Thursday, January 23, 2014

At This Point in Taiji Slaughter, All We Can Say Is: Shame On Japan

The dolphin fishers in Taiji, Japan, upped their annual slaughter of wild dolphins this year, after they rounded several hundred into a cove last week and then, over the past couple of days, have either placed them in captivity for display in aquariums and "swim with dolphin" facilities, or in the majority of cases, have killed them for their dubious meat.

From NBC News:

Japanese fishermen drove a large group of dolphins into the shallows on Tuesday and, hiding from reporters and TV cameras behind a tarpaulin, killed at least 30 as the annual dolphin hunt that sparked protest in the West entered its final stages.

Both the U.S. and British ambassadors to Japan have strongly criticized the "drive killings" of dolphins citing the "terrible suffering" inflicted on the marine mammals.

Every year the fishermen of Taiji, in western Wakayama prefecture, drive hundreds of dolphins into a cove, select some for sale to marine parks, release some and kill the rest for meat.

On Tuesday, at least 30 dolphins out of the group of more than 200 held in the cove since Friday were herded by boat engines and nets into a killing area of the Taiji cove.
Ric O'Barry, the founder of the campaign against the Taiji atrocity, was on CNN last night with Anderson Cooper. He goes into greater depth about what can be done here:

One of Japan's foremost defenders of the dolphins, our colleague Sakae Hemmi of the Elsa Nature Conservancy of Japan, submitted a letter a few weeks ago to Dr. Gerald Dick, Executive Director of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA), which includes as a member the Japan Association of Zoos and Aquariums (JAZA), one of whose members is Angel's captor, the Taiji Whale Museum.

Dr. Dick responded to Elsa stating that WAZA would not take action against the hunts: "As you know, in some Japanese communities these drives have been part of the culture for centuries."

This is nonsense, and Ms. Hemmi has replied to Dr. Dick with an open letter stating that: "In fact, the history of dolphin hunting in Taiji is short. According to The History of Taiji, edited and published by Taiji town in 1979, the first recorded dolphin drive was in 1933, with subsequent hunts occurring in 1936 and 1944. It was not until 1969 that dolphin drives have been conducted on a large scale. The history of the dolphin drives spans not so-called 400 years, but a mere 45. Furthermore, in 1969, the main goal of the dolphin drive was to capture pilot whales as prized showpieces for the Taiji Whale Museum. In other words, the dolphin drive was purely for profit, having nothing to do with cultural history."

Elsa and two other grassroots Japanese environmental organizations are asking WAZA, in their open letter, to eject JAZA members that violate the WAZA "Code of Ethics" in using the brutal hunts to catch dolphins for display, thereby subsidizing the slaughter of dolphins for meat.

Perhaps the strangest thing is that, in defending what they see as their honor, the Japanese traditionalists so fiercely rebuking their critics are only staining the honor and reputation of their nation in the eyes of the rest of the world by permitting this kind of slaughter of wild, free-roaming and highly intelligent/sentient animals.

It is not just the West that is horrified when we see the pictures coming out of Taiji now, such as those Tim Zimmerman has compiled at National Geographic. It is shameful by nearly any standard of basic decency, and it is past time that it ended.

Mimi Bekhechi at The Independent offers her thoughts:

This horrific massacre goes on for six months a year during which time more than 20,000 dolphins and small whales – including babies and their mothers – are corralled into shallow waters, disorientated with underwater sounds, run over in boats, netted, starved for days and then killed by having their throats cut with knives or by having metal spears driven into their spinal cords in front of their terrified families. Dolphins are so devoted to one another that even those who escape from the killing area have been known to linger nearby to wait for their family, even if that means being killed themselves.

It is commonly assumed that the Japanese fishermen hunting these highly sentient beings do so to supply a small minority of Japanese people with dolphin meat. But in fact, the Japanese government issues permits to kill dolphins in order to prevent them from consuming the fish in Japan’s surrounding oceans, which it prefers to reserve for human consumption.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Japan Proceeds With Largest Taiji Dolphin Massacre in Years

Watching yet another massacre of hundreds of dolphins -- and the capture and removal for aquarium display another hundred or more -- by Japanese captors in the town of Taiji is difficult to stomach. Those of us who have seen The Cove know what is going on behind their walled-off zone.

But they are by God intent on doing it anyway:

Japanese fishermen have finished killing some of the 250 dolphins trapped recently in what environmental activists claim was the biggest roundup they have witnessed in the last four years.

Sea Shepherd, best known for its anti-whaling activities, said the fishermen first selected 52 dolphins to keep alive for sale to aquariums and other customers. They included a rare albino calf and its mother.

Of the rest, about 40 were killed, one became stuck in a net and drowned, and the others were released, it said.

A video released on Tuesday by Sea Shepherd shows dozens of fishermen on boats surveying the dolphins after they were confined to a cove with nets. Divers can be seen holding the dolphins selected for sale and guiding them to nets hanging off the boats.

While other dolphins have been killed since the hunting season began in September, Sea Shepherd said the 250 herded into the cove last Friday represented the largest group it has seen since it began monitoring the hunt.

And their official excuses are disgusting and pitiful; utterly devoid of any ethical awareness:

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters at a news conference Monday that marine mammals including dolphins were "very important water resources."

"Dolphin fishing is one of traditional fishing forms of our country and is carried out appropriately in accordance with the law. Dolphin is not covered by the International Whaling Commission control and it's controlled under responsibility of each country."

Taiji mayor Kazutaka Sangen echoed the sentiments.

"We have fishermen in our community and they are exercising their fishing rights," he said. "We feel that we need to protect our residents against the criticisms."

Mostly, we have been hearing how these are just animals and not any different from, say, rounding up cows and pigs. That, of course, is baldfacedly untrue: We know that dolphins are highly sentient and intelligent animals, at least as intelligent as chimpanzees and gorillas.

And there's little doubt that if there were some benighted government somewhere in Africa that actively enabled people to hunt and slaughter chimpanzees and gorillas, they would be under pressure from animal ethicists around the world to end the practice.

Thank goodness that this year around, Caroline Kennedy was brave enough to stand up to the Japanese. They remained, predictably, defiant and unmoved, despite the growing stain on their national honor the hunt is coming to represent.

As Tim Zimmerman observes, there is at least the chance that economics will change these practices -- though the shift may move from slaughtering the dolphins to selling them live to aquariums around the world, including the United States:

In recent years, however, concern over mercury levels in dolphin meat has raised questions in Japan about the use of dolphin meat as a food source, especially in school lunches. And dolphin meat is no longer a primary source of food, reducing the practical value of the drive hunt as a food source.

At the same time, the sale of dolphins captured in the Taiji drive hunt for marine park display (via brokers such as the Taiji Whale Museum) appears to be a steadily growing profit source for the hunts. From 2000-2005, an average of 56 live dolphins annually were sold for captive display. From 2006-2012, the annual average has more than doubled to 137, with a total of 247 sold for captive display in 2012-2013, according to marine mammal advocacy groups.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

‘Doomsday Prepper’ Arrested on Gun Charges in Washington State

Tyler Smith seemed to want to stand out among his fellow “Doomsday Preppers” – at least, that was the impression the Buckley, Wash., man gave in his Nov. 12, 2013, appearance on the National Geographic TV series that examines the efforts of fearful survivalists to prepare for a possible social and economic meltdown. Unlike most of the show’s participants – who often seem eager to assure viewers that they intend no one any harm and their efforts are merely defensive in nature — Smith, a large 26-year-old man with close-cropped hair and a red goatee, seemed eager to strike fear into the audience.

“We’re not in it to stockpile,” he proclaimed in a segment that was used to promote the show. “We’re in it to take what you have, and there’s nothing you can do to stop us. We are your worst nightmare, and we are coming.”

It was language such as this that got the attention of local law-enforcement authorities – especially after they ascertained that Smith, who was featured firing all kinds of weapons he and his friends had stockpiled, in fact was a convicted felon forbidden to own or use weapons. He was arrested by Pierce County deputies on Wednesday.

Smith has two felonies on his record already: In 2009, court records show, Smith was caught fondling a 14-year-old girl in an Auburn parking lot and wound up pleading guilty to “communicating with a minor for immoral purposes.” In 2009, after failing to pay for a motorcycle he purchased, he pleaded guilty to first-degree theft in Pierce County.

Smith’s Doomsday Preppers episode was remarkable for his aggressive stance. Smith, like many far-right conspiracy theorists, believes a “series of domestic terrorism attacks” are going to force the government into a dictatorial military stance, at which point he believes society will break down. Unlike most of the show’s previous participants, he did not insist that his position was purely a defensive one.

Rather the opposite: He told the show’s producers that he only had a few months’ supplies for his family because he intended to aggressively assault his neighbors and steal their food and weapons caches.

“All your shiny ARs, your high powered.308 rifles, your 50,000 rounds of ammo, are all going to be ours,” he said on the show.

Smith’s apocalyptic fears were blended with violent fantasies about life after the great social breakdown. “When the shit hits the fan, the people that are gonna survive are the people who are prepared to do whatever it takes,” he is heard saying – just before a simulated scene showed Smith and cohorts invading a home, putting guns to the heads of people in their bedrooms and taping them up.

Smith tried hard to be incendiary. “Most preppers talk about how they’re afraid of the mass people that are going to come take their supplies,” he said. “We are those people. We are the people that are going to come kick your door in, take your supplies, and just leave you behind. And there is nothing you can really do about it. We are the marauders. We are your worst nightmare. And we are coming.”

Much of his energy in the program is devoted to constructing a homemade set of body armor. Smith told viewers what he intended to make: “My armor is going to protect my head, my chest and vital organs, it’s going to be lightweight and stronger than anything you can buy in the store,” he said.

“It’s gonna protect me day to day, and when I go out and I’m kicking doors down and I’m kicking in store windows. It’s also going to make me the apex predator in my area, and that’s all that matters.”

That “apex predator” was mostly seen roaming the Pierce County countryside in a rattle-trap old pickup and then piecing together some dubious-looking armor. At the show’s end, he persuaded his cousin to shoot him with a round from a .12-gauge shotgun in the armor as he wore it; it appeared to only deflect off the armor and away harmlessly, though the absence of shot-pellet spray from the round suggested it may have been only a blank in any event.

Smith was unabashed about his aggressive plans for taking other people’s stores: “My advice to any of you preppers out there is to keep on buying your ammo, keep on buying your guns, your food, your bulletproof vests, and all your camping equipment. Because we’ll be by shortly to take all of it.”

“His stated plan was not to defend himself but to use weapons he illegally possessed, to rob his neighbors at gunpoint,” Sheriff Paul Pastor said in a news release. “Did he really think that this wouldn’t attract our attention?”

Sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer said the Buckley man came to the department’s attention “by people all over the country bringing him to our attention.”

“Reality TV crashed into reality,” he said.

National Geographic issued a brief statement: “We are aware of the arrest, and have decided not to air this episode until all legal matters are sorted out.

One of the more remarkable segments of Smith’s “Doomsday Preppers” episode involved his preparations for conducting a Caesarean Section surgical operation on his pregnant wife in case the end of the world came before she could give birth. Smith can be seen, hunkered under a plastic tent, drawing a dotted line in the place where he believed the incision should be made and running an encased scalpel along it; notably, his wife did not seem so assured he would be able to pull off the operation.

According to the News Tribune, Smith first tried to claim that the filming had occurred before his 2009 convictions, though it occurred on a property he lived on afterwards. Moreover, the footage showing his pregnant wife had to have occurred afterwards as well, since she was not pregnant in 2009.

Cross-posted at Hatewatch.