On average, the small fishing village of Taiji, Japan, contributes about 1,500 of the 20,000 dolphins that Tokyo allows killed during its annual dolphin hunt.
Opposition to this year’s hunt is fierce after the 2009 release of the Academy Award-winning movie “The Cove,” which depicts the round up and violent slaughter of the sea creatures off the coast of Taiji.
Ric O’Barry, former dolphin trainer for the 1960s TV series “Flipper” and star of “The Cove,” accumulated more than 1.7 million signatures on a petition sent to the U.S. embassy, urging the U.S. government to pressure Japanese officials into ending the hunt.
Opponents to the hunt, while sincere, lack a respect and understanding of Japanese cultural tradition and, most importantly, fail to recognize the ideological bias that colors their opposition.
Dolphins are a treasured aspect of Florida’s wildlife and tourism industries and act as a cultural staple in movies, television and other forms of mass media in the U.S and throughout the world.
Opposition is understandable for those who have been socialized in an environment that prizes dolphins for everything but their meat. Cultures vary to an immeasurable degree, and many in Japan simply do not see dolphins in the same way.
Many countries, including the U.S., do not rely heavily on food from the sea. Billions of animals are slaughtered every year in the U.S., among those are 35 million cattle, which are used to make American food icons like cheeseburgers, meatballs and tacos.
In Brahmin Hindu culture, cattle are considered sacred and are not slaughtered for their meat.
Despite this, Americans still rightly consume beef because its culinary traditions shouldn’t be determined by the opinions of other nations’ citizens.
Japan is surrounded by water and does not possess the wide-open and often sparsely populated land that characterizes much of the U.S. In order to live, Japan must obtain food and nutrients from the only other possible source – the sea.
Untold numbers of inhabitants of the Japanese islands have grown up with little sympathy for the creatures they eat on a daily basis.
It’s unreasonable to expect its people to come to the same ethical conclusions as other countries absent the same cultural and historical experiences.
Opponents such as vegans and animal rights’ activists, who fiercely oppose consuming meat and, thus, the dolphin hunt, hold an ideological conviction that may forever inhibit their tolerance of the Japanese practice.
However, those who oppose the hunt solely because of the nature of the prey are hypocritical not to reflect on their own lack of empathy toward the animals they consume before demonizing Taiji’s 400-year-old practice, which sustains its economy and way of life.