Friday 24 January 2014

Is The Taiji Drive Hunt a Tradition ?? - No It Definately Is Not !!

Bottlenose dolphins from 250+ Drive trying to escape the Taiji killers
January 2014

After the worldwide condemnation of the Taiji Drive hunt in the International press, with statements released from Ambassador Caroline Kennedy, UK's Tim Hitchen, Germany's Hans-Peter Friedrichs and now Italy's Domenico Giorg   and celebrities such as Yoko Ono who published an open letter to the People of Taiji, the Japanese officials started to respond.

Japanese officials and others were surprised that a diplomat from an ally would lash out at a traditional cultural food. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters at a news conference Monday that marine mammals, including dolphins, were "very important water resources."

Taiji Mayor Kazutaka Sangen said Kennedy is attacking ordinary fishermen.
"We have fishermen in our community and they are exercising their fishing rights," he said. "We feel that we need to protect our residents against the criticisms."

A State Department official who asked not to be named because it is against policy to discuss the matter publicly said Kennedy proposed issuing her statement last week. The final wording of her tweet was the result of collaboration between Kennedy and other embassy officials and reflects official U.S. policy, the official said.

The full report can be read here. 

A Taiji official stated that Caroline Kennedy should go and see the hunt and the 'humane' killing for herself, (read here)  I personally wish she would do that taking a camera crew with her, ensuring everyone can see why they feel the need to keep their tradition so hidden from view. If is is humane then surely there is no issue here!

On the 23rd January 2014, Prime Minister Abe himself responded to questions about the drive hunt, that statement can be seen here 

Comments from the Prime Minister of Japan's Facebook page show why the majority of Japanese people would feel afraid to speak out against the hunt although when you look through the post there are only around 6 people actually trying to turn the posts into arguments, so again their view is worthless.
 The few brave people who do protest in their own country state there are many who do not want this in Japan. Maybe the Officials should listen instead of imposing their will those days of not being able to speak out are long gone despite some trying to perpetuate them.

Japanese activists protesting at the Ministry of Fisheries.
They shouted 'we do not need Dolphin meat, we do not need Dolphin Slaughter.
A speaker spoke out thanking Caroline Kennedy and said the Japanese Government
should consider most people are opposing the slaughter.
There are a few recurring themes in the Taiji, Wakayama and Japanese protests and these are the issues I would like to address.

1.  "Isn't it inhumane to kill millions of cows, chickens sheep and pigs for consumption?"

Yes it probably is, but bear in mind Japanese people eat them too, so the hypocrisy the officials complain about is really coming against themselves, as they also kill and eat millions of these creatures in addition to the dolphins. The difference is the cows, chickens, sheep, pigs, etc are domestically bred for the meat market now, abattoirs are monitored and run under strict regulations, one of which it is inhumane to kill an animal in front of another due to the mental anguish it would cause.

In comparison to the drive hunt, the dolphins are wild and free roaming, they do not have Japanese passports, do not belong to Japan and the watching world does not actively hunt and drive livestock as the people of Taiji do. The animals are not captured for Aquariums to display, which causes them untold stress as they have to be altered into dead fish eaters which they never were initially, nor is the killing humane, dolphins have been seen thrashing long after the spike has been driven into them, and they are killed along side other family members who are waiting to be either killed themselves or be taken into captivity.

Sign posted by Taiji fishermen in Taiji, Japan

There is no comparison what so ever between domestically bred livestock and wild caught dolphins, and despite that stating that fact is just a deflection as the issue isn't about the killing habits of other countries, it is about the killing of dolphins in the Taiji Cove.

2. "The drive hunt is a traditional fishery that was established long before the foundation of the United States of America,"

According to The History of Taiji, edited and published by Taiji town in 1979, the first recorded dolphin drive was in 1933, with subsequent hunts occurring in 1936 and 1944. It was not until 1969 that dolphin drives have been conducted on a large scale. The history of the dolphin drives spans not so-called 400 years, but a mere 45. Furthermore, in 1969, the main goal of the dolphin drive was to capture pilot whales as prized showpieces for the Taiji Whale Museum. In other words, the dolphin drive was purely for profit, having nothing to do with cultural history.”

The town of Taiji has changed since the days of tradition as did many other traditional whaling towns across the globe. Japan had many whaling towns but as with the rest of the world, these towns closed their whaling business's yet still survive. Most whaling towns from across the globe are now like this

The settlement at Grytviken was established on November 16, 1904,
by the Norwegian sea captain Carl Anton, now closed down.

Only the officials of Taiji seem to think they have a right to claim the dolphin killing as traditional.  For a long time the town of Taiji was cut off from the rest of Japan and was extremely difficult to get to across land. Now, of course there is an efficient rail service, and a road, yet still Taiji looks out to sea, and one is never long out of sight of the broad Pacific.

Also needing to be remembered is in the early days in Japan the killing of four-legged animals was forbidden by religion, so the rich red meat of the whale was a prize indeed.This tradition of not killing four legged animals seems to be one the Taiji officials seem to have pushed to one side seeing as they now do eat 4 legged animals but you cannot claim one tradition and dump another!

In the old days, the best cuts of meat were sent by ship to the Imperial Court in Kyoto, to the Shogun's Palace in Edo, to the Tokugawa castle at Wakayama, and to Lord Mizuno, Daimyo of Shingu. Meat was also sent to the busy markets of Osaka, Nagoya, and Ise. Neighboring villages also bought or traded goods for the valuable delicacy of whale meat, and still there would be enough meat left over to feed the seven hundred or so men and their families who were employed by the whaling business of Taiji when it was at its peak.

Meat, for human consumption, was the most valuable portion of the whale, but nothing was wasted. As in the West, blubber was rendered into oil, the uses of which were many indeed. Whale oil lighted the lamps of Japan too, but besides lamps, the oil was mixed with vinegar to make a highly effective pesticide for use in the rice paddies. This oil-vinegar mixture was perfectly biodegradable, and killed off only harmful pests, with no ill effects on the edible loaches and small clams that abounded in the rice paddies of Tokugawa Japan.

Oil-rich bones were sawed up and cooked. After this first cooking they were smashed into pieces by hammers and cooked again. These bones provided excellent fertilizer, and more oil. This fertilizer was of such great value that merchants came from distant parts of Japan to make bids for its purchase.
Sinews were carefully cut out from the bone and meat, and when dried they were sold to instrument makers, armor makers and so forth. The baleen (erroneously called 'whale bone' in the West) found even more uses than it did in fashion-conscious America and Europe. It was used in myriad ways, from the tips of fine fishing rods, to beautifully polished plates, and the springs that worked the mouths of the 'bunraku' puppets.

Even the entrails were cut, washed and boiled, and were used in miso soup, or broiled on charcoal. Absolutely nothing was wasted.

As the town if Taiji was isolated this was the way they lived, in the same way as the other whaling towns in the world.

Taiji whaling was highly ritualized. Most positions were hereditary, and the industry and hierarchy was extremely complex. Each boat of the whaling fleet was brilliantly decorated with various motifs, and banded with distinct colors so that even at a distance they could be identified. Each boat had its position and function in the fleet. The fastest and most beautiful were the high-powered 'seko-bune' or chase boats, slender vessels with their black hulls lacquered for extra speed, and manned by fifteen men. At the height of the Taiji whaling there were as many as twenty-five 'seko-bune'. Then came the heavier 'Ami-bune' or net boats, whose job was to lay the double semicircle of nets in the path of the whale. The broad-beamed 'moso-bune' were used for the final securing and lancing of the stricken whale, which, once dead, would be towed to shore between two of these boats, secured by ropes under the belly and suspended from two stout beams of wood slung from boat to boat. There were also small boats which would retrieve pieces of equipment lost in the water during the hunt.
The fleet was directed from lookout points on shore, which were also in contact with the beach-master. They relayed his orders, as well as the sightings and movements of whales, by the means of various pennants, by signal sticks (a kind of semaphore), by smoke signal and by the notes of conch shell trumpets. They had a special flag a black and white 3 pennant flag which stopped the hunt should a female and calf be spotted.

Despite all the ritualized tradition the whalers had 2 sayings

 The first is easy to understand - "A whale on the beach means wealth for seven villages."

The second saying provides indisputable proof that what goes on in Taiji's Cove right now is definitely not traditional nor is it their culture.

 "Even in a dream, look not upon a right whale and her calf."

 Why? Well, firstly, there is a wealth of stories in Taiji to indicate that they held the female whale, especially a pregnant or mother whale in great awe. Even the whaler's song show this. The second reason is that the whalers were fully aware that little whales needed their mothers, and would die without them, and that to kill small whales was foolish. The third reason was that a female right whale, normally a docile creature, would fight with fury if she had a calf.

As the year of 1878 dragged into winter the beach-master or 'Ami-moto' was getting desperate. At that time there were two hereditary leaders in Taiji. One was Taiji Kakuemon, who ran the business operations, and the other was his relative, Wada Kinemon, the advisory head. On December 24, 1878, after a bleak, poverty-ridden period of poor catches, a big female right whale and her calf were spotted by the lookouts. The triple black and white pennant was raised and the whalers momentarily relaxed, for the whalers knew that a female and her calf were not to be hunted. It was late afternoon, and for a successful hunt, a whale would have to be killed and secured before nightfall.
At the beach , the two leaders argued. Kakuemon insisted that the village needed a whale, and needed one before the New Year. Kinemon said no, it was not their custom to hunt a female with calf, and that bad things would befall them if they broke this rule.
Nevertheless, Kakuemon gave the order to hunt, and as the red signals went up and the conches blew from the lookouts, the surprised whalers jumped to their long sculling oars and the gaudy, sleek boats darted forward. The whale was enmeshed and harpooned, but she fought with great fury, and dragged the boats out to sea. Cold winds were blowing from the shore and the men became cold and exhausted. It got dark. By morning the fleet was scattered, and no matter how hard the men in the boats attempting to tow the whale struggled at their oars, the winds, current, cold and the sheer size of the whale was too much for them. Finally, in tears, they cut the whale loose. The storm grew worse.
Within a few days, the cream of the Taiji whalers, and the best of their boats, had been swept far out to sea and had died from exposure or drowning. Some drifted as far as the seven islands of Izu. Estimates of the death roll vary from 111 to 130 men killed. Only a handful survived. Taiji Kakuemon, in his grief, gave his entire family estate to the bereaved families, and eventually left Taiji for good. The village was plunged into an awful depression, and many young men left for foreign shores, for Hawaii, California, Canada, Mexico. Many of the dances, skills and sea lore of the whalers died with those men who chased the taboo female, and although there were attempts over the next two decades to rebuild the net whaling fleet, they had small success.

If the drive hunts were tradition, based on traditional beliefs, then mothers and calves would not be hunted. Pregnant mothers would not be hunted, and in the traditional way the boats would not even set off if a calf was seen.

One Taiji man, returning from the United States with learned skills as a gunsmith, developed a five barreled harpoon gun for hunting small whales. This gun, still used today in Taiji, was then developed to a three-barreled gun, and was found to be quite effective. The village survived.

In 1905 the Imperial Navy fought the Russian at the Battle of Tsushima, winning the greatest naval victory ever. One small result of this battle was that Taiji got a small Russian warship, the 'Nikolai'. She was refitted, and a 90-millimeter Svenn Foyn whaling cannon was mounted on the bow. Three Norwegians, Larsen, Bungen and Olaf, came to live in Taiji and hunt the blue and fin whales. By now the Norwegian methods of whaling had spread all over the world. Indeed, their techniques had been very successfully employed at Senzaki since 1899. Taiji saw new life in whaling.

By 1934, when Japan entered the Antarctic to whale, using an ex-Norwegian factory ship which was renamed the 'Tonan Maru', it was Taiji men who made up a large part of the expedition members. But other writers have written about the rise and fall of the Antarctic whaling. One or two have been unbiased. However, from Taiji men I hear first-hand stories of great hardship, of loneliness and courage, of parties and jokes and mishaps, of depression and suicide. The one thing that all of them stress is that they hunted for whale meat to feed Japan.  They were out in the Arctic continuing their whaling NOT in the Cove of Taiji.

The 1970s saw the beginning of the global anti-whaling movement. In 1972 the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment at Stockholm adopted a proposal that recommended a ten-year moratorium on commercial whaling to allow whale stocks to recover. The reports of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species in 1977 and 1981 identified many species of whales as being in danger of extinction. At the same time, a number of non-whaling and anti-whaling states began to join the IWC and eventually gained a majority over the whaling nations. Some countries who were previously major whaling forces, like the United States, became strong proponents of the anti-whaling cause. These nations called for the IWC to reform its policies and to incorporate newly discovered scientific data regarding whales in its proposed regulations.  Japan, Norway, Peru, and the Soviet Union (later replaced by Russia) lodged formal objections, since the moratorium was not based on advice from the Scientific Committee. Japan and Peru later withdrew their objections (Japan's withdrawal was precipitated by the US threatening to reduce their fishing quota within US waters if the objection was not withdrawn. However, by 1988 the US had eliminated Japanese fishing quotas anyway. It was after this that the Japanese began scientific whaling.

As the moratorium applies only to commercial whaling, whaling under the scientific-research and aboriginal-subsistence provision is still allowed. However, environmental groups dispute the claim of research "as a disguise for commercial whaling, which is banned." The Japanese government argues that the refusal of anti-whaling nations to accept simple head counts of whale population as a measure of recovery of whale species justifies its continuing studies on sex and age of population distributions, and further points out that IWC regulations specifically require that whale meat obtained by scientific whaling not go to waste. Japan, on the other hand, has raised objections to U.S. aboriginal subsistence whaling, generally seen to be in retaliation to anti-whaling nation's (including the US's) objections to aboriginal subsistence whaling for several Japanese fishing communities, which traditionally hunted whales until the imposition of the moratorium.

This large whale hunting is where the Taiji Offocials try to mix up these regulations with those of the drive hunt. It wasn't until this point in history that the drive hunt started, as Japan saw a loophole in the whaling ban where it did not cover small toothed whales i.e. dolphins and porpoises. So the drive hunt was born as it had no cover from the IWC.

 The Japanese town of Taiji  is as of now the only town in Japan where drive hunting still takes place on a large scale. In the town of Futo the last known hunt took place in 2004. In 2007 Taiji wanted to step up its dolphin hunting programs, approving an estimated 330 million for the construction of a massive cetacean slaughterhouse in an effort to popularize the consumption of dolphins in the country. This was soon thrown out as although Mayor Sangen tried to get dolphin onto the school menu in an attempt to up the market it was soon taken off due to the health risks it might impose.  Mayor Sangen has also shown his support for the capture and transfer of live dolphins which he definitely cannot claim as tradition, and even at one time announced his plan to capture orcas and send them to Dalian and Beijing for more "scientific research" to improve relations between Japan and China. He expects that the governments of the two countries will permit and support this orca-trade.

Futo also were involved in the drive hunt business. Prior to the hunts being abandoned, reports suggest the work of these fishermen was proving increasingly difficult. To deflect attention away from the drive hunts, Japan's Fisheries Agency directed the Futo fishermen to conceal the 'unsavory' aspects of the hunts from public view, requiring them to screen off Futo's harbor where the dolphins were being killed or to kill the dolphins offshore. Reports suggest both requirements would have made the hunts unprofitable and in the latter case would have endangered the fishermen's lives.
Furthermore, after 1999, it was considered too expensive to send out 'spotter' boats to look for dolphins so the hunts could only be conducted opportunistically when dolphins were seen from a fishing boat already out at sea, or if they passed within sight of shore.
 Before the revival of the hunts in 2004, fueled by the demand for live captures, all these factors resulted in a reduction in hunting to the point of abandonment. In Taiji, the trend is similar. Of the 550 members of the Taiji Fishing Cooperative, only 26 maintain the right to hunt dolphins, and only 13 boats have a license to conduct the hunts. In addition, the price of dolphin meat has also significantly dropped in recent years, possibly due to an increase in meat from the expanded scientific whaling programme for large whales, but also perhaps due to fears over adverse human health effects. Reports from the ground suggest the demand for dolphin meat is down.

 There is more evidence that demonstrates the increased focus of the drive hunts on obtaining live animals for display by the aquarium industry. A memo circulated by Japan's Cetacean Conference on Zoological Gardens and Aquariums in August 2005 and written by the conference's Executive Secretary asked aquarium directors to complete a questionnaire to determine the extent to which aquaria want to display Pacific white-sided dolphins, a species not currently targeted by drive hunts, so the results could be used to justify a permit application for their capture at Taiji. The memo also referred to the need for discussion between fishermen and aquaria to only capture dolphins wanted for captivity. Taiji's plans to expand its use of small whales and dolphins, a five-year “Community Development Plan by Whale People using Whales,” has been approved by the Japanese Government under Japan's Local Revitalization Law, which entered into force in April 2005, this should have ended in 2010.

Shinzo Abe, the Japanese officials, the officials of Taiji and the Fishermen cannot claim something as a tradition, when dolphin and small cetacean hunting has only recently been introduced since the IWC banned whaling and I would challenge any Taiji official to say otherwise based on their own traditional beliefs.

 3. Criticizing these activities and inflaming the public through incorrect and wrongful information is just imposing one-sided values on others.

This is simple to answer in not many words. The information is not incorrect, despite what Shinzo Abe has to say, the drive hunts are far from humane as many of the pictures and videos show.  Nor is a display of anger against cruelty a one sided value.

Striped dolphin fighting for life, Fall, 2013

Taiji fishermen deliberately run over the dolphins with their propellers.
 250+ Bottlenose Dolphin 5 day horror,  January 2104

There is no compassion for this baby Risso's dolphin as it's mother was slaughtered
and the baby is driven back out to sea to starve.
No mercy will be shown to this dolphin as she tries to escape through the net.

This is not tradition, it never has been, traditional whaling ended in many countries long ago, only Taiji supported by the Japanese officials continue with their futile attempts to claim that it is.

Ric O'Barry made a film called The Cove which shows the drive hunt as it was and how the fishermen especialy 'Private Space' behaves. You can watch the film here 

These articles were taken from earlier posts on the CCSBTS Facebook page

Please read more about this tragic story of the 250+ dolphin pod with a baby albino dolphin that happened over 5 days:
Day 1 - Dolphin Drive Captures 250+ Dolphins Plus Baby Albino
Day 2 - First Day of Captive Selection:
Day 2 - Baby Albino Dolphin, Angel, is Taken First into Captivity
Day 3 - Horrific Second Day of Captive Selection
Day 4 - 3rd Day of Captive Selection
Day 5 - The slaughter of 40 of the remaining dolphins who have survived so far and release and drive back out to sea of the exhausted, injured, traumatized and starving dolphins.


  1. Please sign & share:

  2. Capturing dolphins for my new dolphinarium was such a challenge until I found the Tajii people . . . they make it so easy! All you have to do is point to the one you want! I feel for every dolphin I buy from them it is one less dolphin that is butchered.

  3. Unknown,😕Captivity for wild dolphins is just as bad as slaughtering them for their meat.