Japan Times wins award for animal rights coverage

Genesis Award cites expose of cruelty, coverup and contaminated meat

by Boyd Harnell

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) today announced that The Japan Times is this year’s winner of its prestigious International Genesis Award, given in recognition of its Nov. 30, 2005 “breakthrough expose” headlined: ” ‘Secret’ dolphin slaughter defies protests.”

The article, by this writer, detailed Japan’s annual, savage slaughter of some 20,000 small cetaceans in the face of widespread international protests and against the background of a virtual media blackout in Japan of both the practice and the protests. The article also presented scientific evidence that samples of dolphin meat on sale to the public in Japan were dangerously contaminated with mercury.

The HSUS is an international, nongovernmental organization devoted to exposing animal abuse issues worldwide. It bestows its annual Genesis Awards on members of the major media and entertainment industries for works that raise the awareness of acts of cruelty against animals.

Japan Times editor Andrew Kershaw and this correspondent share the Genesis Award in the Brigitte Bardot International category.

In selecting The Japan Times, the awards committee cited the article’s success (via the Internet) in “provoking an international outcry with this courageous condemnation of the shameful Japanese practice of slaughtering dolphins in order to protect the country’s fishing industry, or as the bloody byproduct of capturing dolphins for theme parks.”

The committee added, “We applaud The Japan Times for its courage to print this rare and disturbing expose of the dolphin slaughter — surely a passionate denunciation of this barbaric practice — and we are heartened to know that this eye-opening feature elicited an international outcry. Bravo!”

Other winners of a 20th-anniversary Genesis Award this year include ABC Primetime, for a TV feature on dolphin trafficking; the world-renowned primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall, for her “Animal Planet” documentary on the Discovery Channel, “When Animals Talk”; the TV talk show “Larry King Live,” for its feature, “Dogs and Cats Abused for Their Fur”; New York Times Magazine’s Charles Seibert for a feature titled “Planet of the Retired Apes”; and the Washington Post’s Marc Kaufman for his series, “Big-Game Hunting Brings Big Tax Breaks.”

More than 1,000 people prominent in humane organizations, the media, business and entertainment will attend the 20th Anniversary Genesis Awards ceremony on March 18 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif., at which this writer will deliver an acceptance speech in praise of — among others — The Japan Times for running the story.

Presenters at the event, to be aired later on the Discovery Channel’s “Animal Planet,” will include Martin Sheen, Christian Bale, Peter Falk and Daryl Hannah.

Previous winners include Paul McCartney; actor-singer Sidney Poitier; Dr. Jane Goodall; the singer Prince; author Arthur Miller; and ABC’s “World News Tonight” with Peter Jennings.

The Genesis Awards, launched in 1986, are the brainchild of former Broadway actress and animal activist Gretchen Wyler, who oversees the HSUS Hollywood office. In 1991, Wyler launched her own animal protection organization, the Ark Trust, which joined the HSUS in 2002. She also managed an animal shelter in New York and organized a volunteer program of 90 people to oversee five other shelters.

Wyler has said that the Genesis name for the awards derived from the name of the Book in the Old Testament which tells the story of Noah and his ark, and in so doing constitutes the first “news report” of an animal rescue. “It is my belief that the awesome power of the mass media can help initiate laws to address animal cruelty worldwide,” Wyler said — hence the HSUS’s motto, “Cruelty Can’t Stand the Spotlight.”