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Japan: Dolphins and Heroes

In English-language media and blogs this week, commentators, celebrities and activists all had something to say about the Japanese dolphin hunt in Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture. Footage of angry Japanese fishermen clashed with images of blonde-haired Western celebrities endeavouring to “share the water” with the soon-to-be slaughtered dolphins. While opinion on the issue in English-language blogs and forums for the most part supported the spirit of the protest, Japanese bloggers had differing things to say.

Fisherman at Taiji

Hayden Panettiere

Since the story of the protests was hardly covered in Japanese media, many of the Japanese bloggers writing about the issue were those living abroad. Blogger kakinomoto, who lives in Germany, approved of the position of the protesters:


Overseas this news is drawing a lot of criticism, but in Japan it seems that it's not being covered.
Sea Shepherd, resisting the Japanese dolphin drive fishery


In Germany, this was top news.
Personally, I am usually very skeptical about these groups like Sea Shepherd, sham businesses that move huge sums of money.
However, in the case of this particular news, I can't help more than a little approving of Sea Shepherd's position.


First of all, the method called the dolphin drive fishery [dolphin hunt] itself is prohibited in the rest of the world, and Japan ignores this.
Why is is prohibited?
It is because the killing is done in such a cruel way.
Unfortunately, I don't know the history of the dolphin drive fishery in Japan. But in Japan, a country which has developed a civilization and industry/technology, is there really a reason to be fishing in this incredibly brutal kind of way?


And the biggest problem is that, this news is not being covered in Japan.
This is the media control.
As a developed country, I feel that this is something that is embarrassing and more than ever cannot be permitted.
If it isn't covered in the news, then many Japanese will not know about “what is happening in Japan, and how is it being viewed from abroad?”, and they therefore will not even be able to make a legitimate argument about it.

Blogger abcnt in France wondered about what people outside of Japan thought of the video:


This has come to be covered as it if is a seasonal tradition,
and in the news again yesterday morning there were horrific scenes of the capture of dolphins.
But this time, there was also footage of a man raising his voice and resisting the protest activities.
Since they have only ever seen footage of gentle Japanese,
this was probably more shocking [than the footage of the dolphins] for many French people.

Many bloggers, however, were much more skeptical of the whole event. Blogger T, who lives in Ireland, expressed frustration at British media coverage of the story:


I am married and live in Ireland. Yesterday, on November 1st, on Skynews, the British [TV station] broadcast across the world, they were covering [a story about] fishers in a Japanese fishing village killing a large number of dolphins, and the footage was really ghastly. Next, there was footage, broadcast over and over many times, of some famous Hollywood celebrity going to the village to try to stop the killing, and of an 18-year-old (female) TV star crying as she talked about the condition of the dolphins. The news caster said: “The Japanese people are killing the dolphins to eat them,” but another reporter-like woman said: “No, they are going to sell them, to places like aquariums,” things like this. Without actually understanding what was going on, these reporters added things that were not true and broadcast this across the world.

おまけにskynewsのwebサイトでは「多くの日本人はイルカは殺されていい魚だと思っている。」などと全くのでたらめを記載している。・・・惨残酷な映像とハリウッドスター達の熱い抗議と涙は注目されるのに最適でニュースショーにはピッタリだ。それだけでskynewsにとってはいいのかもしれないが、、   私としてはこのニュースの視点をもっと掘り下げて欲しかった。この行為の背景にはどういったことがあるのか、何が問題なのか、それがはっきりと分かれば、そこから、その問題の解決策や手段を検討、実行できるのではないかと思う。イルカを殺すのをやめさせられるかのしれない。少なくとも、”怒って、泣いて・・・”よりは何かを変えられるはずです。 skynewsはなぜそこに視点を置かないのか・・・

On top of this, on the skynews website, they posted stuff that was complete nonsense, like: “Many Japanese think dolphins are fish that are ok to be killed.” … The ghastly footage and the fervent resistance and tears of Hollywood stars are perfectly suited for attracting attention to a news show. For skynews that alone is great, perhaps, but … personally I wanted them to delve the lens of the news deeper. What is the background to this issue, what are the problems, if these are understood, and then I think we can investigate and find policy solutions to or procedures for these problems and actually take action. Maybe the killing of dolphins could be stopped. More than just “getting angry and crying”, this at least might actually change something. Why does skynews not adopt this point-of-view…?

Blogger the knight of prussia went further and questioned the motivations of the protesters:


This is the kind of thing that is bad about Europeans and Americans.
Believing that one's own values are absolute, and not recognizing any values that are different.


Whether Japanese eat whales, dolphins, or whatever, this is part of our dietary culture, and I don't see why foreigners are criticizing us for it.
I don't want to be lectured about humanity from people who eat many times more beef and pork.
The original reason why whale stocks decreased so drastically was that Europeans and Americans over fished them in order to produce lamp oil.
It's not the fault of the Japanese, who captured whales and made use of every part of them, from their skin to their bones.
They go and criticize another country without knowing anything, this is why I say that they are stupid.
And on top of that, I think maybe the actress was calculating that, by doing this, she could improve her image.
I want to tell her to stop obstructing the fishermen, and to stop pretending like she's the victim with statements about how: “The fishermen revved their engine and directed it at us.”
The fishermen depend on this for their livelihood, so it's obvious that they react with desperation.


If you look at it from the point of view of a believer of Hinduism, then eating beef is an inexcusable action. So what
would Europeans and Americans think if a Hindu believer told them to stop eating beef?
Regardless of this, with what I guess is European/American logic, they would say things like: “The [stock of] beef and pork can be increased, so killing them is okay,” or “whales and dolphins are clever and cute, so they must not be killed.” They would say these things so easily, with the logic of a preschool child.
I don't eat dogs, but neither do I have any intention of criticizing Korean people or Chinese people, who do eat dogs.
The reason is that [eating dogs] is a part of their dietary culture, and while it may differ from my values, it is something that I nonetheless feel that I should respect.


  • xztheericzx

    i’m eric. joining a couple boards and looking
    forward to participating. hehe unless i get
    too distracted!


  • Rosa

    Most of the protesters were animal and nature lovers who feel that dolphins are not cattle, but wildlife of the ocean. True you could say that beef might be unacceptable to eat by one particular group of people but the fact is that this practice is only maintained by one or two nations and condemned by almost all other nations. Somewhere along the line people made a uncouncious/concious decision that dolphins are a different breed of animal.
    The fact is, as someone said that the government does not even give its own people the choice of having an opinion as it doesn’t give them the whole story.

    Countries that eat beef do not try to hide its practices from the rest of the world but Japan does and from its own people as well. If tradition and culture didn’t change then we would still be feeding people to lions as the Romans did and apparently that was acceptable and part of their culture.

    Japan is a rich and developed country that has an opportunity to outlaw a barbaric practice and gain respect from the rest of the world.

  • It’s a pity Hayden Panettiere didn’t make a stand by submitting herself to Japanese justice. Fleeing the country implies that you consider yourself above the law; particularly inappropriate when you are already bringing Western values to Japanese shores.

  • I agree with Rosa. It’s a barbaric practice that has been rightly condemned around the world.

    Moreover, it seems odd that anyone would want to eat anything as laced with harmful chemicals as the dolphins in Japanese waters. Scientists have declared this meat unfit for consumption by children or pregnant women, and the levels of contaminants far exceed healthy levels set by the Japanese government itself.

    The Japanese media are keeping quiet about the story, it seems, in order to protect the Taiji’s fishing industry, ignoring the harm this could cause to the population as a whole. You would think the government would have learnt more from Minamata.

    If it’s true that Sky News aired a shallow and error-ridden version of events, that’s a shame. I for one would be willing to hear the other angles too.

  • Pei

    I don’t believe the Japanese media are keeping quiet, they just don’t see it as important news. What would they report? Some self-righteous westerner decided that Japanese culture is bad and therefore the prime minister is considering whether or not Japan should start using English as official language?

    Understand the world is much bigger than North America, EU, and Australia and the world will be a better place.

  • The American media are quiet about the subject too. Life on planet earth ,so depressing most of the time .I wish, we the people could stop the bad stuff around the globe.I wish, we the people could make the good stuff happen everywhere .The heart of humanity reigns.The actions of those without conscience- well ,it’s like plugging up a dam with a trillion leaks.So you keep plugging away with your own little life and your own little cause!

  • nina

    its brutal and disgusting, there time for them to change in 21 century, have no humanity at all, did civilization touch that part of the world as all Asia?

  • Pei

    Nina, what are you talking about? While kids in western countries blast each other with guns, East Asia set strict gun ownership requirement.

    I am not sure if human is more valuable than dolphin or not. However, consider most dolphin are eaten while human are not, I think hunting dolphin for food is more ethical than hunting human for fun. (Hey, if you think what I said is bad, think about what the Japanese are thinking when you told them they are uncivilized)

  • The perspective, as far as dolphins are concerned, is that they are endangered and hence need to be protected. Human beings are the only form of life which can realise the implications of species extinction and hence regulate or change their eating habits for a global concern affecting the species.
    Bringing in cultural differences, vegetarianism, moral indignation etc in such arguments would seem frivolous to me.

  • Yuji

    As one japanese, you guys’ comments are interasted in for me to know what western people think about whale hunting.

    I just wanna you guys to know most of Japanese people now do not have a chance to eat whales on dinner table at all and do not want to eat them too. Eating whale culture has been almost disappeared nowadays.

    We are changing as you guys want. Culture is dissapearing as world’s hope. We try to give up things what our parents did.

    Don’t just think in your way. We also try changing our customs and it is not really easy.

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