The small Japanese town of Taiji made infamous in The Cove began its annual dolphin hunt today. Filmmaker and dolphin advocate Ric O’Barry won’t be there, though, because he’s been threatened by Japanese nationalist groups. So instead, Barry’s staying in Tokyo. Today he staged a protest at a Tokyo hotel and delivered a 1.7 million signature petition to end the hunt to the US Embassy. Not to be outdone, Sea Shepherd is calling for any dolphin supporters to go immediately to Taiji: otherwise, the organization says, activists aren’t doing enough. But is Taiji really the right place to go? The town of 3,400 in Wakayama prefecture kills around 2,000 dolphins a year. Iwate prefecture up north kills approximately five times as many dolphins as Taiji.
For all O’Barry and Sea Shepherd’s work, the dolphin hunt (and whaling) isn’t likely to end soon, the Taiji mayor told the AP. “We will pass down the history of our ancestors to the next generation, preserve it. We have a strong sense of pride about this,” mayor Kazutaka Sangen said. Speaking of history, activists have been so (understandably) blindsided by the cruelty and atrociousness of dolphin and whale slaughter that they’ve forgotten it was only after WWII that Japanese consumption of whale and dolphin meat increased. Gen. Douglas MacArthur was the one who helped Japan set up whaling fleets so Japan could feed people who were facing starvation during the American occupation. It’s no surprise that more than a million people around the world want the brutal Taiji dolphin hunt to stop. Who wouldn’t? But Japan is a society that highly values respect, tact, and diplomacy. I can’t say that I’m sure American activists will get what they want by using their highly public, confrontational tactics.