Yoko Ono joins U.S. call to halt Taiji dolphin cull


The widow of John Lennon on Monday joined a rare U.S. request to stop the annual dolphin cull in Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture, days after the U.S. ambassador to Japan waded into the row.

Yoko Ono published an open letter to the people of Taiji, the small town made famous by the Oscar-winning film “The Cove,” which documents the annual bloodbath, urging them to halt the cull for the “future of Japan.”

Ono said the hunt, in which scores of dolphins are corralled into a cove to select the prettiest for sale to aquariums and butcher the rest for meat, was damaging the reputation of Japan.

It “will give an excuse for big countries and their children in China, India and Russia to speak ill of Japan,” she wrote.

“I am sure that it is not easy, but please consider the safety of the future of Japan, surrounded by many powerful countries which are always looking for the chance to weaken the power of our country.

“At this very politically sensitive time, (the hunt) will make the children of the world hate the Japanese.

“For many, many years and decades we have worked hard to receive true understanding of the Japanese from the world,” she said.

“But what we enjoy now, can be destroyed literally in one day. I beg of you to consider our precarious situation after the nuclear disaster (which could very well affect the rest of the world, as well).”

The reference was to the triple core meltdown at the poorly protected Fukushima No. 1 power plant following the March 2011 mega-quake and tsunami.

The letter, which was posted on her “Imagine Peace” website and addressed to “Japanese fishermen of Taiji,” bore her signature and was dated Jan. 20. At the foot, it said: “cc Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe.”

Ono’s plea came just days after U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy tweeted her disapproval.

“Deeply concerned by inhumaneness of drive hunt dolphin killing. USG (US Government) opposes drive hunt fisheries,” wrote Kennedy, the only surviving child of assassinated President John F. Kennedy, on Jan. 17.

Her comments were welcomed Monday by fugitive eco-activist Paul Watson, who said he hoped it would help convince Tokyo to put a halt to the practice.

“Hopefully this would put additional pressure to convince the Japanese government that this really has no place in the 21st century,” he said.

Watson, founder of the radical Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, is now in the United States, where he arrived last year saying he wanted to challenge a court injunction.

Japanese authorities are seeking his extradition and describe the methods Sea Shepherd uses against its whaling ships — for example, blocking boats’ propellers — as “terrorist” acts.

Watson was arrested in May last year in Frankfurt on a warrant from Costa Rica, where he is wanted on charges stemming from a high-seas confrontation over shark finning in 2002.

The Canadian-born activist fled Germany but arrived in California on Oct. 28, more than a year later.

Sea Shepherd says around 250 dolphins have been corralled in the cove so far, and that some have been removed, but it is not clear how many have been killed.

Meanwhile, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga on Monday defended Taiji’s annual hunt, stating that dolphin fishing in Japan is carried out appropriately in accordance with the law.

“Dolphin fishing is a form of traditional fishing in our country,” he said, responding to a question about Kennedy’s criticism. “We will explain Japan’s position to the American side.”

  • Truly

    Reunite those taken into captivity with the rest of the pod and set them free!

    • Why?

      • Jodie Renault

        You ask Why? Dolphins are mammals, highly intelligent, highly social, they won’t leave the pod when under attack, does that behavior at all sound familiar to you?

      • Julie_thomas

        Let’s separate you from your family and put you in a zoo half way accross the world where they will never see you again. That’s why.

    • Mandingo

      Not that I’m against animal farming, but I’m genuiinely curious that if there is a constructive reason why killing dolphins for food is more inhuman than much more “industrialized” cattle slaughter. If you know one, can you please share it with me?

      Say, if I were forced to choose which life I would live, I’d choose dolphin’s. Rather than being confined in a packed cowshed for the most of my very short life (not sure if i can call it so though), I’d choose the life that allows me to swim the ocean freely, spend my time with my family members, and in the ned, as Darwinian explained, killed by more intelligent animal.

  • I don’t think offending children is a sound basis for public policy. We eat other cute mammals, why not dolphins? I think you could find an abattoir far more ‘non-discerning’ in its harvesting policy. Is it possible that the extorting environmentalists are actually among the least humane? Given that they have a capacity to think, but coerce like ‘feeling animals’.

    • Elena GC

      There is proof that dolphin meat contains dangerously high levels of mercury. A lot of the times this meat is given to children in public school. I don’t defend eating other “cute” mammals, but in the majority of the cases, they are grown specifically for that! The slaughter process does not last for 5 days. Another thing is the Japanese entitlement over the seas. An example could be the illegal whale hunting even on waters that are not “theirs”. Dolphins are not “theirs” to kill. I don’t think its correct to sit quietly and watch this barbaric act.
      As a wise man named Gandhi once said: “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated”.

    • Julie_thomas

      I think it is very pertinant. Children grow up and they remember slaughters and injustices that traumatize them. They remember WHO did it and will base their future decision about those memories. Yoko Ono is right. Children of today will grow up with an image of Japan as one of barbarians and that image will color every decision they make about Japan.

  • Steve McClure

    “… Japan, surrounded by many powerful countries which are always looking for the chance to weaken the power of our country.” I love this kind of passive-agressive crapola.

    • You mean more than any other country – defending or attacking people’s rights?

  • Gareth Jenkinson

    Dolphins are not fish. They have brains as large as human brains. They can recognise themselves in a mirror. Something very few animals other than humans can do! They are highly intelligent, sentient mammals. The evidence is mounting and some countries including India have declared them non human persons. What is wrong with these people who could end this practice. Can they not read scientific papers on dolphin behaviour? What videos and programmes on these amazing creatures. There comes a time when we should look at the evidence and make laws based on said evidence even when it might upset a tradition or two.
    These dolphins have been slaughter now, families ripped apart. The lucky ones will get to spend the rest of their lives swimming in a small tank performing tricks for the public. Really is this what modern civilised man has come to?
    Come on Japan, you are much better than this.

  • midnightbrewer

    Traditional is often used as an excuse to continue bad behavior, and the only reason is legal is because the government says so. They can also make it illegal if they choose to.

    • Yes, tradition is a bad reason; but its more innocent that a mob with a unjustified moral sanction. Kind of like a gang bang. Wasn’t that what govt was supposed to protect us from.

  • Marie Sandra

    So if they think what they are doing is so right then why do they block it off and hide their bodies under tarps…tradition my ass…it has nothing to do with tradition and everything to do with money.

  • oniriq

    This is not an “old” tradition, in Taiji they do that since only 40 years approx. The way those animals are caught and killed is totally barbaric. We are no more in the Middle Age. Years ago I loved Japan and my dream was to travel there. I even tried to learn Japanese, hiragana and katakana’s…in order to communicate with Japanese people, but now all is gone, I am too sad and deeply disappointed by the decision of Japanese Govnt. not to stop this awful drive hunt. Monique, Switzerland.

  • Ian Macdonald

    Excellent work Ambassador Kennedy. This activity is inhumane and without honour. Japan is a free society to-day because the Americans made it so in 1945. So much for not taking advice from abroad. Perhaps a boycott on Japanese cars in North America will get their attention.. Time to buy a Ford or a GM.

  • katherinebrock

    Once again Japan kills
    sentient beings for nothing more than profit and what they attempt to label as
    “tradition”. Dolphin meat is not even a healthy meat to consume.
    There is no need in this day and age for this barbaric practice. They are not
    domesticated animals raised for food. They are smarter than a good many other
    animals that we would never think of killing – for food or any other reason.
    They suffer horribly, are aware they are going to die, and watch as their family
    members die painful, slow deaths. Where is the humanity in perpetuating this
    kind of butchery?

  • Tursiops truncatus

    Not only people in western countries are disgusted. People in most countries are.

    • You’ll take any argument that supports your thesis won’t you. Cheap populism; misplaced science. Hell, knock two rocks together and you’d consider that applause.

  • Oh, how selective. Where were you when the constitution is ignored; laws are subjective all the time. Really? You believe in objective laws. I’m impressed if you can hold that thought. I’m going to want to know you IF you can. Really? You think these people care about money. That is a total rationalisation. I don’t need you any more.

  • Interesting Gandhi would not be able to stop this. You will need the threat of violence. Ultimately he needed it too, just not in India, in Britain, where the government caved to ’empathy’; a Western value at the time, until the West became more tragically collectivist/liberal, as opposed to ‘top-of-the-world’ collectivist, optimistic. Britain was still atop of the world then; it felt generous.

  • Appeal to authority – not a rational justification. Of course that won’t stop you voting. Therein lies the problem with the process.

  • Well, I don’t believe the animal kingdom would ever have created humans or developed moral condemnation like yours without someone or some animal devouring meat, or another animal. Devouring = stress.

  • salamanca

    Bravo Ms. Ono!

  • Thuy Usahi

    Thank you Yoko!

    These people are destructive to themselves while taking the rest of us along with them. They must be stopped!

    “Our Oceans only survive because of the existence of our Marine Wildlife. They are the Lifeblood of our aquatic world. We ground bound humans derive over 50% of our much needed oxygen as a byproduct of our seas. If we do not preserve and protect all Marine Wildlife we will soon find ourselves gasping for breath.”

  • Maya B. Kraehenmann

    Dolphins are our friends & should be protected. To be slaughter or eat them is a disgrace !

  • Cynder

    Wow, your lack of knowledge and ignorance is astounding. I encourage you to watch some shows which feature intelligence. How omnipotent of you to cast judgement against other sentient beings. It is interesting how your other comments include having moral concepts.. considering that you, yourself, lack this.

    • Dolphins can’t watch TV….apparently you have one. You can’t formulate an argument.

      • Animal Lover

        If they lack “moral agency”, why are there so many reports of dolphins saving people from shark attacks? Why else would a dolphin put itself in danger to save a human? They won’t benefit from the human’s life being saved.

      • Cynder

        It was not an argument. It was a statement. I accept your apology for not knowing the difference. I do, however, pity you.

  • Evolving Yin

    Thank you Yoko for supporting the dolpins. You are a tribute to John’s legacy.

  • I would add that it would be cruel to actually deny an animal stress. You are actually denying 5 hem Awareness they are going to die. It’s treating the symptoms to make you feel better…not the dolphin.

  • Evolving Yin

    Thank you Yoko for supporting the dolphins. You are a tribute to John’s legacy.

  • Tursiops truncatus

    So then I suppose the Jews were also not very smart, otherwise they’d have found ways to escape capture and death in the hands of the Nazis. All the scientific evidence is overwhelmingly pointing towards dolphins as being self aware, highly emotional and very intelligent. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-17116882

  • Tursiops truncatus

    There are animals and animals. Dolphins, great apes and elephants have been shown time and again to be way above all other species, being intelligent, emotional and indeed having a sense of morals.

  • Tursiops truncatus

    Some people still think slavery is ok. Or that beating your wife is acceptable if she disobeys. Who are we to impose our values on them and tell them they are wrong?

  • Tursiops truncatus

    Are you a cetacean biologist? Talk to those scientists who have spent years researching these animals and I think you will find they disagree with you.

  • Tursiops truncatus

    So you enjoy stress and torment? You are talking of the fight or flight response perhaps but to suggest these killers are doing the dolphins a favour by torturing and stressing them shows that you have not an ounce of compassion.

  • Tursiops truncatus

    Do you seriously expect anyone against this slaughter (which is wrong on so many levels) to have a shred of compassion for the killers? I know you will not change your views, and I will not change mine. Thankfully the world is not fully populated by people like you., if it were we would be in an even bigger mess.

  • Foster_Mom

    Dolphins not conceptual you say? http://www.apa.org/monitor/sep05/marine.aspx

  • kathleen kozak

    I am truly against the slaughter of the dolphins. As a medical doctor, there are definite implications to the people who eat the dolphin meat. Mercury poisoning is one of them, and tests done on the residents of Taiji have shown dangerously high level of toxins in their blood.
    Regardless of whether you feel this slaughter is justified as a cultural practice or not, you have to look at the scientific data and it shows that their purpose for killing them, as they claim it is for food, is actually endangering the people as well. Children and pregnant women are especially vulnerable. Stop the slaughter, and save the people. Win Win.