Every year, towns across Japan slaughter thousands of dolphins as well as capturing some and putting them for sale alive. Now, this is a really touchy subject for me, but the public needs to know.
Dolphin Slaughter: The Truth
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In Japan, fishermen round up and slaughter hundreds and even thousands of dolphins and other small whales each year.
In the small fishing village of Taiji, entire schools of dolphins are driven into a hidden cove after a prolonged chase. Once trapped inside the cove, the fishermen kill the dolphins, slashing their throats with knives or stabbing them with spears. The water turns red with their blood, and the air fills with their screams.
This brutal massacre — the largest scale dolphin kill in the world — goes on for six months of every year. Even more scandalous, members of the international dolphin display industry take advantage of the dolphin slaughter to obtain some few, show-quality dolphins for use in captive dolphin shows and dolphin swim programs.
It is commonly assumed that Japanese fishermen hunt dolphins to supply a small minority of Japanese people with dolphin meat. But unlike the expensive whale meat, dolphin meat is not considered a delicacy in Japan, and the real reason the Japanese government issues permits to kill dolphins by the thousands every year has nothing to do with food culture. It has to do with pest control. As shocking as it sounds, some Japanese government officials view dolphins as pests to be eradicated in huge numbers. During a meeting at Taiji City Hall, the fishermen of Taiji admitted this to us. “We don’t kill the dolphins primarily for their meat. We kill them as a form of pest control,” they told us. In other words, killing the competition is their way of preserving the ocean’s fish for themselves.
Most likely in order to push the food culture issue even further, the Japanese government recently introduced pilot whale meat to children’s school lunch programs, despite the fact that the meat is tainted with mercury and not fit for human consumption. The Japanese government and the dolphin hunters do not warn the Japanese people of this danger, although the dolphin meat should be labeled as toxic. Much of the tainted dolphin meat ends up as counterfeit whale meat in Tokyo and other large cities.
Science has established that dolphins are highly intelligent and complex marine mammals. How can “pest control” on dolphins continue with so little opposition from the Japanese people and the outside world? The answer is secrecy. Since we first traveled to Japan in 2003 to document the dolphin hunt and expose it to the world, the fishermen have become increasingly paranoid about being photographed and filmed. Today, they hide the dolphin slaughter behind barbed wire, ropes and tarpaulin. Killing the dolphins before daylight breaks, they station guards at the mouth of the killing cove to ensure that no one witnesses the blood bath.
The fishermen say they kill the dolphins “quickly and humanely.” That’s an outright lie. The methods used to kill the dolphins are so savage, it’s hard to believe it unless you witness it for yourself. And once you’ve seen it, the images and sounds of the screaming dolphins never go away. The fishermen know that the world will be outraged when the truth gets out. And so, guided by their government, they hide behind phrases such as “food culture” and “tradition.” They even once told us they are proud of what they do. If they had told us they were having fun while killing dolphins, we would have believed them. We have heard them laugh out loud as they were throwing spears at the dolphins and hauling them ashore with ropes, or dragging still live dolphins by their tail flukes to be slaughtered. If they were really proud of this, then why do they go to such extreme measures hiding it? Why won’t they even let their own people know about the hunt? We asked them this once, and the answer was: “It is none of their business.” But it is their business. The Japanese people have every right to know about the dolphin slaughter. And they have a right to know about the mercury-poisoned dolphin meat that is being fed to their children.
Dolphin Slaughter: Actions SSCS has Taken to Stop This
Not long ago, Cape Cod whaler’s wives would pace the widow’s walk, waiting for their husbands to return with pockets filled with the proceeds of slaughtering the great leviathans. While the coffers of Cape households are no longer swelled by whaling dollars, the hunt goes on in isolated deep-water pockets around the globe. Today, one native son has returned safe from the icy and treacherous Antarctic Ocean, and while his seafaring has earned him some fame and fortune as a whale warrior, his battles on the briny deep have been fought not against these formidable creatures, but for them.
“Once we’re on their tail, they can’t whale.” – Peter Brown
Peter Brown is first mate aboard the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s 180-foot, steel-hulled ship R/V Farley Mowat, which chases Japanese whalers on the hunt for minke in the Antarctic Whale Sanctuary, carrying an earnest crew dead-set on harassing the whalers out of a catch. As Brown says, “Once we’re on their tail, they can’t whale.”
From behind the camera to front and center
While his regular gig as a director-cameraman for film and television usually finds him behind the camera, his 27-year-long hobby of volunteering with the SSCS has recently put him front and center in Animal Planet’s surprise hit series, Whale Wars. The June 5 premier episode of their second season was seen by nearly 1.2 million viewers who tuned in for an edge-of-your-seat ride in aggressive environmentalism, complete with heaving seas, deadly ice flows, flying stink bombs and returning flash bombs. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, these folks are wildly committed to their cause and undeniably brazen.
Grassroots with Greenpeace
The SSCS got its start in 1977 when Greenpeace co-founder Paul Watson started the Earth Force Society in Vancouver, BC and soon purchased his first ship, the Sea Shepherd. According to Peter Brown, Watson was summarily voted out of the Greenpeace power structure for being “too extreme.” Brown was working in television in Los Angeles at the time, but it wouldn’t be long before Watson and Brown’s paths converged. In 1982, Watson made a trip to Japan’s Iki Island to meet with local representatives regarding the island fishermen’s slaughter of dolphins. He called on Brown, who produced the first 25 weeks of Entertainment Tonight, but was working on a popular show called Real People at the time, to film the events, and the issue received a great deal of publicity. The fishermen stopped driving dolphins for the next four years, and a friendship was formed between the two men. “I realized then I could do something to help,” said Brown.
“Growing up on Cape Cod, I was always affiliated with the ocean,” Brown said. “It bred conservation in my blood.”
Brown grew up in Eastham, and today he retires to a large home overlooking Herring Pond when he isn’t filming music festivals in South Africa or steering a Sea Shepherd boat through the ice. “Growing up on Cape Cod, I was always affiliated with the ocean,” he said. “It bred conservation in my blood.” Growing up a store-keep’s son, he lived above the Eastham Superette and worked there. “I learned to talk to all kinds of people,” he said. He cut his teeth on the protests and political arrests of the Vietnam War era. How he developed the constitution for dangerous activism, he isn’t sure, but he once made the claim that driving down Suicide Alley is more dangerous than what he does – an assertion Cape Codders who traversed that stretch before reflective posts and median hump can relate to. He also insists that his real job offers the “really dangerous stuff.” Given his role at the helm and the rail of the Sea Shepherd’s ships, one can only imagine the things he’s seen “at work.”
As an activist with the SSCS, Brown has found himself in a Japanese prison – “being served what I think might have been whale meat” – jailed with his 10-year-old son in Ecuador, imbedded with Canadian seal hunters who forced him to eat seal meat to prove he wasn’t an environmentalist, and living for 18 months on the Pacific, fighting the Macaw Indians’ plans to kill grey whales, just to name a few of his exploits.
“If you’ve got a cause, don’t get me involved unless you’re really serious – I’m not going to do it half-assed. I’m not going to stop.”
In a philosophy mirrored by that of his Captain, Paul Watson, Brown asserts, “If you’ve got a cause, don’t get me involved unless you’re really serious – I’m not going to do it half-assed. I’m not going to stop.” As a member of Watson’s inner circle from the early days of the SSCS, he reports, “Paul Watson, Bob Hunter and I used to talk about Antarctica twenty years ago when it was a pipe dream.” Television found these guys relatively late in their crusade’s life, and if you’re thinking the action will stop once the cameras cease rolling, think again. “Paul will stick to it until the end,” Brown says. “We’re not just going to go away.” The Sea Shepherd crew sees their activities as enforcement, not protest. They operate under the UN Charter for Nature, which contains a section that allows non-government organizations to enforce the charter on the high seas.
Japanese research or profit?
The issues surrounding Japanese whaling are complicated. While the fishermen of that country have attempted to continue a long and close relationship with whaling, the self-imposed quota of minke they hope to fill in the Antarctic Ocean is harvested under the aegis of “research” – a fact they translate to the Whale Wars helicopter film crews. The giant signs, written in English, provide variations on the theme, “We are taking samples for research!” It is unclear what kind of research requires a yearly quota of 1,000 whales, but the practice makes whale meat available to Japanese markets, as the remaining whale, after sampled, is free for the filleting.
The business is heavily subsidized by the Japanese government, and Brown is suspicious about its ultimate purpose. “They can’t get rid of the stuff,” he says about the gamey-tasting meat. “Only the old people eat it – I think at one point they tried to use it for school lunches as whale burgers.” Long forays on the frigid ocean give Brown plenty of time to think, and fishermen have long been famed for spinning yarns, but his theory about the Japanese commitment to whaling in the face of ever-increasing pressure to stop married with a limited market for the product is interesting. “The Antarctic Treaty System expires in 2025,” he says. “Without a land base there, they want a seat at that table [when the treaty is re-issued.] They’ve pledged to create a completely hydrogen-powered economy, and they’re buying up huge tracts of land in places like Argentina to put up wind farms to create hydrogen. Antarctica would be a great resource for this kind of program – it’s all open land.” Some nations with bases in Antarctica that have been neglected due to the harsh conditions there have re-committed themselves to maintaining a foothold there in light of the up-coming negotiations. Chile is one of them. Brown conjectures that with an unbroken history of whaling in the region, Japan could claim some kind of foothold. Unwillingness to relinquish a time-honored tradition might be an easier explanation.
Deadly days on the high seas
Whatever Japan’s reasons are for supporting the hunt, Brown and his comrades aboard the vegan ship will continue to aggressively challenge the whalers. Last season’s whaling fleet reached a paltry half of their quota, and the Sea Shepherd gang is quick to claim responsibility for their poor showing. In the beginning of this year’s Whale Wars, a Japanese sailor fell overboard to his death and reports varied widely about the event, from suspicion that the Farley Mowat made it harder for the whaler to be recovered, to some Japanese media reports that he had committed suicide. Brown believes that the Japanese whalers intentionally led a Sea Shepherd ship into potentially deadly ice, and later was hauled out for serious repairs to its hull in Indonesia, while the Sea Shepherd boat escaped harm. Last year’s finale featured a stunned Paul Watson peeling off his bullet-proof vest to show a strange-looking shell that was slowed by his sheriff’s badge and lodged in the vest itself. Internet comment boards went wild with speculation that the Captain staged the event, and armchair firearms “experts” weighed in on the various impacts of various projectiles from various firearms. In the end, it seemed the item may have been the cap of a flash bomb – Japanese whalers’ weapon of choice against the conservationists.
Greenpeace, a bit too soft?
A contentious relationship with Greenpeace also exists. Brown contends that Greenpeace refuses to divulge the location of the Japanese whaling fleet in the Antarctic Ocean – a key piece of data in the hunt for the whalers. Greenpeace locates the fleet in order to take pictures that Brown insists helps the organization make money. “The whalers don’t think twice about killing whales when Greenpeace is around,” he says. “They almost never kill a whale in front of us – they know we will go nuts and try to ram them or something.” According to Brown, the Sea Shepherd crew has even asked the Greenpeace boats to radio the location of the Japanese fleet after “they get their photos, so we can come in and actually stop them from whaling.” Greenpeace has refused, leaving the Sea Shepherd crew to pull up the Greenpeace webcam and try to figure out their latitude and longitude from the weather and condition of the seas, a tactic Brown says once worked. Repeated calls to Greenpeace press contacts in Washington, DC and New York City were not returned for comment.
Despite lengthy campaigns in Antarctica that have kept Brown away from his loved ones for the last two Christmases and left him with a crushed thumb that required titanium part-replacement, Brown shows no signs of wearying. “I’ve been on 25 to 30 missions over the years, and the Antarctic campaigns are huge,” he said. “Missions usually last four weeks or so, but during the 2007 effort I was at sea for four months.” The ship can only hold enough fuel for four to six weeks, at a quarter million dollars a fill-up, so it returns to refuel, and during one of those stops in the 2008 mission, now airing on Animal Planet, Brown got off to travel to South Africa to film Jars of Clay in concert. “I’m sure they’re going to make me look like the bad guy, but they weren’t hurting for people to come on board and crew.” It’s hard to believe Paul Watson will hold it against him.
Brown has had the opportunity to speak publicly, and, with his newfound fame from the Whale Wars series, one can bet those engagements will increase. “It’s great to get the kids riled up,” he said. “I was lucky enough to end up in a situation where I can really make a difference. People will get mad at you, people may even scream at you, but eventually the great middle ground will follow. I don’t think it’s a waste of time; if you’re passionate about something, do something about it. Take hold of an idea and don’t let it go – there is no turning back.” Brown offers a further word of advice for conservationists: “Stop bumping into the trees and try to save the forest. Once the oceans die, we’re next.”
Whale Wars airs Friday nights at 9pm on Animal Planet. Previous episodes are also available on Comcast OnDemand and on Hulu and on YouTube.
Ways You Can Help
1.Spreading The Word
A. go with some friends and create signs about dolphin slaughter and how we can stop it
B. Read info about dolphin slaughter and forward it to people you know
C. Be Creative and Find your Own Ways to Stop this Brutal Slaughter
A 1. Boycott Japanese Products until they stop dolphin slaughter
A 2 Boycott Cartoon shows as most cartoons come from Japan
C. Send letters to Japan or your governor/president/prime minister about this cause
Here is a letter that I created. Feel free to edit it or create your own. If you wish to just copy, paste, and send, just add your name and comments when said.
Every year, Japan slaughters thousands of dolphins and small whales in small towns. Send this letter to http://mail.google.com/mail/contacts/ui/ContactManager?js=RAW&m… stop this!
To Whom it May Concern,
We, the undersigned, are deeply saddened to hear that your country continues the dolphin slaughter. Every year, your country mercilessy slaughters thousands of dolphins each year. Sooner or later, dolphins will go extinct. Who can imagine the world without dolphins? Not to mention, the global ecosystem will collapse, then we will eventually starve. So, we can either seal our fate, and let our animals suffer, or we can stop and control our vile, stupid, but most of all selfish needs and prosper
I’m sure if you consider stopping dolphin slaughter, many more people will consider visiting your country. You can even host whale watching, instead of whale slaughter.
If you’re saying, “So what, who cares about a lousy dolphin,” picture this.
Close your eyes. Imagine your a dolphin calf. Now picture your mother being stabbed with spears, then hoisting her away from you. Then, you see your mother being carried off on a pick-up truck. Now, the hard part. You see men stabbing your mom, and then letting her slowy bleed and suffocate to death. Next, it’s your turn to be slaughtered. How would you feel?
As I like to say, We control the fate of all organisms on this planet, including plants. We can either destroy them, along with ourselves. Or, we can try to control ourselves and save them, and prosper.
“This is our world, it’s our chance. Lets make it right”
Thank you for taking the time to read this letter
your name here
I hope that we can stop this