We were interested to see the article ‘Taiji’s dolphin hunters have a new voice‘ (Media Mix, Oct. 23) exploring some of the social issues and controversy surrounding the hunting of dolphins in Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture. Nevertheless, we are concerned that while the article explores the social issues and the media coverage of this hunt, it was misleading in relation to the humaneness of the killing methods used.

The commentary indicates that during a public debate it was stated that “Taiji claims they now use a more humane style of killing that eliminates the dolphins’ suffering, thus putting it in line with methods used in slaughterhouses in the developed world.” However, the author then fails to elaborate on the details of this method, or the criticism this killing method has received. In view of the fact that this article was attempting to provide balance, it could, and should, also have acknowledged that published research indicates that this method is not comparable with accepted methods for slaughter which are approved for use in the developed world, see: jtim.es/sN6O306vAWy .

Far from being “in line with methods used in slaughterhouses in the developed world,” expert opinion suggests, to the contrary, that:

“The method employed causes damage to the vertebral blood vessels and the vascular rete from insertion of the rod that will lead to significant hemorrhage, but this alone would not produce a rapid death in a large mammal of this type. The method induces paraplegia (paralysis of the body) and death through trauma and gradual blood loss. This killing method does not conform to the recognized requirement for ‘immediate insensibility’ and would not be tolerated or permitted in any regulated slaughterhouse process in the developed world.”

Research now also suggests overwhelmingly that dolphins, like our closest relatives the great apes, are sentient, highly social mammals who exhibit complex cognitive abilities. Far from being behind the times in relation to developing international norms, Japanese scientists have been some of the international leaders in great ape research, and their research has contributed to steps to increase protection for the great apes, resulting in Japan instigating an unofficial ban on invasive research in chimpanzees in 2006. As a result of developments in our understanding of physiology, social behavior and cognition in dolphins, it would appear fully logical that we should evaluate the levels of protection afforded to these complex, sentient, mammals from human induced harm, and provide protection to the same level now provided for the great apes.

University of Exeter

Andy Butterworth

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

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