Cetacean Society International

Whales Alive! - Vol. XV No. 4 - October 2006

Japan's Dolphin Drives

By William Rossiter

How disgusted are you with the Japanese dolphin drives? How much do you want them to stop? You're not alone. But what can you do? As an incentive to you CSI here presents a sample of other people's actions to stop the drives, if you need it.

Taffy Lee Williams is one of those remarkable people who make things happen under impossible circumstances. A professional musician with a very full life, Taffy's goal to help dolphins, whales, and the oceans has absorbed more time than she has, but she learns quickly, presents her case impressively, persists indefinitely, and recently had two significant successes you should applaud.

While forming the New York Whale and Dolphin Action League, http://www.ny4whales.org/, joining CSI's board of directors, and focusing on issues with marine debris, naval sonar impacts and the Japanese dolphin drives and slaughters, Taffy took responsibility for New York's annual protest at the Japanese Consulates against the dolphin drives. Last year New York had a terrorist alert and heavy rain, and yet she brought us together in an inspiring and symbolic gesture echoed all around the world with similar protests.

New York protest

Taffy (r) and others at the unmarked Japanese Consulate in New York.
Photo courtesy Ethan Rosch.

This year's worldwide Japanese dolphin drive protest, or Japan Dolphin Day, started at local noon on September 20th at Japanese Consulates or Embassies in 61 cities around the world. Some of the Japan Dolphin Day reports are posted at http://www.earthisland.org/saveTaijiDolphins/japanDolphinDay2006.html. Some were huge, some were small; all were determined to stop the drives. They protested in many languages so that the realities of the drives would be reported in the local media, and that Tokyo would know of the world's disgust.

But New York again had a problem: President Bush was in town to give the UN some advice. The lower half of Manhattan was virtually shut down, in part to keep his protest demonstrators out of sight and out of mind. The UN VIP hotel near the Japanese Consulate snarled what little traffic could get that far, so Taffy walked a long way with heavy posters. The besieged police had to deny her a demonstration permit, but she was determined to be there, even if alone. But others showed up with the same spirit, and she gathered them together to show their posters, pass out leaflets, and make a little noise. As always the local police and security people were fully sympathetic and helpful. Her persistence and determination were incredible; she even managed to speak with a representative from the Consular staff. Bear in mind that Japan's Consulate in New York is high up in an office building, where security is so tight every visitor is escorted to every office. It is a metaphorical island, insular and remote, and ignoring outside contact is an easy insult to make.

Just three days before, September 17th, Taffy had completed her First Annual SWIM TO SAVE DOLPHINS, a charity swim across the Hudson River, well over a mile with currents included in. No, there are no dolphins in the Hudson, and yes, it is now clean enough for them.

Swimmer in the Hudson River

The Hudson is a beautiful river, a challenge to any swimmer. (Credit unknown)

The Swim To Save Dolphins was all Taffy's. She thought of it, organized it, produced it, got 13 others to swim with sponsorship, and overcame her own concerns about the longest swim of her life across open water. The swimmers ranged from 14 to 70, and each was escorted by a kayaker from the Yonkers Paddling and Rowing Club, a professional-caliber group of highly experienced volunteers in very well-equipped kayaks. Standing guard with impressive sirens were a US Coast Guard and Police Marine Patrol vessels. Stew Leonard's grocery chain donated some food, other organizations supplied information, vendors sold specialty items, and once again local police were more than helpful.

Dolphin Day Poster

Taffy and Patty Sullivan

Here are Taffy (l) and Patty Sullivan, another
CSI board member, after their triumph!

Drs. Lori Marino and Diana Reiss are two other outstanding examples of personal and professional commitment against the Japanese dolphin drives. Both respected scientists, they have produced a campaign involving scientists and advocates worldwide to condemn the drives publicly. With extremely hard work and endless determination their campaign was announced at a July press conference in Washington. We can do no better than quote the Washington Post article of August 3rd:

"A consortium of scientists and zoo and aquarium professionals are formally condemning Japan's dolphin drive hunts, which result in the inhumane slaughter of thousands of these highly intelligent marine mammals each year. Citing a body of scientific literature on the mental, emotional, and social characteristics of dolphins, the group, which includes scientists from the New York Aquarium, Emory University, and other organizations, say that the hunts are an astonishingly cruel violation of any reasonable welfare standards and should end immediately....

"The group is speaking out to raise global awareness, concern, and condemnation of the dolphin drives. They strongly urge the Japanese Government to terminate the drives based on the abundant scientific evidence about dolphin sentience and the growing global concern for more humane treatment of animals. The public is being asked to join their effort in a global response by signing a Letter to the Prime Minister of Japan and other members of the Japanese Government, which can be found at http://www.actfordolphins.com/."

Here is the Scientists' Statement against the Japanese Dolphin Drive hunts:

"To the Government of Japan,

"We, the undersigned members of the community of marine mammal scientists, veterinarians, and conservation biologists, implore you to put an end to the brutal treatment and unsustainable slaughter of dolphins (including small toothed whales) in the Japanese drive fisheries. Scientific research shows that dolphins are highly intelligent, self-aware and emotional animals with strong family ties and complex social lives. In addition, repeated recommendations from the international scientific and management communities (for example, the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission) to end this hunt have been ignored, and there are no current population assessments of most targeted dolphin species in Japanese waters. We urge you to lead the way and take action in stopping the inhumane treatment and killing of these highly sentient mammals.

"We strongly believe that the sourcing of animals from this fishery for any purposes, including human consumption, fertilizer and pet food manufacturing, and live public display, is unethical. We believe it is a violation of the code of professional ethics concerning collection from the wild for any zoo, aquarium or public display facility to be associated with these hunts in any way. This includes the direct sourcing of dolphins from these hunts for education or breeding programs or the indirect exchange of animals with facilities that may be closely associated with a drive fishery."

As the season's hunts began again in September, the fast growing body of professionals and advocates renewed their "Act for Dolphins" campaign with Dr. Reiss saying: "The Japanese dolphin drive hunts are an abominable violation of any standard of animal welfare, and these hunts inflict measurable pain and suffering on animals that are intelligent, sentient, and socially complex." Dr. Marino added that "the scientific evidence is abundantly clear - the Japanese dolphin hunts are an assault on intelligent, sentient, and emotional beings with brains that should make us all stop and think." Italy's highly respected Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara added that "It is a practice that shames Japan and the rest of us [as] human beings."

Japan's dolphin drives and slaughters began on September 1st, a month earlier than last year. The Marine Resources Management Division of the Fisheries Section in Wakayama Prefecture and others reported that 13 fishing boats herded 25 bottlenose dolphins into Hatakejiri Bay. Six dolphins were selected for sale to the Taiji Whale Museum. The rest were slaughtered with knives and spears, and then processed for food.

Taiji captive dolphins

Taiji's captive survivors ready for sale. (Credit Sakae Hemmi)

While the drives are sanctioned for their efficiency in removing "pests" (fishermen say the dolphins are eating commercial fish), sales of dolphins for captive display are acknowledged as justification for these drives, bringing money to the local fishing community and helping to repair the Taiji Whale Museum. The museum does some initial training before reselling the dolphins to anywhere with the money, particularly in Asia. The Museum's price depends on the level of training, but recent sales have been for $50,000 per dolphin, and much more for Risso's dolphins or pilot whales.

The price is cheap compared to other dolphin sources, which may be why, as of this writing, the Alliance for Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums, which most people think of as Sea World plus others, still publicly supports the Japanese drives as appropriate sources for captive whales and dolphins to sell worldwide, although they consider the method of slaughter (apparently not the slaughters themselves) to be inhumane. Their overriding motive is to keep the supply lines open for Alliance members as other sources are stopped, although any US facility would be crazy to consider purchasing dolphins from Japan's drives. It is unclear if the Alliance's Board of Directors has considered or approved this position, which places them on the dark side of the issue, opposing the strong positions opposing the drives by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA), and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA).

Conflicting reports offer the threat that Taiji fishermen also may try to capture orcas. It is unclear if the Japan Fisheries Agency's refusal to grant a permit could be overcome by Japan's Local Revitalization Law, or a special permit from the Prime Minister, using the pretext of "scientific research".

The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (HR 4239 and S3880) had been referred to committees as Congress recessed in September. Keep your eye on it; it may become significant to anyone in the US wishing to express their opinion publicly on how dolphins and whales are treated.

The AETA is a significant change to the Animal Enterprise Protection Act of 1992. Under it Martin Luther King and Gandhi become terrorists. Ben White, the revered mentor for whale and dolphin activists, was a master at powerful, peaceful demonstrations, with his turtle and dolphin brigades, groups standing silently during dolphin shows, and so much more. Under the AETA Ben and his protesters would be terrorists under the law!

AETA terrorism could be anything "involving exclusively a nonviolent physical obstruction of an animal enterprise or a business having a connection to, or relationship with, an animal enterprise, that may result in loss of profits but does not result in bodily injury..." It could be used against demonstrations, whistle blowers, and undercover investigations. The extremely vague and broad sweeping language may put all animal advocates at risk.

Let's go back to the situation in New York on Japan Dolphin Day, where intense security surrounding President Bush's visit to the UN froze a record portion of the city, in part to keep his protesters far away. Within the zone Taffy and others were peacefully assembled to protest. The AETA would likely not apply to them simply because they were not affecting anyone's profits, but if the US bowed to Japan's complaints and some official was pushed to test the law's limits is it possible such demonstrations could be declared illegal?

To follow the new AETA after the Congressional recess see: http://www.govtrack.us/.

Go to next article: Beluga Misadventures or: Table of Contents.

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