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Can Oscar protect dolphins?
March 9, 2010 3:22 AM   Subscribe

"The Cove", about the annual dolphins slaughter in Taiji, Japan, won the Academy Award for Best Documentary. However, the movie has only been screened once in Japan, during the Tokyo International Film Festival in October. Reaction from the town is a combination of "We're not doing anything wrong" and "It's none of your business what we do" with the added refrain of "We're protecting our cultural traditions" which is already familiar to anti-whaling activists and the like. Due to a media blackout, most Japanese people don't even know the hunt happens, but will the movie's increasingly high profile (It's even becoming a TV show) and the negative publicity force a change? More details on the making and content of the movie.

Anecdotal: The Oscar was the first my (Japanese) wife had heard of the whole thing. It took her a while to get over the idea of eating dolphins, which just seems barbaric to her as well. Then she worried that people will think all Japanese eat dolphins for dinner. She hypothesized that the people in the town might be a different race or species or something. And then she went on about how the Japanese political system is broken because they can't manage to outlaw stuff like this, and they react with anything but stubbornness and resistance to any ideas originating outside the country.
posted by donkeymon (91 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Then she worried that people will think all Japanese eat dolphins for dinner.

I don't get this. Is she not worried that people think that all Japanese eat fish for dinner?

I mean why is eating dolphin "barbaric" but eating bluefin tuna delicious? Is it because dolphins are mammals are tuna are fish? Does it matter? Do these dolphin belong to an endangered species? Is there a risk that that they are being "overfished" - like the bluefin tuna?
posted by three blind mice at 3:40 AM on March 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


"She hypothesized that the people in the town might be a different race or species or something." You probably could have done without this sentence because it sounds incredibly wrong.

The film is not something I'd be able to watch personally, and the trailer during the awards ceremony was too much.

Anyway, I liked when one of the guys held up that sign encouraging text messaging a number, and the cameras jerked away quickly. Like, "We're glad to show you being given an award for your documentary film, but don't go using it as a platform!"
posted by autoclavicle at 3:51 AM on March 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think a really big issue is not so much that they are eaten - because it's more likely the meat ends up as pet food. It's the brutal inhumane way dolphins (and also whales) are slaughtered.

Also I agree with donkeymon's wife - unless you have support coming from within you will be met with resistance and stubbornness.

What the movement needs is to pay off some celebrities who'll claim it eating it makes you look older and/or fat. It would never be sought after again.
posted by gomichild at 3:51 AM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I hate to say it, but the first thing that popped in my head when I saw this on the Oscars was this.
posted by efalk at 3:59 AM on March 9, 2010


She hypothesized that the people in the town might be a different race or species or something.

She really did say that though! I was pretty surprised myself, but I guess she REALLY didn't want to be associated with people who would eat dolphins. It just seems totally barbaric and disgusting to her. (And to me.) As for why we find it barbaric, I think it's mainly rooted in our subjective ideas of the sentience level of dolphins, which I suspect to be as close to humans as gorillas.

And gomichild, I'm pretty sure that all the villagers involved in this are already old and fat. They're going to need Japanese doctors talking about babies dying of mercury poisoning I think.
posted by donkeymon at 4:00 AM on March 9, 2010


Yes, claiming that they're not "real" Japanese is an excellent way of avoiding group responsibility for what they're doing.

I found in my travels through the region that the concept of animal cruelty doesn't really exist in much of East Asia. I haven't been to Japan, but considering the blank incomprehension I get when I discuss whaling (for example) or eating octopus or live sushi with my Japanese friends, I suspect things might not be that different. People just genuinely don't understand why anyone would bother being kind to animals that aren't pets. They're just animals.
posted by 1adam12 at 4:04 AM on March 9, 2010


I had the joy of watching Japanese morning TV talking about this. While my Japanese isn't perfect, the "experts" the shows had on seemed to take the stance that the mayor of Taiji has taken, essentially, those people at the Oscars don't understand our sacred traditions, and they want to make us look bad.

Just as a throw out, before I go on: I've never eaten it. No-one I know ever has, and I've seen it at a supermarket once. I'm not sure how deeply held the tradition is if it's not really all that common (like, say, whale meat, which was essentially a subsistance alternative during the war, and some old farts are nostalgic about it, while most young people don't eat it).

The thing is, they kept showing clips where foreigners would try to get close to take pictures. These people would be chased away by villagers holding signs in English saying "NO PHOTOGRAPHS" and acting quite hostile. The way I saw it, if what you're doing is so dandy, why are you so anxious to keep people from seeing it.I mentioned this to my wife, who's response was quite different from Mrs. Donkeymon. My wife said, basically, they don't want pictures being taken that will be used out of context, or twisted by foreign media. I pretty much left it at that, as my wife had to go to work, and I figure married life is fun enough with out international disputes added to the mix.

Though, to be honest, the Japanese morning shows did show the bit where the water of the cove turns bright red from all the blood. I'm not sure how out of context that can be taken.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:21 AM on March 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm just glad that no pesky protesters get in between me and my dog and civet cat.
posted by FuManchu at 4:41 AM on March 9, 2010


"I don't want to be taken out of context" is the exact reason given by everybody who is doing something wrong to avoid scrutiny.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:42 AM on March 9, 2010 [16 favorites]


Braedet Market - Fresh Porpoise:
In the West Greenlandic Inuit language, traditional food is called kalaalimineq. Imported food is called Qallunaamineq (from Qallunaaq 'a Dane'). The percentage of traditional food in the daily diet of a Greenlanders has declined in recent years. While this may be good news for the porpoises, it leads to an increased consumption of less healthy "western" foods which must be imported at high cost. The traditional diet, with a high proportion of seal and whale meat has been credited with the low incidence of cardiovascular disease in Greenland.

Braedet market in Nuuk is one of the few places left on earth where you will find Harbour Porpoise for sale. Harbour Porpoises inhabit coastal waters in the northern hemisphere, often appearing in harbours, and hence their name. The main threat to their numbers is being caught accidentally in nets intended for other species. Notice that the layer of blubber is very thick. This is necessary to preserve warmth in such a small animal with a large surface area.

The Harbour Porpoise is on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals.
More about Phocoena phocoena.
posted by cenoxo at 5:17 AM on March 9, 2010


Don't get too righteous unless you don't eat slaughterhouse-killed meat. Ever seen a film of that?

And yes, hunting traditions are cultural traditions.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:43 AM on March 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


I can't believe there's never been a post about this film, which was featured on NPR. Probably thought it would turn into yet another vegan clusterfuck.
posted by nevercalm at 5:51 AM on March 9, 2010


fourcheese, I agree with you, up to a point. Culture's where the hunting of a specific animal, and it's consumption (or use of parts) is part of a long cherished ceremony/feast abound, and I respect their rights. The difference here? No one really eats dolphin. Very few people eat whale here. It's there, on the menu, occasionally (it's usually written in hiragana, as くじら, just so you know), but it's pretty unpopular. If I remember correctly, there were reports that the vast majority of whale meat harvested "for scientific research purposes" as the line has it, goes unsold. Most of it ends up in cold storage, or ground up into pet food.

It's not so much a cultural tradition as a bunch of hardline old people who try to sell their rapidly fading commercial enterprise as a sacred relic of the good old days, even though those days weren't good, and they generally ate whale (and dolphin) because there was nothing else to eat. They've just managed to catch on with the right political folk in Japan, the kind that maintain that if it's old and outmoded, it must be a national treasure.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:02 AM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Don't get too righteous unless you don't eat slaughterhouse-killed meat. Ever seen a film of that?

Wasn't there a South Park episode that made this same point?
posted by smackfu at 6:18 AM on March 9, 2010


I mean why is eating dolphin "barbaric" but eating bluefin tuna delicious? Is it because dolphins are mammals are tuna are fish? Does it matter? Do these dolphin belong to an endangered species? Is there a risk that that they are being "overfished" - like the bluefin tuna?

Because dolphins are highly intelligent in a way, both quantatively and qualitatively, that tuna aren't. It would be like eating a chimp, orang, gorilla, or human. It's disgusting, barbaric, and yes, worse than the most inhumane and torturous excesses of the factory farming industry.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 6:19 AM on March 9, 2010 [18 favorites]


"Don't get too righteous unless you don't eat slaughterhouse-killed meat."
posted by Optimus Chyme at 6:22 AM on March 9, 2010


I've seen "The Cove" on DVD.

IMHO (and spoilers ahead) ....

The film touches on a number of issues, but in a fleeting and superficial manner: politics of international whaling, japanese nationalism, high mercury content in whale & dolphin meat being consumed by japanese people, the captive dolphin industry, global overfishing, and the life history of repentant dolphin trainer Ric O'Barry. Any one of these would be a weighty subject for a sensitive and insightful filmmaker, but here they're juggled around without giving any one of them real weight. In particular I sensed that Ric O'Barry is a tormented man, that he's so troubled by his engineering the captive dolphin industry his penance is to try to help dolphins everwhere. Yet it seems the filmmakers really don't explore his own burdens, except in a matter-of-fact way.

The final scenes of Ric O'Barry reminded me of Jacob Marley, the moral burden of guilt manifesting itself as a physical burden on his person, standing there like a ghost that cannot rest, amidst the hustle and bustle of the people around him.

Other, older films from Hollywood portray Fu-Manchu 'yellow peril' racism, and I was getting those vibes from watching this film. There's little if any serious effort by the western filmmakers to understand why the japanese aren't anthropomorphizing dolphins as the west does. Instead the japanese fishermen are portrayed as unthinking alien brutes, callous, sadistic, bloodthirsty. There's even a scene where they're portrayed as menacing a western woman.

Essentially the film comes down to a moral argument that to me is not explored in sufficient depth: are dolphins people? Do dolphins think and feel in a human-like way? Do they deserve the same humane benevolence that are extended to people, but not (say) cattle or pigs? Or are people simply projecting humanity onto dolphins, the way any pet owner does to his or her pet? This moral debate is again only briefly muttered. Yes the main characters, in particular Ric O'Barry, do have assertions and explanations why they feel this way. But many of them strike me as emotional anecdotes rather than weighty moral decisions. Or at least, any weight behind them is touched upon briefly.

For the record I'm not vegan or buddist. But I say this: I'm sure a team of japanese vegan buddist monks could do the same thing that The Cove filmakers did, by sneaking into a beef-cattle processing plant in Texas, armed with the moral argument that all suffering is wrong. They also could easily come up with health and medical arguments about the perils of beef [mad cow disease, E. coli, and the dangers of eating hamburgers that were touched on in, say, Super Size Me]. But I'm not sure the fans of The Cove would have the same enthusiasm towards *that* film, even though they'd film scenes of equivalent suffering.

At best, 'The Cove' is a propaganda film. At worst it's lurid death 'porn'. The scenes of dolphins being butchered, that's it. That's the film. That's why it's there. The rest of it is just padding around that footage.

And PS

There's also a scene where an injured dolphin is trying to escape, it's writhing in pain, bleeding profusely. The filmmakers get lurid footage of its death. "Thank you," one of them says enthusiastically to one of the japanese fishermen who tried to stop them. Yes, 'thank you' indeed.

But in that scene, two of the japanese fisherman are chatting and laughing. There is no translation of what they're talking about It could be the wrestling show they saw on TV the night before, but the filmmakers imply that at best they are callous to the dolphin's suffering, or at worse they are laughing at the dolphin's plight.

I'm really curious what they are talking about. Could someone translate their dialogue? donkeymon would you be willing to at least show that short 10 seconds of dialogue to your wife and have her translate it for us?


posted by thermonuclear.jive.turkey at 6:29 AM on March 9, 2010 [17 favorites]


Although I get the reasons to punch a dolphin in the nose, here are my problems with eating dolphin meat.

It's Poison

Dolphin meat is laced with mercury. Taiji residents have mercury levels about 10 times the national average. From the article:

"We discovered that people weren't eating whale meat every day. At most, they were eating it a few times a month. The problem is that although the frequency of eating the meat was low, the levels of mercury in the meat were surprisingly high."

Dishonest Industry

The dolphin hunters try to hide their industry from prying eyes, foreign and domestic. They sell their product as "whale" meat, never dolphin. Most Japanese people love dolphins. Even people who eat mislabeled "whale" meat would be horrified if they knew how much of it was actually dolphin. Hint: It's about one third.

Tradition != Good

Foot binding, female genital mutilation, human sacrifice, slavery, concubinage and eunuchs were all traditions at some time in some part of the world. Just because your dad did it doesn't make it right. If you're in the mood for defending traditions, there are much better traditions to defend.

Dolphins are Altruistic

A dolphin has been observed guiding a female Pygmy Sperm Whale and her calf out of shallow water where they were stranded several times. Dolphins have a history of helping drowning sailors survive the cold mistress. They've been known to bring injured people to the surface and aggressively attack sharks to protect humans.

Any animal that will challenge an apex predator to save my skin is good people in my book, not food.
posted by stringbean at 6:33 AM on March 9, 2010 [36 favorites]


Don't get too righteous unless you don't eat slaughterhouse-killed meat. Ever seen a film of that?

I don't think I've seen any self-righteousness in this thread yet, and I don't really like this kind of zero-sum argumentation. 'Don't condemn slavery if you have ever shoplifted,' 'You can't talk about fascism since you told a fib,' etc. People can still talk about why something is bad even if they also do other bad things.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:41 AM on March 9, 2010 [12 favorites]


Dolphins also kill baby dolphins for fun.

Quotes:

"Marine experts now believe that these displays of attacks on non-rival, non-predatory, peace-loving porpoises and, more shockingly, of dolphin infanticide, may have always taken place."

"Inspection showed multiple lacerations and puncture wounds all over the body which could not have been caused by any other attacker than a bottle-nosed dolphin.

Two of these fatal attacks by dolphins feature in the documentary The Dolphin Murders, being shown in the channel Five series Nature Shock on Tuesday, January 29.

Watching the films, Aberdeen marina biologist Dr Ben Wilson explains yet another shocking phenomenon - that the dolphins use their incredible ultra sound abilties to home in on the vital organs of their victims that will cause most damage."
posted by thermonuclear.jive.turkey at 6:43 AM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I mean why is eating dolphin "barbaric" but eating bluefin tuna delicious? Is it because dolphins are mammals are tuna are fish? Does it matter? Do these dolphin belong to an endangered species? Is there a risk that that they are being "overfished" - like the bluefin tuna?

Because dolphins are highly intelligent in a way, both quantatively and qualitatively, that tuna aren't. It would be like eating a chimp, orang, gorilla, or human. It's disgusting, barbaric, and yes, worse than the most inhumane and torturous excesses of the factory farming industry.


Funny coincidence about this....there's a movie about overfishing called "The End of the Line" where a man who I believe is a fisheries guy specifically equated eating bluefin tuna with eating orangutan, but bc of how endangered they are.

For the record I'm not vegan or buddist. But I say this: I'm sure a team of japanese vegan buddist monks could do the same thing that The Cove filmakers did, by sneaking into a beef-cattle processing plant in Texas, armed with the moral argument that all suffering is wrong. They also could easily come up with health and medical arguments about the perils of beef [mad cow disease, E. coli, and the dangers of eating hamburgers that were touched on in, say, Super Size Me]. But I'm not sure the fans of The Cove would have the same enthusiasm towards *that* film, even though they'd film scenes of equivalent suffering.

What's weird is that being an animal rights person, I wouldn't want to see any suffering, so dolphins, tuna, pigs, dogs, same thing. Similarly, while I see why people get het up about someone in Asia eating dog, I think "animals are animals." And the emotion that people who get outraged about stuff like that will knock people like me for getting emotional about a fish or cow in the same way is basically the same emotion, just extrapolated.

When I was much younger, I was out fishing with my father and uncle when they caught a pretty big mako shark, like 500lbs. And the whole two hour ride home, I sat there and watched it slowly dying. It was a real turning point for me, and my father, who had previously owned boats and done tons of fishing, never touched a pole again. To some people, life is life, and to other people, it's funny to point at a pig - which is far smarter and can be as good a pet as a dog - and joke about it being bacon.
posted by nevercalm at 6:44 AM on March 9, 2010 [8 favorites]


Dolphins are overrated anyway. Everyone was always talking about how smart they were, how they communicated- that's all crap. They don't communicate. They randomly squeak, they don't know anything, and they'll never like learn to use a computer. Eat 'em.
posted by xmutex at 6:46 AM on March 9, 2010


I mean why is eating dolphin "barbaric" but eating bluefin tuna delicious? Is it because dolphins are mammals are tuna are fish? Does it matter?

Eating dolphins seems barbaric because they are so clever. They are warm blooded, nurse their young, develop life-long relationships, use reasoning and tools, and can understand human speech.

Tuna are fish.

It does matter.

-
posted by General Tonic at 6:54 AM on March 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


Dolphins also kill baby dolphins for fun.

Apparently, so do people.

This and more in our nightly Arguments for Cannibalism.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:56 AM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Slaughtering dolphins is bad and all but as others have said above, I'm not sure it's more horrific then what goes on in the meat industry generally. Why are dolphins special? We can say it's because they're more intelligent, but I think it's because they're more easily anthropomorphized, or more like us. Does that really make them so superior to other animals?
posted by Go Banana at 6:58 AM on March 9, 2010


In related news: Scientists say dolphins should be treated as 'non-human persons'.
posted by ericb at 6:58 AM on March 9, 2010


'The Cove' official website [autoplay video].
posted by ericb at 7:00 AM on March 9, 2010


Interesting tidbit: Jim Clark (of Netscape fame) financed the film an co-produced it.
posted by ericb at 7:06 AM on March 9, 2010


Japanese film distributor hopes to screen 'The Cove' soon in Japan.
posted by ericb at 7:10 AM on March 9, 2010


Oscar Winners Try to Keep Whale Off Sushi Plates-Yet with video cameras and tiny microphones, the team behind Sunday’s Oscar-winning documentary film “The Cove” orchestrated a Hollywood-meets-Greenpeace-style covert operation to ferret out what the authorities say is illegal whale meat at one of [Santa Monica]’s most highly regarded sushi destinations.
posted by nevercalm at 7:19 AM on March 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm not sure it's more horrific then what goes on in the meat industry generally. Why are dolphins special? We can say it's because they're more intelligent, but I think it's because they're more easily anthropomorphized, or more like us. Does that really make them so superior to other animals?
posted by Go Banana 19 minutes ago


It is because they're intelligent, which makes them easier to anthropomorphize, I guess. But the mere fact that they're easier to anthropomorphize shouldn't perversely count against them, as you seem to be doing. And yes, their intelligence does make them superior and deserving of special protection. Would you think it moral to kill and eat another humanoid species that used tools and language? Or do you only draw the line at humans specifically?
posted by Optimus Chyme at 7:23 AM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Whoops....strike that "yet"
posted by nevercalm at 7:23 AM on March 9, 2010


I think if this film helps reduce just a tiny bit of the immense amount of animal suffering in the world, then that's a good thing.
posted by orme at 7:27 AM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


An interview with the director pre-oscar.
posted by SageLeVoid at 7:29 AM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


donkeymoon: …the Japanese political system is broken because they can't manage to outlaw stuff like this, and they react with anything but stubbornness and resistance to any ideas originating outside the country.

Sometimes this is true, of course, but sometimes the only way to effect change in Japan is through outside pressure, 外圧. I can't think of any specific examples off the top of my head, but activist groups in Japan have actually made international appeals as a way to apply 外圧 indirectly, rather than trying to make their case directly in Japan.

The dolphin slaughter may be immune to this, partly because so few people in Japan even know that it's happening.
posted by adamrice at 7:31 AM on March 9, 2010


I get the impression that, within Japan, whaling has been framed as a sovereignty issue; at this point, it's more about not backing down to the West than it is about whaling. Whales are unfortunately caught in the crossfire.

Watching The Cove really cemented this idea for me. I can easily see how the documentary might be summarized as "Self-righteous Westerners tell other people what to do. Film at eleven."

Japan is only going to stop whaling (and killing dolphins) when there is popular outcry within Japan. And even though parts of The Cove were really good (in spite of being calculated emotional manipulation), I'm afraid it might backfire and be interpreted as an attack on Japan instead of an attack on Dolphin slaughter.

And another thing: There's an extra feature on The Cove DVD that starts off talking about high levels of Mercury in seafood, and then transitions directly to vaccines cause autism OMG hysteria. This really tainted the credibility of the film as a whole in my eyes.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 7:37 AM on March 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


I just posted this in the previous Whaling thread, somewhat related to this thread
What conservationists really want on the whaling front:
So has the strategy of political and protest action succeeded? Is the fact that Japan now subsidies its whaling industry as a matter of principle a success? Is the fact that Norway continues to take hundreds of whales commercially a success? Is the fact that Canada told the anti-whaling movement to get stuffed and does it anyway a success? Is the fact that even anti-whaling countries still whale a success?

After nearly thirty years, it’s become increasingly obvious that the strategy of being a hardline, anti-whaling country fails the most basic litmus test. It’s not working to end whaling- it is a bad strategy that is failing.
...
There’s a very good reason why most countries gave up whaling. The economics don’t really work. Converting an economic issue to a matter of principle, doesn’t seem to help whales out a lot.
...
We are at a point where thousands of species are at much greater risk than minke whales. Yet the choice is to take those resources we have and put them into "stopping whaling". Trying to save a small set of species not actually threatened by whaling, and giving up on so many more species that are in more urgent need, isn’t the optimal approach. And the fact that this strategy to stop whaling has not succeeded in 30 years feels like a colossal waste of money.
posted by FuManchu at 7:40 AM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Because dolphins are highly intelligent in a way, both quantatively and qualitatively, that tuna aren't

I should know better than to do this with you, but: when did we quantitatively and qualitatively determine a hierarchy of intelligence of the world's animals and determine dolphins were like orangutans or humans?
posted by Kirk Grim at 7:45 AM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Or do you only draw the line at humans specifically?

It seems everyone in this thread is drawing the line at humans specifically. We disagree on where to draw lines past that.

With some exceptions, you do not have to anthropomorphize human beings so it is easy for human carnivores to exclude humans from the menu FOR EXACTLY THE SAME REASONS others exclude dolphins.
posted by three blind mice at 7:45 AM on March 9, 2010


Watching The Cove really cemented this idea for me. I can easily see how the documentary might be summarized as "Self-righteous Westerners tell other people what to do. Film at eleven."

Especially when European whaling never raises the same level of international ire or media shitstorm. I'm against all whaling, but quite bluntly the cetacean conservation movement, much like the Republican party, has been hijacked by classic feelgood racism/tribalism, and while it's an easy way to curry immediate attention, in the long-term it only damages the cause.
posted by PsychoKick at 8:02 AM on March 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Fisher Stevens seems like a pretty cool cat.
posted by HumanComplex at 8:04 AM on March 9, 2010


Based solely on cenoxo's Inuit post above:

Cake or Death Liberal Assplode Version:

Outlaw consumption/harvest/cultivation of dolphin meat worldwide cuz they are sentient creatures and the minority, traditional, Inuit culture has to get fat, riddled with heart disease, and go broke importing more 'humane' food but the Japanese dolphin 'hunt' that only happens in one or two villages is ended

OR

Allow hunt/consumption/harvest of sentient mammal dolphin meat so that the Inuit stay traditional, skinny, and can subsist but suck it up and grit teeth at traditional Japanese dolphin cultural hunt.
posted by spicynuts at 8:10 AM on March 9, 2010


Thank you, thermonuclear.jive.turkey, I really appreciate your comments. I will give the major caveat that I haven't seen the film, but the trailers for best documentary showed films that focused on situations of human suffering that I had previously been unexposed to (child migrant laborers in particular). I was somewhat disturbed that they chose a film that seems to ignore human issues completely. I realize that this is part of a larger debate about where animals fall in relation to humans in terms of ethics, etc, but the scene of the woman absolutely sobbing about the injured dolphin reminded me far too much of the PETA posters that went up at my school comparing the treatment of pigs in factory farms to FGM. For me, that is not the same thing. There seems to me to be something extremely privileged in even being able to think about valuing animal life on par with or over human life.
posted by Polyhymnia at 8:29 AM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Here's the thing with Japan: they're like my grandparents, there are things that they just don't talk about. Whaling, WWII atrocities, homosexuality, they're all off the table. This is a country that gave people suing over pollution-caused cancer a hard time for being such complainers.

Actually, that's not entirely true. Most younger people don't think about this stuff too much because it just doesn't come up, but, unlike their parents, they won't get angrily uncomfortable if you bring it up.

I have a Japanese language copy of Shusaku Endo's The Sea and Poison, a book about vivisection war-crimes from WWII and I've loaned it to as many people as I can. I feel like their reaction to the book ("Why didn't anyone tell me about this? This is awful!") would be similar to their reaction to hearing about this incident.

I think the slaughter is kept so secret because it would piss off millions of Japanese citizens. The difference between their society and ours is the complicity of the media in that silence. There is less of an drive to get the latest scoop and more of one not to make waves. Additionally, bloggers don't have the same reach as they do over here, so the average person has no idea.
posted by Alison at 8:38 AM on March 9, 2010


was somewhat disturbed that they chose a film that seems to ignore human issues completely.

In their defense, the award is for best documentary, not best issue.
posted by inigo2 at 8:38 AM on March 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


Fair point, inigo2.
posted by Polyhymnia at 8:41 AM on March 9, 2010


I would eat a person.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:13 AM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was just happy to see that that bad guy from Hackers had finally turned his life around.
posted by brundlefly at 9:22 AM on March 9, 2010


Don't get too righteous unless you don't eat slaughterhouse-killed meat. Ever seen a film of that?

Favorited because having a viscerally horrified reaction to The Cove very much does require the thinking ethical person to confront how much suffering they're causing to other animals. Not just slaughterhouse-killed but CAFO-raised meat is arguably crueler than even these dolphin hunts. At least the dolphins, before being rounded up in a cove and slaughtered, got to live in the wild as dolphins. The huge majority of Western meat is tortured more or less continuously from birth to death.
posted by rusty at 9:29 AM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think the slaughter is kept so secret because it would piss off millions of Japanese citizens. The difference between their society and ours is the complicity of the media in that silence.

There's any number of issues that "our" (presumably American) media won't touch; you can't argue that the Japanese media is worse than in any other democratic G7 nation, and Japan does have a feisty tabloid culture that does do a great job of investigating (often in lurid detail) issues that don't get covered elsewhere.

Japan kills dolphins. It's not great, but people have been doing it since paleolithic times, and the hunt appears to be sustainable (unlike industrial whaling).

However, agricultural runoff as a byproduct of the meat and grains and vegetables "we" eat have resulted in the death of the Gulf of Mexico. Not many dolphins there, but plenty of jellyfish.

Where is the Academy-award-winning documentary for that issue?

Of course, white Westerners rarely jabber and squawk like a bunch of Japanese fishermen.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:38 AM on March 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'll be honest, I liked The Cove because I like to see the cast of Heroes traumatized.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:41 AM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Pacific Northwest has it's own whaling justified by tradition.
posted by Artw at 9:50 AM on March 9, 2010


In related news, Canadian Members of Parliament put seal meat back on the House of Common's restaurant menu. Never under-estimate the cultural resonances or political importance of food. And don't discount hunting as a way of life: hunting is real and still happens, and to the people to whom it is important it is REALLY important. It is vital in every sense of the word.

Not sure about the dolphin slaughter, but let's not make this an exclusively Japanese thing.
posted by Rumple at 9:51 AM on March 9, 2010


TWO THINGS:

To claim that this is tradition... is utter bullshit. Like many have pointed out before, most people in Japan have no idea that this is going on. Why? Beyond the obvious fear that the town and the government have of people finding out and trying to obscure their actions is the fact that THIS IS NOT A CULTURAL TRADITION. Don't you think more people would be aware of it if it had been a treasured part of Japan's history? The whole cultural angle is something that the Taiji fishermen like to claim so as to avoid any fucking scrutiny.

SECONDLY, and more importantly, something that is mentioned in the film but that I haven't seen mentioned here is that not only are the dolphins slaughtered tens of thousands at a time but the slaughter is really only incidental to the real reason the fisherman are there: to round up dolphins to sell Sea World and other places all over the world. The film is very careful to explain how individual dolphins can fetch up hundreds of thousands of dollars for resale at marine parks. THAT is the real reason the dolphin drive goes on, the slaughter only happens so that they can make some extra money off of it. This is why dolphin meat has made its way into the Japanese diet (in select parts), because they've murdered all these dolphins and now have nothing to do with them except sell them for meat, which is kind of a problem because dolphin meat isn't a staple of the Japanese diet.

SO, what happens to all that dolphin meat that no one really wants (and as someone mentioned earlier, is essentially poison)? Well it gets relabeled, often times as high quality fish meat. Thus people eat what they think is fish but is in fact dolphin meat that will fuck your insides way up with mercury.

In conclusion, there is nothing at work here other than profit and pointless slaughter.
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 10:04 AM on March 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


There's any number of issues that "our" (presumably American) media won't touch; you can't argue that the Japanese media is worse than in any other democratic G7 nation...

I don't know. From my experience, the gaps in the Japanese mainstream media seemed bigger, and the voice of alternative media felt smaller.

And with something as lurid as dolphin slaughter happened in a cove off of the coast of California I think American media outlets would be falling all over themselves to air the "shocking footage" first.

And maybe that's the difference.
posted by Alison at 10:04 AM on March 9, 2010


One extra point I'll repeat is, The Cove juggles (too) many issues, one being the captive dolphin industry (people trap wild dolphins and sell them to Seaworld and related theme parks, for big bucks). Again, this seems to be Ric O'Barry's real concern, moreso than whaling or dolphin fishing. A fair bit of screen time is devoted to this.

So, forgetting the fishing of dolphins for a moment, one other question "The Cove" raises in my mind, is this:

Suppose you had a small house, on the shore of the pacific ocean. Every spring a heard of dolphins swims by. One day, a guy comes to your house. "Listen," he says, "I'm from Seaworld. Throw a net over those dolphins the next time they come by, and give me a call. I'll sort through them, take all the ones I like, and give you $150,000 per dolphin. Trust me, do this every year, and you'll be a millionaire in no time at all."

Would you say, "no"?

and Polyhymnia you're welcome.
posted by thermonuclear.jive.turkey at 10:13 AM on March 9, 2010


Like many have pointed out before, most people in Japan have no idea that this is going on.

Who knows? Probably. However, you can buy dolphin meat at any grocery store in Japan, so there must be a fair amount of denial happening.

the gaps in the Japanese mainstream media seemed bigger, and the voice of alternative media felt smaller.

SPA!, Friday, Shukan Post, Takarajima, the late, great Da Capo and other tabloids and periodicals all cover controversial issues in great, lurid detail, and I can't see why they would shy away from whaling.

None of those sites have much content available online, but, while it may not be Democracy Now! or Howard Zinn, ZakZak is a great source for Japanese "alternative" tabloid news.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:35 AM on March 9, 2010


Don't get too righteous unless you don't eat slaughterhouse-killed meat. Ever seen a film of that?

In fairness, Food, Inc. was also nominated.
posted by stet at 10:52 AM on March 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


I have a question. If this movie were about Nigerian villagers who eat monkey brains, would it be getting the amount of Hollywood love that it is now?

It seems to me like we still have this consensus that people in certain parts of the world are "primitive" and have a license to do disgusting things, while Japan, for example, must be held up to a Western standard, and if they fail to meet this standard it means that they are insufficiently civilized and must be subjected to foreign pressure.

Personally, I took this movie as a kind of inaka horror flick (i.e. the murders are happening in a "closed room"), and I enjoyed it when I watched it, but I don't like the tone of the politics surrounding it.
posted by shii at 10:52 AM on March 9, 2010


Suppose you had a small house, a couple of blocks from an elementary school. Every day a group of children walks by. One day, a guy comes to your house. "Listen," he says, "I'm a psychopath. Throw a net over those kids the next time they come by, and give me a call. I'll sort through them, take all the ones I like, and give you $150,000 per child. Trust me, do this every day, and you'll be a millionaire in no time at all."

Would you say, "no"?

People aren't dolphins, and dolphins aren't people. But the same emotional apparatus, the same empathy and compassion, that would stop most people from throwing nets over passing children stops them from needlessly hurting an animal that can obviously feel pain and suffer. You do not have to anthropomorphize dolphins, dogs, or many other animals that share so much of our genetic heritage, to recognize that they experience pain and suffering. It's obvious for exactly the same reason why it is obvious when you observe pain in another human, you see it, and you feel it.

The thing is, compassion, despite being an inherent part the human emotional spectrum, is as variable in its manifestation as any other emotion or drive, and equally subject to cultural influences that direct, subvert, and suppress it in many incredible ways. Race, gender and religion have all been used to create barriers to block compassionate responses to pain and suffering. Some of those barriers have been weakened recently, and I personally think society is better for it.

I think the question with dolphins, and other animals closely related to us, is this: do people ignore their pain or suffering because there is a cultural barrier to feeling compassion towards them, or because they are close enough to the outer edge of our inherent capacity for compassion that we cannot come to a consensus about whether we can, collectively, ignore their suffering (or even define what they feel it as suffering)?

Individuals can't be blamed for feeling compassion for, or not feeling compassion for, dolphins. If they feel it they feel it, if they don't they don't. Cultural barrier or inherent capacity is irrelevant at the individual level. But the distinction is important at the group level, whether that's a village or a nation or humans as a whole.

Personally, I feel compassionate towards the suffering of dolphins. I think that our understanding of dolphins, their lives and behavior, has broken down walls between us and them, not that anthropomorphizing has built a rickety bridge between our human empathy and their dolphin emotions. I think that culture is getting in the way of compassion in this case and we should do what we can to change that culture.
posted by beegull at 11:30 AM on March 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Of course a Japanese would suspect some other group of not being Japanese or even human. They’re the biggest tribalists in the world, eclipsing even pure laine Quebeckers. Just ask an Ainu, a Korean, or an Indian who, like his or her grandparents, was born there.
posted by joeclark at 11:31 AM on March 9, 2010


To be clear, the Japanese dolphin hunt is fucked up. It's a mixture of cultural chauvinism, casual brutality, anachronism, defiance and pork-barrel politics. But it's a small-scale, "artisanal", nominally sustainable fishery that only occurs in just a few communities in Japan. If you really want to get mad at the Japanese, get pissed about how their pelagic longline fleet (also based in one small port, Kessanuma, in another rural community) has helped wipe out bluefin tuna stocks in the Indian Ocean.

Besides, westerners, and I can only speak for Canadians and to some extent Americans, are complicit in what happens at Taiji. The various Seaworld Aquariums are doing the exact same thing as Taiji all over the US, yet there is no covert documentary being made about Shamu's living conditions.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:46 AM on March 9, 2010


Let me correct myself. It appears that 13,000 small cetaceans were harvested in Japan last year. The main regions of Japan where dolphins and other small cetaceans are caught appears to be Wakayama (where Taiji is), and the Sanriku coast (Iwate, Miyagi).
posted by KokuRyu at 11:52 AM on March 9, 2010


I hear this line of reasoning a lot: "You say we shouldn't eat dolphins, but you eat cows! Do you know what cows go through at the feed lot and slaughterhouse?"

This is usually given as an argument in favor of eating dolphins. However, it makes a far better argument in favor of going vegetarian.

Just sayin'. You don't have to be a hypocrite. It is possible to be against both the slaughter of dolphins and the slaughter of cows. Possible, easy, healthy, AND affordable!
posted by ErikaB at 11:54 AM on March 9, 2010


Of course a Japanese would suspect some other group of not being Japanese or even human. They’re the biggest tribalists in the world

Isn't this a tribalist statement in itself? THEM THEM THEM!
posted by blucevalo at 11:59 AM on March 9, 2010


Yet with video cameras and tiny microphones, the team behind Sunday’s Oscar-winning documentary film “The Cove” orchestrated a Hollywood-meets-Greenpeace-style covert operation to ferret out what the authorities say is illegal whale meat at one of [Santa Monica]’s most highly regarded sushi destinations.

Um, I ate at this place on Saturday. I don't think I had whale. I don't think.
posted by Bookhouse at 12:00 PM on March 9, 2010


THIS IS NOT A CULTURAL TRADITION. Don't you think more people would be aware of it if it had been a treasured part of Japan's history

I'm gonna have to call bullshit here. The town where I lived had a few local traditions and festivals the next town over didn't know about. A lot of Japanese towns have very localized cultural traditions that date back a long way and are only of any significance in that particular town or area. Same goes for food--I'm sure if you did a national Japanese poll on whether they enjoy baked grasshoppers in soy sauce, a lot of people would say WTF? But people in some parts would say "yeah people ate that around here in tough times, you can still buy it."

(it tastes good btw but looks gross)

On top of which, I find it very hard to believe that an evil giant McCorporate Villain company would randomly start killing dolphins in a place that had no history of eating/hunting them, having them come out en masse to enthusiastically watch them slaughter dolphins wholesale, sell the people the dolphin meat, and then convince everyone in town that this has always happened, is part of your history, and everyone just said "Oh yeah, I must have forgot about that".
posted by Kirk Grim at 12:37 PM on March 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Um, I ate at this place on Saturday. I don't think I had whale. I don't think.

I accidentally ate whale once...you'd know pretty quick it wasn't fish if you ate it. It's dark with a flavor and consistency not unlike liver.
posted by Kirk Grim at 12:46 PM on March 9, 2010


Suppose you had a small house, a couple of blocks from an elementary school. Every day a group of children walks by. One day, a guy comes to your house. "Listen," he says, "I'm a psychopath. Throw a net over those kids the next time they come by, and give me a call. I'll sort through them, take all the ones I like, and give you $150,000 per child. Trust me, do this every day, and you'll be a millionaire in no time at all."

Surely for this to work you'd have to presuppose that you already trapped and ate children on a regular basis?
posted by Artw at 1:50 PM on March 9, 2010


white Westerners rarely jabber and squawk like a bunch of Japanese fishermen

You probably don't watch the same reality shows I watch.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 2:01 PM on March 9, 2010


I had no idea the real rationale for the dolphin hunt at Taiji was to supply foreign aquariums with dolphins until I read this thread.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:28 PM on March 9, 2010


You know what, whether whaling is a cultural tradition or not, the fact is dolphin meat is fucking poison. So go ahead Japan, kill some dolphins and then eat that shit, in the end all you're doing is fucking yourself up.
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 2:34 PM on March 9, 2010


The various Seaworld Aquariums are doing the exact same thing as Taiji all over the US, yet there is no covert documentary being made about Shamu's living conditions.

Wow, that's quite a claim. I have (a little bit) of inside information on this, and I have hesitated to get into this after the recent death of the trainer at Sea World, Orlando, who was drowned by the killer whale, because I know people were understandably shocked and angry and upset and wanted someone to blame.

My Mom worked for Busch Gardens in the veterinary department for almost two decades, during which time they acquired Sea World. I have lots of great stories of her time there, and her love for animals, and when I was a kid I met the people she worked with. I remember the day they acquired Seaworld specifically because it has stuck in my mind as the day my Mom donned a huge snowsuit to cradle baby penguins in the arctic exhibit, snow in her hair, as she helped integrate the park systems.

The thing is, the people who work with these animals take their jobs very seriously. They love their work, and they love those animals. To a man, they deeply believe in the mantra: "For in the end we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We wlll understand only what we are taught." - B. Dioum

The Sea World and Busch Gardens Conservation Fund gives grants to all kinds of projects from protecting black rhinos to conserving coral reefs. They step in when oil spills threaten bird and wildlife and help with clean-up efforts. They do a lot of things, behind the scenes, that you might not know anything about.

What you DO see are the animals in the parks. I've been to Sea World Orlando many times, and the facilities there are the nicest I have ever seen for marine life in captivity. If you believe, as these animal trainers do, that captivity is necessary for conservation awareness, this is the kind of place you would want them held.

This isn't to say that I am 100% behind killer whales in captivity. I'm torn on the issue myself.

But what I do know is that, as a result of my own familiarity with Busch Gardens and Sea World's conservation efforts, I've personally donated to the WWF and the humane society, adopted rhinos and fostered octopuses, helped out at the local animal shelter, brought home orphaned animals and given whatever I could to further animal causes at every opportunity.

Their message of love for animals, and the need for conservation and education, worked on me. They got me out there, donating time and money to these causes.

So excuse me if I think that equating what they do in those parks with the mass extermination of dolphins in Taiji is a little bit over the top.
posted by misha at 2:48 PM on March 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


Surely for this to work you'd have to presuppose that you already trapped and ate children on a regular basis?

Sure, sure, like making the transition from an under the bridge subsistence troll to profit-driven professional troll.

The original comment that my scenario warped posited a small house by the sea with folks looking out their window and seeing peaceful herds of dolphins swim by, and subsequently being offered copious monies from outsiders to throw a net over them. That scenario was unprefixed by a tradition of net throwing.

The reality might be that there is an existing tradition that is just being exploited by Seaworld types. In that case its the traditional attitudes and the untraditional ecnomic offers from Seaworld that both need to be addressed. Neither should get in the way of feeling compassion for the herd of dolphins being slaughtered.
posted by beegull at 2:59 PM on March 9, 2010


I had no idea the real rationale for the dolphin hunt at Taiji was to supply foreign aquariums with dolphins until I read this thread.

Somewhat off-topic: the dolphins at the Vancouver Aquarium came from the aquarium in Enoshima, Japan, which was 2 or 3 towns down the beach from where I lived. Really neat aquarium, but I got the impression it might have been a bit small for the amount of large marine mammals on display at their daily shows.
posted by Kirk Grim at 3:12 PM on March 9, 2010


If you believe, as these animal trainers do, that captivity is necessary for conservation awareness, this is the kind of place you would want them held.

I'm not sure where I stand on keeping animals in captivity, but I think there's a difference between captivity and being trained and forced to perform. And the nicest prison is a prison nonetheless.
posted by me & my monkey at 3:30 PM on March 9, 2010


So excuse me if I think that equating what they do in those parks with the mass extermination of dolphins in Taiji is a little bit over the top.

The whole purpose of the Taiji hunt is to capture dolphins for display, and while the Taiji dolphins are not destined for the US and Duff Gardens, they are destined to the equivalent sorts of theme parks in the Dominican Republic and China.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:37 PM on March 9, 2010


The whole purpose of the Taiji hunt is to capture dolphins for display, and while the Taiji dolphins are not destined for the US and Duff Gardens, they are destined to the equivalent sorts of theme parks in the Dominican Republic and China.

I'd argue that they might not be equivalent. They simply don't have the same safeguards and accountability in China, for example. I've seen places even down in Mexico where dolphins are kept in the deep end of a hotel pool in murky water called "Dolphin Encounter" theme parks, too.
posted by misha at 3:43 PM on March 9, 2010


Oh, and I don't know that this is the whole purpose of the Taiji hunt, either, to capture dolphins for display: It is a gory spectacle that Taiji has long striven to keep anyone from seeing — and one that is crucially fueled by the lucrative, worldwide dolphin captivity and display industry. Aquarium operators, some of whom have claimed to be saving dolphins' lives by selecting a few as performers, pay up to $150,000 per animal.

The brutal selection process, though — as shown in the OPS footage — causes many of these highly intelligent marine mammals to die of shock or drown.


So only a few dolphins are saved to display, and the rest are slaughtered.
posted by misha at 3:46 PM on March 9, 2010


Yeah, but my point is that the real driving force behind the hunt is to capture dolphins for display. Without the dolphins, there might not be a hunt.

However, since Japan "harvests" 13,000 dolphins and porpoises a year from coastal waters, perhaps capture-for-display is not what is driving this industry. Instead, government subsidies for this catch prop up coastal economies weakened by 20 years of recession, and the collapse of more lucrative fisheries as a result of overfishing and climate change.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:56 PM on March 9, 2010


So maybe I'm agreeing with you.

Although we must free the dolphins on American soil!
posted by KokuRyu at 3:57 PM on March 9, 2010


The funny thing is that one of the reasons us Westerners are all up in arms about the dolphins is because of shows like Flipper. Ric O'Barry is now against dolphin training, but maybe he can sponsor some kind of cute dolphin anime or a line of Hello Dolphin dolls.

Honestly though, I would have loved to have seen Food Inc. win. There was a film about OUR problems that we can change by voting, writing to our representatives, or buying different food. What can we do about Japanese whaling except feel judgmental?

"
Eating dolphins pigs seems barbaric because they are so clever. They are warm blooded, nurse their young, develop life-long relationships, use reasoning and tools, and can understand human speech."

Oh, I get it, it's OK to eat pigs because they don't use tools! Silly pigs!
posted by melissam at 4:09 PM on March 9, 2010


KokurRyu, I think we are mostly in agreement; basically we want whatever works out best for the dolphins!
posted by misha at 5:18 PM on March 9, 2010


I would eat a person.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:13 AM on March 9


eponysterical
posted by uni verse at 6:32 PM on March 9, 2010


maybe he can sponsor some kind of cute dolphin anime

there was one, I watched it when I was a kid. I would love to see it again, if only for nostalga.

I suspect Ric O'Barry wouldn't like this show, because it's basically an animated version of 'Flipper'.

And I guess in both programs, instead of portraying the dolphins as wild animals, who are best left alone by people, like Flipper it portrays them as anthromorphized, whose natural place isn't in the wild, it's around people and interacting with them.

posted by thermonuclear.jive.turkey at 8:16 PM on March 9, 2010


I'd never eat dolphin. The (slim amount of) killing footage is barbaric. Ric O'Barry is a character and I find him fascinating.

But I still think, topic aside, THE COVE was a facile and immature documentary -- sloppy and all over the place, jumping from one good topic to another without going into any of it with any depth and turning what could have been an interesting story into Westerners trying to enforce their own morals standards on a small Japanese village through "Jack Ass" style stunts.

The filmmakers obviously never got the kinda "gotcha" footage they wanted and they refused to follow any other paths the way a good documentarian would.

I saw it in theaters and was shocked it was nominated, let alone a winner. But hey, if not voting for it meant you weren't for dolphins, then I guess it was a shoe-in.

Also O'Barry is against whale and dolphin shows as well because that's what subsidizes the (non-profitable, dog meat) dolphin slaughter. Once the US closes all Sea World parks, then we can get all high and mighty.
posted by Gucky at 10:40 PM on March 9, 2010


I'm gonna have to call bullshit here. The town where I lived had a few local traditions and festivals the next town over didn't know about.

Anecdata.

There is no evidence that there is any history of large scale dolphin fishing in Taiji. That the migrating dolphin pass by the town would not have been missed by the local fishermen, but the fact that dolphin meat is not highly prized would have reduced any incentive to catch them. The dolphin slaughter is directly related to the recent popularity of performing cetaceans, as explained up thread. The secrecy and fear in local fishermen at being filmed killing dolphins does not indicate a proud local tradition. See the film and make your own opinion.

I would be surprised if the sonic herding method they use is not a modern technique, does anyone know?

I think it is a well constructed piece of film which manages to maintain a sense of humour whilst dealing with the subject. It is a bit lightweight, but that is the nature of a documentary which is aiming to be popular.
posted by asok at 6:33 AM on March 10, 2010


Taiji has been a whaling town since at least the 16th century. They used the same herding technique to capture larger whales, but since those whales are largely extinct in Japanese waters they switched to dolphins instead.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:18 AM on March 10, 2010


To re-iterate what KokuRyu said, Taiji was historically a whaling town for hundreds and hundreds of years. I don't know whether or not the techniques they currently use reflect the ones they came up with in the 16th Century or even if dolphins were traditionally the desired prey.

My point was that immediately dismissing the idea that this town has a tradition of whaling because not everyone in Japan knows about their annual hunt/festival thingy is bullshit. Hundreds of years of whaling certainly feeds into the local culture, and as I mentionned, a lot of local festivals exist in Japan like anywhere else.

As for the "anecdata" swipe, you're being obtuse. In Japan or anywhere else, an entire country does not need to be aware of a cultural tradition in order for it to be a cultural tradition. I can tell you right now that St Jean Baptiste Day and Reveillon in Quebec aren't well known in the rest of Canada but are most certainly reflective of local cultural traditions.

Dolphin hunt or whale hunt, things change over time and so do industries. That does not change the fact that the history of whaling exists there and it may very well be a part of the cultural heritage of Taiji as a result, as they claim. The lack of evidence doesn't help your case here.
posted by Kirk Grim at 12:47 PM on March 10, 2010


The secrecy and fear in local fishermen at being filmed killing dolphins does not indicate a proud local tradition

As for this line, these fishermen don't live in a cave. I think they're probably somewhat aware that a lot of people don't like what they're doing. Pride has little to do with this, it could be something as simple as not wanting to be singled out and vilified by a bunch of foreign whiteys. That's not to mention that it could very easily be the result of propagandized editing techniques with the specific purpose of casting them in a bad light.

As a few here have noted, while I don't support what they're doing, I can fully understand why they would want to avoid the attention of these activists. Look at what our fisheries have done to the Atlantic--both fish and whales--for a much younger "traditional" industry and economic gain. You know when we quit whaling? When it was pretty much too late and there were hardly any left. Same with Atlantic cod fishing, not 20 years ago.

I'm not comfortable pointing the finger in this case just because we think dolphins are cuter and smarter than the animals we've slaughtered and fished to near-extinction here at home.
posted by Kirk Grim at 1:50 PM on March 10, 2010


I would be surprised if the sonic herding method they use is not a modern technique, does anyone know?

From wikipedia:

"Techniques were dramatically developed in the 17th century in Taiji, Wakayama. Wada Chubei Yorimoto established a fishery by organizing the group hunting system in 1606. Whalers would spot whales from stations along the shore and launch boats to catch them with harpoons and lances. His grandson, Wada Kakuemon Yoriharu, later known as Taiji Kakuemon Yoriharu, invented the whaling net technique called Amitori-shiki (網取り式).

Instead of trying to harpoon whales in open water, now twenty or more boats would encircle a whale and make a racket, driving it towards the shallows into nets wielded by a second group of six boats. There harpooners would approach in four boats of their own. The nets made escape more dificult and, in its struggle to escape, the whale tired sooner."

So the "making a big racket technique" thing would likely have been from sometime in the late 1600s-early 1700s
posted by Kirk Grim at 2:08 PM on March 10, 2010


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