Defending the hunting of dolphins? The mayor of the Japanese town of Taiji, made famous by the documentary “The Cove” has spoken out in defense of dolphin hunting.
Japan has been a lightning rod for criticism because of their hunting of dolphins and whales, animals that are considered “special” by many people.
No excuses or apologies
The Japanese Government seems unfazed by this criticism, and confrontations with the crew of the ship Sea Shepherd have failed to convince the Japanese to give up their whaling practices.
In addition to whaling, Japan has faced increased scrutiny of its dolphin hunting. The Oscar-winning 2009 documentary “The Cove” detailed the hunting of dolphins in a cove in Taiji. In addition to guerilla footage of the actual hunts, the film dealt with the risk to human health from the levels of mercury in dolphin meat.
Mayor Kazutaka Sangen cited the same tired justification of “tradition” when he defended the practice of herding dolphins into the cove and killing them one by one. And like a true politician, he seems more concerned with “standing up to pressure from foreigners” than he is to taking a moral stand.
Of course I abhor hunting dolphins, but the point in the debate that keeps catching my attention is one where I actually agree with Mayor Sangen: the idea that dolphins are “special” and therefore deserve special consideration or protection.
The star of The Cove, Ric O’Barry, believes that dolphins require protections because they “have a brain larger than the human brain. They’re self-aware, like people and like the great apes. They’re not fish, chicken, cows, pigs or other domesticated animals.” O’Barry stated this in June in Tokyo when The Cove premiered in Japan. Kazutaka Sangen however believes that dolphins are “no more special than other animals” according to the AP article.
Of course dolphins are smarter than most animals but judging a sentient being’s worth based on its intellectual capabilities is a slippery slope. Do we think of the mentally disabled as less human than the rest of us or less worthy of compassion?
A debate about the suffering of any animal should never be articulated in the context of the suffering of other animals. The way forward in the animal rights movement isn’t cherry-picking certain animals to deserve compassion and kindness while condoning the torture and murder of others. Dolphins deserve compassion because they are dolphins, not because they aren’t cows and chickens.
Any attempt to draw arbitrary lines in the animal kingdom with one side being of moral concern and the other not will only be counter productive to the movement as a whole.
“Compassion, in which all ethics must take root, can only attain its full breadth and depth if it embraces all living creatures and does not limit itself to mankind.” -Albert Schweitzer
Photo: Jesslee Cuizon