Georgina Guedes

Why the dolphin killing should stop

2014-01-23 08:40

Georgina Guedes

There are some rationalisations for the slaughter of dolphins at Taiji Cove, Georgina Guedes isn’t buying most of them.

I have never been able to bring myself to watch The Cove, the documentary released in 2009 that highlighted the annual hunting and killing of dolphins in the Taiji cove in Japan.

I have seen dolphins in aquariums, watched them in movies and experienced the thrill of seeing them surfing through the waves in the wild, and I have a soft spot for them. Because of this, the idea of watching them being killed is extremely upsetting to me.

So this year, when the annual Taiji capture and slaughter took place, and made headlines, I was again upset. It’s not nice to think of dolphins being killed. It’s also unpleasant to contemplate the violent death of dogs, horses or monkeys – all animals with which human beings have a special relationship.

The problem the world has

That’s the crux of the problem that the world has with the Taiji killings. We like dolphins. They’re sweet, playful, they have sophisticated family relationships, they care for their young. The idea of them being killed or separated from their offspring is terribly upsetting.

Like the rest of the world, I hate that the Taiji fishermen kill those dolphins. I hate that a similar slaughter of pilot whales happens in Denmark’s Faroe Islands. Why do we have to live in a world where such terrible things happen to such beautiful creatures?

But, at the same time, I understand the argument from the other side. We bump off less beautiful creatures like cows and sheep without batting an eyelid (although, truth be told, I wouldn’t want to watch a video of that either). The fact that those animals have been bred and raised for slaughter doesn’t make much of a difference from the cow’s perspective.

This isn’t culture worth upholding

The argument that the killing of dolphins is part of the Taiji fishermen’s culture holds less water for me. I discount any “it’s our culture” argument that results in harm to another living creature without any other good reasons to back it up.

I once saw a poster encouraging the preservation of the Laotian art of ox sterilization, which basically involved smashing the male ox’s testicles with a mallet. This isn’t really necessary or kind, so I certainly didn’t speak out in support to that movement.

Essentially, if it’s your culture to run naked down your street at full moon, go right ahead. If it’s your culture to rip the heads off kittens, I’m probably going to have a go at you.

I’m also sceptical of the “culture” excuse when the capturing process involves divers and motor boats.

The other arguments

However, the Taiji dolphins also represent an important revenue stream for the local fishermen. The dolphins are sold as meat, and the best looking ones are sold into amusement parks and aquariums. The entertainment of humans, in itself, is not a particularly good reason for herding and catching wild animals.

And interestingly, while whale and dolphin meat is considered to be a delicacy in Japan, health authorities are now warning the public that this food now contains unacceptably high levels of mercury. Another blow to the ongoing culture of consuming this meat.

While, on a personal level, I abhor the slaughter of the dolphins in Taiji, I accept some of the rationalisations for the continuation of the practice.

However, when you take into account that the fishing culture isn’t really being upheld, that dolphins are intelligent and social animals, that their meat isn’t healthy and that they are being sold to aquariums, it seems that there are better arguments to discontinue the killings than to keep them going.

- Georgina Guedes is a freelance writer. You can follow @georginaguedes on Twitter.

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