanese carry out their dolphin operations simply based on the sheer number of animals available.
There are many aspects of the dolphin situation that the Japanese believe are major problems when in reality, these problems are either miniscule or completely fabricated. Either way, these are all excuses formulated by the Japanese to buy themselves more time to make a profit and defend themselves against the inevitable downfall of these operations.
In The Cove, animal activist Roger Payne states, “The Japanese fishermen are being told by their government that the dolphins are eating too much of the ocean’s fish population, therefore they must provide pest control in regards to the situation. An outrageous claim indeed, however, some would argue that these fishermen are being brainwashed by their own government solely for profit, with no regards for dwindling dolphin numbers. The formulation of this claim by the Japanese is not so surprising. They are a culture that is heavily reliant on the fish market and any attribution that threatens the oceans’ fish population will get them heated. Ultimately, they are hurting themselves by over fishing dolphin.
The reason this dolphin meat in markets throughout Taiji were not easily detectable is because the process that is utilized to identify these chemicals within the products requires a proper science lab setup along with tremendous amounts of work and testing. The Japanese government simply denied that there was dolphin meat present in the markets knowing that there would be no affirmative action taken against them. There have been many conflicts between Japan and the United States within the past century.
The Taiji dolphin situation has ultimately proven to be the most heated in recent years. Japan has become the pinnacle of dolphin slaughter and trade. Nothing that the Japanese government has done in the past 25 years regarding distribution of dolphin meat has been a sincere act of progressiveness. Countless operations have been conducted behind closed doors in the past that were relentless and destructive in nature. It was only until a select few Americans unveiled the truth on this situation that the Japanese public was finally debriefed about their corrupt government.
Japanese news teams are now aware of what has been occurring within their towns and are reporting their findings every day. An acceptable ethical reason for slaughtering dolphins is virtually non-existent. The Japanese government continued to deceive its citizens solely for profit. Not only were these actions disguised for 25 years, but they also resulted in an epidemic of mercury and lead poisoning within almost every Japanese family in the Higashimuro district. There is no obvious reason what would cause the Japanese to decide on slaughtering one of the most self-aware, and intelligent mammals on planet Earth.
Ultimately, their priority was making a profit on these horrific and deceitful acts they were committing. The only way the Taiji dolphin slaughter can possibly be steered back in the right direction is if the Japanese government bans the sale of all dolphin meat in markets and publicly admits their mistakes. This would not dismiss the government’s past decisions immediately; however, it is an honorable start to a grueling process that must be completed in order for Japan to start fresh. All social change will come from the passion of individuals.