Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Why Taiji, Japan Fishermen Kill Dolphins

By Hardy Jones

Taiji, Japan, Nov 8, 2007

We all search for reasons why the fishermen at Taiji continue to hunt dolphins despite massive international protest and revulsion, and despite the fact that the name of Japan is besmirched by allowing such atrocities.

There are several reasons. One is that the dolphin fishermen make good money doing this, especially from selling the live dolphins they capture. The second is that the Japan Fisheries Agency never retreats, never surrenders any resource. This is the same agency that has said they will allow the Japanese Antarctic Whaling Fleet to hunt Humpback Whales this December. They thumb their nose at the world (actually it’s the middle finger they use).

The third is that those who carry out or give permission for these heinous slaughters simply lack empathy for dolphins. They do not project themselves into the skin and minds of the animals they grab from the sea, confine in nets and then slaughter in front of their families without the slightest care for their pain. Perhaps it is a simple lack of imagination.

Or perhaps their financial self-interest simply governs where they will allow themselves to experience empathy.

If they would suddenly realize that dolphins are sentient, loving, socially close, highly intelligent animals, who probably experience the world pretty much as they do, they would have to quit their dolphin killing business. They would lose money and they would have to admit to themselves the unspeakable pain they have caused. They would have to admit that they are mass murderers.

Taiji Dolphin Slaughter Draws World-wide Condemnation

By Hardy Jones

Taiji, Japan Nov. 6, 2007


“This place is now a battlefield,” is how a police inspector assessed the current situation here in Taiji, Japan.

To my mind this is a huge exaggeration but shows the mind set of the people who live in this beautiful, remote and extremely quiet coastal village where local fishermen routinely capture and kill thousands of dolphins.

The dolphin hunters have been stunned by the appearance of wave after wave of filmmakers, environmentally concerned surfers, Hollywood celebs and journalists. On Monday, October 30 they had corralled some thirty pilot whales in the killing bay. As they began their grizzly slaughter 38 surfers paddled into the picture. Cameras rolled and then a remote controlled helicopter flew over bearing a small camera that recorded the butchery. The footage was soon appearing on TV and computer screens around the world.

The fishermen were apoplectic. What they fear and detest most is public exposure and here it is in spades.

For years BlueVoice operated in Taiji alone. Our documentaries appeared on National Geographic and PBS and caused avalanches of protest generated through the BV web site. The fishermen hate us and consistently tried to wrest our video from us. But they were powerless to stop us. Over the years others have joined the fight to save the dolphins here. They are welcome to the fight.

I received a very nice note from one of the surfers who had participated in this demonstration of support for the dolphins:

hi hardy having part of the surf crew into Taiji i appreciate even more the great work you have being doing all these years and we will be sure to put bluevoice out to people. with thanks, howie

But this year a critical mass seems to have been reached. Just as the surfers were escorted out of town for crossing the dolphin hunters nets, BlueVoice arrived. The dolphin hunters have not ventured out since we appeared – seven days with no dolphin hunting.

My notion is that the fishermen are reeling. I think they have always imagined that interest in this abomination would melt away. But the reverse is happening. Each time word about the tragic and brutal killings here reaches the world more attention is attracted.

The combination of television and internet exposure of the dolphin slaughter here and mounting evidence of the toxicity of the dolphin meat ought to bring an end to this savagery. BlueVoice will soon publish the results of tests of both dolphin meat and fish caught in the Taiji area. Early results show the dolphin meat is contaminated by both mercury and organic pollutants at levels far exceeding Japanese health standards.

Exposing Toxic Levels in Dolphin Meat Key to Ending Slaughters.

Exposing Toxic Levels in Dolphin Meat Key to Ending Slaughters

By Hardy Jones

Taiji, Japan Nov. 5, 2007

I’m reporting today from Taiji, Japan, a village I first visited in 1980 when we were able to rescue some 200 false killer whales from butchery.

For nearly three decades I’ve fought to end the slaughter of dolphins in Japan. Filming these unspeakably cruel butcherings and distributing the footage to news media around the world has brought huge embarrassment to Japan. I have placed this footage in four documentaries which have been seen in excess of 100-million people and tens, if not hundreds of thousands of emails and faxes of protest have arrived on the desks of Japanese officials as a result.

Virtually all villages that hunted dolphins have quit doing it. Part of that is international pressure brought about by television and internet exposes of these dolphin atrocities.

Taiji still holds out as the die-hard village that insists that their culture depends upon hunting whales and dolphins.

But the whole equation has changed. The death of dolphin hunting here will come about because revelations of the high toxic levels in the dolphin meat are finally striking home. Levels of mercury and chemicals such as PCBs in samples of dolphin meat taken from local super markets vastly exceed safe levels. But the Japanese government is not enforcing their own laws (which makes you wonder how much we can trust food imports from Japan).

For Japanese content click

For interview in Japanese with Japanese mercury expert click

For more information on toxics click

But local supermarkets and some market chains have taken dolphin meat off the shelves. Dolphin meat provided by the dolphin killers to schools has now been refused. Overall the demand for whale and dolphin meat is dropping and so is the price.

Progress is slow but it is certain.

Taiji, Japan Councilman Opposes Mercury in School Lunches

Nov 1, 2007

by Hardy Jones

If you want a hero, I’ve got one for you. My colleague, Sakae Hemmi of Elsa Nature Conservancy, and I interviewed this humble but extraordinary man for two hours yesterday - a man who has virtually written off his political career by simply pointing out that the local school district was feeding mercury-laden dolphin meat to school children.

Taiji is the last holdout among villages regularly hunting dolphins off the Japanese main island. Its people do not want their dirty laundry aired outside of Taiji. It’s understandable – there’s plenty of filth. But Mr. Junichiro Yamashita, an Assemblyman in Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture, is the first official to come out and take a stand against the utterly idiotic practice of poisoning school children in their formative years with methyl mercury at a time when they are most susceptible to learning disability and neurological problems.

He called the meat served to the students exactly what it is - “toxic waste” - and that is not exaggeration. He has had pilot whale meat obtained in Taiji tested for mercury and PCBs and found the levels shockingly high.

He has had the courage to go before the international press and tell this sordid story of dolphin hunters trying to create a new market for their contaminated goods. And he has his own blog, written in Japanese. The local people hate this.

Mr. Yamashita was told he would not win reelection if he spoke of the dolphin issue. He and his wife have been socially ostracized. She is very disappointed about this but totally supports her husband’s work.

Yamashita-san is a formidable man. He has a huge collection of data on toxic chemicals in the marine environment and how it affects human beings. He uses the internet with great facility over ADSL. This is not the last we will hear from this highly intelligent and dedicated man.

What he has done is put the community’s interests ahead of his own. He has gone out of his way to make things better – something politicians, something all of us could practice more.