Readers’ responses received to the Sept. 11 Hotline to Nagatacho column, “Stop the annual Taiji dolphin massacre, make your children proud” by Deb Bowen-Saunders, and letters published on this subject on Oct. 9 (“Call to stop dolphin hunt in Taiji makes waves,” Have Your Say):
Dolphins’ moral compass
Regarding Joseph Jaworski’s letter on the Oct. 9 Community page (“Dolphins are not people”), he asserts that “the right to life is unique to humans and is derived from our unique ability to be moral actors.” He adds, “Animals can be intelligent, or use tools or language, but they cannot evaluate their actions in terms of ‘right’ and ‘wrong.’ ” “Animals are completely captive to their instincts,” he states.
Throughout history there are accounts of dolphins rescuing humans at sea. Dolphins have also been seen protecting swimmers from sharks by swimming circles around the swimmers or charging the sharks to make them go away. A dolphin known as Moko in New Zealand was observed guiding a female pygmy sperm whale together with her calf out of shallow water where they had stranded several times.
Please check the following links: on.today.com/TiVdT7 and bit.ly/RrgzQm. Both are vivid accounts of dolphins saving human lives recently. The dolphins in these stories have a better sense of right and wrong than a lot of humans I’ve met.
The sense of what’s right or wrong about the Taiji slaughter is, however, nothing new. Nearly 2,000 years ago the Greek poet Oppian wrote: “The hunting of dolphins is immoral and whoever willingly devises destruction for dolphins can no more draw nigh the gods as a welcome sacrificer nor touch their altars with clean hands but pollutes those who share the same roof with him.” In ancient Greece it was a crime to kill a dolphin.
I’m not debating whether the Taiji slaughter is right or wrong, but rather I’m questioning Mr. Jaworski’s belief that dolphins have no moral sense.
Traditions change with time
Since my last submission (“Dodgy foreigner types in Taiji,” Have Your Say, Oct. 11), there have been various reactions, and I have enjoyed reading other people’s posts.
After reading the views of several people against the dolphin hunt, I have tried to form my own hypothesis.
There are elements of a holy war in the whaling dispute. People opposed to the Taiji dolphin hunt stress that the current large-scale hunts only began 40 years ago, and conclude that this is therefore not traditional.
However, the opposition’s principal ideas towards dolphins do not go back any further than the movement’s founding in the 1960s. The hippy culture and new-age science, rebelling against the old regime and order, made gods of dolphins and whales.
Point this out, and these people will tout the advanced nature of their beliefs and assert that the preferential protection of marine mammals is surely a sign of mankind’s progress.
Wild dolphins are not like the inhabitants of the fictional world of “Flipper.” They are a part of the ocean ecosystem. The area that the Taiji dolphin hunt takes place within is only a mere few nautical miles. Beyond that the Pacific Ocean stretches widely. If you think about it that way, you may start asking why the dolphins can’t just avoid the waters around Taiji. Why is it, then, that the dolphins come to gather in Taiji’s coastal waters?
This region has a lot of rainfall and the rain that falls in the mountains, along with soil, washes out of rivers into the ocean. The released organic matter provides plankton with food, which in turn becomes the food for various fish. Despite the risk of death, it is to eat these fish that the dolphins and whales gather in these waters.
The town is caught between the mountains and the sea and has little suitable land for farming. Its inhabitants harpoon and use the dolphins as food.
If these types of assertions are presented, someone will usually object that “chasing after dolphins from motorboats is not a tradition” and “selling off lessons in dolphin-catching stunts is not traditional.”
The relationship between Taiji and these sea mammals is a product of the environment, and the form that industry takes changes with the times. The town is a great distance away from Tokyo and, outside of fishing and tourism, it has almost no industry. Thus, the dolphin industry formed in reaction to Taiji’s economic needs.
In recent years, dolphin watching has become very popular on the Tokyo Metropolitan islands of Mikurajima and Toshima, and some feel that it would be good if this were to become the main industry of Taiji too.
Nevertheless, these islands have only one-tenth of the population of Taiji, and their economies of scale merely correspond with that. Moreover, the only means of transportation is by boat, which is often cancelled due to poor weather. It would be extremely difficult to take an industry that has only just managed to catch on in these types of places and transpose it to Taiji.
Whale-watching has already started taking place on the outskirts of Taiji, in Katsuura and Kushimoto. Unfortunately, it has not overtaken the sideline business of fishing.
A fisherman in the town of Futo, Shizuoka, known like Taiji as a dolphin fishing community, stopped hunting dolphin, began dolphin watching and became the dream case model for those opposed to catching dolphins. His Facebook page attracted much praise from abroad.
However, recently the dolphin watching quietly went out of business. Despite receiving a lot of praise, offers of financial assistance have not been forthcoming.
The activists are extremely enthusiastic about saving the lives of dolphins but there are very few who actually fully think about the best method. Their goal is action, which actually is not saving dolphins. Furthermore, if they explained their actions in more detail and they interacted with others more, then fulfillment of their goals would be possible.
For one part of the Western world, sea mammals have become “sacred animals” in the same way that cows are revered by Hindu believers. But they do not recognize that this is an unscientific belief. Rather, they masquerade in the name of science, and attack those who make use of whales instead.
Very few ‘roos suffer in cull
Re: Angela Radich’s letter (” ‘Roo slaughter ‘cruellest in world,’ ” Have Your Say, Oct. 11): Having shot ‘roos for vermin control, I would say that very few suffer, as they are generally shot at ranges of 150 meters or less with a head shot. This is done for two reasons: 1) It’s humane, as they are dead before they hit the ground; and 2) a soft-tip (bullet) traveling in excess of 2,500 feet (750 meters) per second will ruin the meat if it is not a head shot.
Stories like the ones you have quoted are for the most part made up by rights groups, although you still get the odd idiot — although unfortunately they seem to exist throughout the world.
Defending our fellow surfers
This may be too late for your “Call to stop dolphin hunt in Taiji makes waves” piece, but I wanted to reply anyway. After reading some of the opinions, two things struck me that should be shared.
In some of the comments submitted to this article about the Taiji dolphin slaughter, as in other articles and blogs on the subject, there is a tendency by people who somehow support the stabbing to death of dolphins to equate dolphins with cows and pigs. Well, when was the last time a pack of wild cows went passing through your hometown?
The truth is, wild animals like chimpanzees, elephants, or even the great cats, like lions and tigers, equate much closer to dolphins. I suppose if you are one who finds no pain in watching dolphins being slaughtered, then you probably don’t care about such a distinction. However, if you are against injustices to wild animals, as many people in Japan are, then, I’m sorry, but by supporting the Taiji slaughter, you are joining the ranks of the elephant poachers, who just like those in Taiji, are some of the worst poachers of all.
Second, there were a few opinions directed at the character of the Sea Shepherd volunteers in Taiji. I noticed one reader, from Yokohama, who in his own mind imagined “three types” of activists in Taiji. I have a vision of this person sitting alone in their mansion apartment in urban Yokohama, so far from Taiji writing his little opinion piece. I wonder if he’s ever been on a surfboard. Probably not, because if he had, he would have added a 4th category: Those of us who spend whole days in the water, often sharing waves with dolphins, and who, like pro freestyle surfer Dave Rastovich, go to Taiji to support fellow surfers.
You see, dolphins surf just like people do for the same reason: It’s fun. While I often see dolphins having fun alongside us on my home surf break, it’s painful to know that at the same time, others are being stabbed to death in the very small town of Taiji. How can you just let someone brutally kill your friends — especially when it’s just a hundred or so people from a country of 130 million killing your friends? Some of us can’t, though I doubt our Yokohama reader would understand. He’s too comfortable in his soft chair wrongly imagining what ocean-minded activists are like.
Most Japanese don’t support poaching. We need more Japanese to stand up for the tigers, dolphins and elephants and not let the poachers get away. Africa is far away, but Taiji is right at home.
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