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Japan's secret slaughter of thousands of dolphins
by karen dawn
Wednesday Nov 30th, 2005 5:25 PM
DawnWatch: Japan Times spread on "Secret" dolphin slaughter -- Wednesday, Nov 30
The Wednesday, November 30, Japan Times has a huge story, including horrifying photos, headed "'Secret' dolphin slaughter defies protests." The story, by Boyd Harnell, is about Japan's annual slaughter of thousands of dolphins that began October 8 and spans a period of six months.

The article tells us that in Japan, "only very few people are aware of what goes on." The hunters make every attempt to protect the hunting sites from the public eye.

We read:
Taiji fishermen begin the oikomi (fishery drive) by going out to sea in motor boats to locate pods of dolphins. They then place long steel poles with flared, bell-like ends into the water and bang them to create a wall of sound that amplifies underwater and drives their prey into a narrow cove. Once there, the dolphins' escape is cut off by nets strung across the mouth of the cove. The following day -- after they have rested so, it is thought, their meat becomes more tender -- they are herded into another cove nearby where the slaughter is carried out. Much of the meat is then processed for human consumption....A video with footage shot at Taiji in January 2004....shows dolphins thrashing about wildly as they try to escape and the water turns red."

Activists from Born Free, One Voice and Sea Shepherd have reported seeing wounded dolphins writhe in pain for almost six minutes before succumbing to their wounds.

The Taiji fishery group call the dolphins "pests," saying they compete with the commercial fishery (making clear the link between eating fish and supporting dolphin slaughter) but animal advocates say that falling fish stocks are probably due to overfishing.

There is an interesting quote from Hideki Moronuki, who works in the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries: "If someone eats a cow, why should one object to a dolphin being eaten; they're all mammals. If Australians want to eat kangaroos, we don't care. . . . Please do not care what Japanese do. . . . Dolphins and whales are part of Japanese food culture."

We read that he compared the slaughter of a dolphin to that of a cow or a pig and declared: 'Killing is killing.'"

Ric O'Barry, former Flipper trainer turned dolphin activist says: "They don't think of dolphins as intelligent, highly complex animals that love to play and interact with people."

(But unfortunately we must admit that anybody who has ever played with a pet pig knows the same could be said for most of the animals eaten by Westerners.)

The article points to the link between the dolphin slaughter and dolphin entertainment industry:

"However, not all the captured dolphins are killed. Every year, an unknown number of healthy young specimens are selected and removed from the killing coves to be sold into the international dolphin captivity industry, to be kept in aquariums, trained to perform at dolphinariums or for swim-with-dolphin programs. At Taiji, those involved appear to reap rich rewards in this way, and O'Barry said he was told there that the fishery drives would stop and those carrying them out would go back to catching lobsters and crabs if they were not offered huge sums for 'show' dolphins."

The article ends with a discussion of a former dolphin hunter who has switched from hunting dolphins to conducting 'dolphin watch' tours. We read, "So far this year he's taken 2,600 tourists, who pay 4,000 yen each to enjoy seeing dolphins in the wild.... he is making more money from the tours than he ever did as a dolphin hunter."

You can read the full article on line at

Reporter Boyd Harnell and the Japan Times are doing their part to kill the secrecy of the hunt. Appreciative letters to the editor can be sent to: opinion [at] The paper advises, "we ask that you include your name, a full address and your telephone number (work or home) for verification purposes. Requests for anonymity will be honored. Letters should be no longer than 300 words. Only original letters can be used. Do not send duplicates of letters to other publications."

You can learn more about the annual hunt

(DawnWatch is an animal advocacy media watch that looks at animal issues in the media and facilitates one-click responses to the relevant media outlets. You can learn more about it, and sign up for alerts at If you forward or reprint DawnWatch alerts, please do so unedited -- leave DawnWatch in the title and include this tag line.)