Why Taiji Still Matters
The dispute over the dolphin slaughter at Taiji in Japan took a new lease of life following a meeting of opposing interests arranged by a minor pro-hunt but political opponent of the Governor of Wakayama Prefecture.
The highly staged event, which was intended to be the first official meeting between the Mayor of Taiji and Sea Shepherd, quickly descended into a media circus as Ric O’Barry from Save Japan Dolphins, out gamed the town and fishermen’s representatives at the last moment.
Criticizing the highly controlled censorship of media, and the refusal of the politicians to have an open discussion, O’Barry pulled out of the meeting taking the camera crews and reporters with him back to an impromptu press conference at notorious The Cove itself.
In the melée that followed both insults and death threats were lobbied at the dolphin trainer turned activist and the whole event provided sufficient distasteful drama to dissuade most ordinary Japanese people from wishing to join in. The dolphin and whale slaughter issue being reduced down to a battle between Nationalist right-wing political groups and Western “Eco-Terrorists”.
O’Barry has taken personal responsibility for the popularization of dolphin exploitation due to his involvement in the world famous ‘Flipper’ TV shows. Sea Shepherd has dedicated its resources to direct campaigning at Taiji and has attracted supporters from around the world, called “Cove Guardians“, to come and join them. The media spotlight has returned again and again to the small town of Taiji.
Since 1975, when Greenpeace under the influence of Dr. Paul and Linda Spong first turned its attention to ‘Save the Whale’, cetaceans have had a special significance for the environmental movement as a whole. Taiji, as the birthplace of modern commercial whaling in Japan – and not “traditional whaling” as it claims – also has its own special significance in history.
At an deeper level, a far bigger battle is taking place. A battle in which there are actually two sets of victims, cetaceans and the Japanese people, all for the sake of financial profit for a few.
Taiji is much more than just about Taiji, socially, environmentally and politically. Perhaps for the first time, an ethical animal rights issue has made it momentarily to the forefront of the Japanese media, but it is being moved from being an ethical, animal rights and environmental issue into being a nationalist issue which it is not.
Whereas Japanese groups like ELSA Nature Conservancy have been campaigning against dolphin hunting since the 70s, it has been the voice and actions of the large scale, well funded, highly professionally equipped Western groups that have final broken through the media blockade.
Will the Western groups’ strategies be successful in the long term? Are Japanese groups being and consulted and supported well enough? Is Japan just another fishing ground for the likes of Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd? Is there enough inter-group and international cooperation going on?
Director of The Cove Movie, Louie Psihoyos, is reported to have become vegan following the making of the Oscar winning documentary.
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* Please note the image used is taken from a drive hunt slaughter in the Faroes not Taiji due to the lack of available photos.
However, it has been reliably reported that the Taiji dolphin hunters are regularly slaughtering mother and child and juvenile dolphins or allowing them to escape to death by starvation. Dolphins are mammals who suckle their young for up to two years. The young require feeding every hour. In one recent case at Taiji, 9 dolphin calves were taken from the slaughter cove to the Taiji dolphin museum to an unknown fate. Representatives from the museum refused to comment about them.