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Japan’s Ritual Massacre of Dolphins

In Intelligence of Dolphins Cited in Fight Against Hunt, Rick Weiss of the Washington Post reports that this fall and winter, like every fall and winter for centuries, the Japanese government will sanction a "dolphin drive," wherein "thousands of bottlenose dolphins are herded into shallow coves to be slaughtered with knives and clubs." This year 21,000 dolphins can be killed (and used for pet food or fertilizer), and surviving dolphins can be captured and bought for use in zoo and aquarium shows.

I’m not sure what’s worse.

What’s fascinating is that, according to Weiss, efforts to stop the hunt "[pit] the emerging science of animal intelligence against a centuries-old cultural tradition."

During this tradition, some live dolphins are hoisted by ropes tied around their tail fins, at which time their backbones are wrenched apart and they suffer extreme pain. Others are stabbed and bleed to death, and there’s a chilling photo of what that does to the waters (oh, and the dolphins), accompanying Weiss’ article.

Those against the "hunt" note that dolphins live in multicultural communities and are at least as spohisticated as great apes (and Japan is a leader in protecting apes). They also say that because dolphins learn from one another, when you remove a bunch, you remove the knowledge they have.

For me, this is about two things: language and economics. Let’s deconstruct:

  • The moment anyone plays the "t-card" (tradition), the opposing side in any argument is in big trouble. Why? Because humans will agree to just about anything if you tell them it’s a tradition–that it’s part of someone’s "culture." And my query is always: How does doing this tradition thing–whatever it is–add to your humanity or in any way enrich your environment?
  • It’s 2006. Part of our culture was once slavery, but we realized that wasn’t such a good idea, so we put the kibosh on it. And though we certainly haven’t perfected anything, we have realized that discriminating against women or nonCaucasians is nothing to be proud of. And I’m certain that what we are seeing now is the beginning of the same revolution in the way we treat nonhuman animals. Culture changes as humanity evolves. As our consciousness rises, so does our behavior. It makes no sense whatsoever, therefore, to cling to traditions that began when the culture was, relatively speaking, less evolved–less conscious–less aware.
  • This might be considered picky, but when you chase tens of thousands of creatures into a corner and then slaughter them, I’m not sure you’re allowed to use the word "hunt" to define that activity.
  • Economics. The Japanese government sells permits for the hunt. If it stays on the "tradition" bandwagon, despite the inhumanity of the event, it protects its profits.

Go to to add your name to the 55,000 signatures currently on the End Dolphin Slaughter in Japan petition, and to learn more about what some people do in the name of "culture."

One Comment Post a comment
  1. Anonymous #

    STOP THIS INSANE ACT~!!!!!!!!!!

    May 6, 2007

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