Sunday, October 6, 2013

Taiji, Soon to be the Home of a Dolphin Park?/ Is the Slaughter Simply Tradition?

Yes you all read that title correctly. It seems that Taiji is currently looking into turning one of it's coves into a park where visitors can swim and kayak with dolphins and small whales. The town is apparently trying to transform itself into a place where people around the world can come to and enjoy marine mammals. You will be able to go to Taiji, swim with the dolphins and whales, and then eat them for dinner. Not for nothing, but something just does not sound right about that. I mean that's like going to your favorite zoo or aquarium, going to the food court, and eating your favorite animal. Personally, I wouldn't have the stomach to do that. The plan is calling for a 69 acre area to be netted off. The whales and dolphins will be taken from the cove and transported to this other cove while those that are not sent to the park will be stabbed to death and sold as food. Taiji's government has stated that they already use dolphins and whales as a part of tourism by allowing visitors to watch animals being freed from "a partitioned off space". If only those people were aware of just what those animals were being let go from. While on the outside, the idea of this park may appeal to a lot of people who may be interested in these animals, on the inside, those people who go and pay money at the park will most likely be helping to fund the slaughter that will be going on just down the road. Essentially this park will be nothing more than a slap in the face to anyone who is trying to see this slaughter come to an end.

This year, the fisherman in the cove are allowed to capture over 2,000 dolphins. The biggest argument that the fisherman use against conservationists is twofold. The first being that killing dolphins is a tradition that has been going on for roughly 400 years. The second is that there is no difference between what they are doing and what happens to cattle. Dolphin hunting and whaling may very well be a Japanese tradition, however there are things to consider. One is that it is a dying tradition. For example, there are warehouses full of whale meat from over a year ago. Less and less Japanese people are eating whale and dolphin meat, so much so that the government of Japan tried to sell dolphin meat to children as part of school lunches. There is less and less demand and more and more supply. Another thing to consider is that traditions change. There are many people in Japan, including in Taiji who have a deep, deep respect for these animals. Until The Cove was released a few years ago, many of those people had no idea that there was a slaughter going on in their own backyards. So you have a 400 year tradition that many people didn't even know about. Not to mention that 400 years ago there were hardly any ways in which people would have been able to drive dolphins or whales for miles into a cove. Sure fisherman may have killed 1 or 2 to sustain their families, but I find it very hard to believe that killing dolphins for food is an industry that's been around for 400 years.

Secondly is the comparison of this slaughter to the slaughter of cattle. This argument really irks me. It's an argument that so many people use to try and justify a variety of slaughter. Let's briefly take a look at the differences in these slaughters. First of all, most cattle that is slaughtered at this point I do believe are bred with the intent to have them be used as food. People generally are not going out wherever there are cows in the wild and stabbing them in the head. While there are certainly inhumane parts of the slaughter of cows and pigs, I don't think they are quite as inhumane as stabbing a mother right next to her child multiple times in the back and dragging them by the tail through their own blood. Another thing to consider is the types of animals we are looking at. By that I should say the mental capacity of the animals. Whether it be dolphins or whales or even sharks, you are looking at animals that are well established mentally. Sharks have an incredible network of senses that are unseen in most other animals in the world. Dolphins and whales have the ability to communicate with one another, live in family groups, and much like humans, their young are dependent on their mothers. Cows on the other hand, while certainly not stupid, simply do not have the mental capacity of these other animals. They have their social hierarchies and their young rely on their mothers, but the time in which these animals rely on their mothers are vastly different. Some dolphins will stay with their mothers their whole lives as they may choose not to leave their families.

Another thing to look at is the trauma that goes on in both of these slaughters. I'm not talking about the physicality or which way of killing is more humane in this case. What I'm looking at is the trauma suffered by the survivors. Now normally there shouldn't be any survivors in the slaughter of cattle. That is not the case at all with the dolphins/whale slaughter. An interesting thing about both dolphins and whales is their memories. Young dolphins and whales actually remember what has happened to them. They remember what happen to their families. In the case of those who are released from the cove, they remember those harrowing hours or days of being trapped in a small space with no food simply waiting to see if they are going to be killed. They remember how they were chased for miles by boats into shallow waters. Sometimes the trauma is just too much and the animals later die. They can die via stress, but the far more alarming thing is that some actually commit suicide. Marine mammals, unlike humans and cows do not breathe without thinking about it. Every breath is an effort. Have you ever noticed that dolphins and whales actually have their blowholes closed most of the time, even if their heads are above water? Anyway... There is an unknown number of dolphins and whales dying from the slaughter without actually being killed by the fisherman.

I am by no means trying to say that the slaughter of cattle is foolproof or humane or anything like that, but the fact is that the slaughter of dolphins, whales, and even sharks for that matter are simply unsustainable. There is no shortage of cows in the world and there probably never will be because of the immense amount of regulations and other circumstances such as not going out and killing them in the wild (Fun Fact: The cows we eat went extinct in the wild during the 17th century). Every dolphins or whale that is killed affects their populations. Here's a perfect example. Iceland recently slaughtered 134 ENDANGERED fin whales. Now I want to see a fisherman tell me that 134 whales does not hurt their populations with a straight face. 134 cows? I doubt the non existent wild populations of the cows we eat are being affected by 134 deaths. (More fun facts about our cows http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aurochs).

So is this tradition and no worse than cattle slaughter? You decide. At this point my opinions on the matter should be clear and with what I think is good reason. While Taiji seeks to open their park within the next 5 years, conservationists, including myself will continue to fight for an end to the slaughter.

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