Boyd Harnell’s March 30 article, “Secret film will show slaughter to the world” — about the making of a documentary on the dolphin hunt in Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture — was riveting. I was especially struck by the chasm separating the worldviews of the parties involved: a sophisticated network of international activists funded by a billionaire, Jim Clarke, against local whalers supported by community leaders and police.
My guess is the documentary will raise international awareness of the dolphin slaughter in Taiji and prompt a debate in Japan not unlike the recent whaling controversy. If the film succeeds in inspiring enough public pressure to shut down the hunt, dolphins will be saved, but a rural community may end up economically wounded and morally defeated.
The amount of money involved in this case opens up potential solutions not usually available in community-versus-environmentalist conflicts. Clarke has plenty of cash for worthy causes — $5 million to fund this documentary. I wonder if he would consider investing in the community that he may contribute to undermining.
Capital to start up eco-tourism businesses could offset the effects of losing an industry. Certainly there is some potential: The area will be better known because of the film; it already possesses a national park; and local whalers have the knowhow to lead the dolphins into a “viewing cove” attracting boatloads of tourists. I imagine that many children and adults in this country would delight in the opportunity to watch, touch and even play with dolphins in the natural environment.
The residents of Taiji probably lack the funds or the vision to set up such an industry. That is where Clarke and his friends could re-ignite dialogue, but their money will speak louder than any moralizing.