A View To A Kill

A recent survey reported in the UK’s The Guardian newspaper makes very interesting reading on a number of levels.  It was reporting on a survey carried out by the animal-rights lobby group The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) in regards to the Japanese’s attitude to whaling and the consumption of whale products.  The poll was commissioned and undertaken by the Nippon Research Centre - a total of 1,200 people were surveyed aged 15 to 79 across all geographical areas in the country.

The survey found that 26.8% of people agreed with Japan's hunting of about 900 whales each year whilst 18.5% opposed the hunts - the rest were undecided.  Of those polled 88.8% had not bought whale meat in the past 12 months.  The IFAW tried hard to make a positive spin on this last statistic by declaring in a press briefing: "The people of Japan are taking whale meat off the menu”.  But as always this issue is far more complex and the poll seems actually to suggest a total failure on the part of the animal-rights and environmental lobby to persuade the Japanese to stop hunting whales – which also should include the smaller cetaceans such as dolphins.

The question to be asked is why this has happened after years of lobbying and one answer could be that the lobbyists, particularly the animal-rights groups, have produced confusing and mixed messages not helped by a rabid opposition to perhaps a huge and potential allay in the guise of the international zoological display community.

Perhaps one of the most insidious examples of misdirection by the lobbyists was the “award winning” 2009 film The Cove.  Whilst certainly not the first to reveal the dolphin and whale drive hunts in Japan, the film renewed and galvanise public opinion on the matter.  

Some excellent data on the drive hunts can be found HERE.

However, it did unfortunately spend a large amount of time side-tracking away from the bloody killing of the dolphins and small whales driven into the cove to highlight the small number of animals that escape death by being selected for sale to mainly Asian aquariums and parks.  Reviewing any press release or web page produced by the many and various groups lobbying against the drive hunt one could be forgiven to think that live-capture was the primary objective of the hunt not food or “pest control” (as some local fisherman have called it).  This despite many zoos and aquariums having made clear position statements against the hunts in the past

More details of this debate can be found HERE.

It is not, of course, any small chance that one of the primary movers and shakers in the The Cove was former 1960’s dolphin trainer and now animal-rights activist Ric O’Barry whose anti-captive agenda over-arched the film to such an extent that the real tragedy of the hunting of these thousands of animals was a foot-note to his (and the producers) erroneous claims that the objective driving the slaughter was the “aquarium industry”.  This despite the fact that the hunt has been undertaken for hundreds of years with the issue of acquiring animals for captive displays relatively a new phenomena only a couple of decades old.  Is it no wonder that the central message - the bloody killing of thousands of animals - has become lost to the general public in Japan and elsewhere in pursuit of an anti-captive agenda by the animal-rights industry

In 1992, the BBC Nature programme presented a programme featuring the whale hunts and an investigation by the environmental group the The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA).  They wanted to discover what actually was happen to whale meat in Japan. 

Their conclusions were very different from the conclusion of the recent survey by IFAW.  They found that whale meat consumption was not high but this was due to the sheer expense of the product with the general Japanese public only consuming it in any quantities when it was place of special offer.  Perhaps more alarming was the fate of the small whales and dolphins killed in the various drive fisheries which their undercover investigation revealed were being sold as “whale meat”.  During the course of the programme alternative revenue generation and public education to the merits of cetaceans as living natural resources was explored and the subject of whale watching was discussed.  Interestingly, this included not only coastal watching by boat but also the observation of animals with zoological collections - a point now so vilified by operators and supporters of the animal-rights industry. 

It seems things really have not changed since the 1990’s for the animals killed each year in drive hunts except for the few who may find their way into an aquarium or zoo.   It could be suggested that it would be a bit more logical if those who sincerely want to see an end to drive hunts should actually focus on the realities of the issues rather than get side-tracked into the personal agendas of a small but influential  groups of animal-rights activist with personal axes the grind regarding cetceans in captive care which if actually banned tomorrow would not stop the drive hunt slaughter and could (by depriving some people direct contact with animals in zoos and aquariums) take away one of the avenues of direct communication needed to make a difference to thousands of animal butchered annually in Japan.