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ANIMAL RIGHTS

US ambassador Kennedy draws nationalist ire with tweet condemning Japan dolphin slaughter

Ambassador Caroline Kennedy faces heat from nationalist groups for speaking out against 'inhumane' practice, as fishermen in Taiji prepare to kill 250 dolphins for a traditional cull

PUBLISHED : Monday, 20 January, 2014, 5:55pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 January, 2014, 7:04am
 

A Twitter message condemning the annual slaughter of hundreds of dolphins in a bay in southern Japan by Caroline Kennedy, the US ambassador to Tokyo, has attracted widespread criticism from conservative groups in Japan.

In a message on the social media site on Saturday, ambassador Kennedy said she was "deeply concerned by inhumaneness of drive hunt dolphin killing".

Her comments coincided with local fishermen herding a pod of more than 250 dolphins into a small bay close to the town of Taiji, including infant dolphins and a rare albino calf, according to the US conservation group Sea Shepherd, which is monitoring the cull.

The majority of the dolphins will be slaughtered and the meat will go for human consumption or into pet food. A few of the mammals will be sold to marine parks.

The annual slaughter gained international notoriety with the release of the documentary The Cove, which won the Academy Award for the best documentary in 2010.

"The ambassador's tweet was not specific to the situation at Taiji, but it was clearly related to the events that are going on there at the moment," a source at the US Embassy in Tokyo told the South China Morning Post.

"The responses to the tweet in English have been overwhelmingly supportive and have come from all around the world," she said, adding that the message has been shared more than 1,000 times.

The messaged translated into Japanese has also been shared around 1,000 times, but the reactions have been different. The message was seized upon by the "net uyoku" - nationalist groups that take it upon themselves to police the internet in search of comments that they consider to be critical of Japan, its customs and actions and then summon like-minded net users to attack the original message.

"They have been quite organised in the way they have responded to the tweet," she said.

Fishermen, on a boat with their fresh kill, navigate blood-filled waters in the coastal town of Taiji in Japan's Wakayama prefecture, the site of a yearly dolphin cull. Photo: AP

One poster added a poem that emphasised how delicious dolphin meat is, while several others compared consuming beef or lamb with dolphin and said that Westerners are hypocritical for condemning the traditional hunt.

The embassy spokesperson agreed that was a valid argument, but added that the ambassador's message was about the inhumane way in which the panic-stricken dolphins are first herded into a small space before being killed.

The official said the US embassy was closed for a national holiday on Monday but she anticipated more comments to come from conservative groups in the following days.

Yoichi Shimada, a professor at Japan's Fukui Prefectural University, said the tradition of killing dolphins has been going on for centuries and because the dolphins consume the sea life that local fishermen rely on, the matter is "a life-or-death problem".

"Many Japanese are sympathetic towards the local fishermen and they argue that Westerners eat baby cows and sheep, so it is wrong to only blame the fishermen," he added.

"I do not believe that Ambassador Kennedy knows much about the history of these arguments," he added. "And she has the right to raise the issue, but just putting out messages on Twitter or Facebook is inappropriate.

"There are a limited number of words that can be used on a Twitter message and it is impossible to truly debate a matter such as this," he added.

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This article is now closed to comments

dunndavid
"I do not believe that Ambassador Kennedy knows much about the history of these arguments," Actually Caroline Kennedy flirted with the idea of running for Senator from New York where it was quickly demonstrated that Caroline Kennedy doesn't know much about anything.
alfanivelo.foo
Australian hunts dolphins -> pic.twitter.com/Jw3XHPbFWw Canadian hunts dolphins -> pic.twitter.com/mflsUl4KJD Your fellow Americans hunt dolphins -> pic.twitter.com/ZUr4pGK5dw Peruvian hunts dolphins -> pic.twitter.com/VVxGLdtwia Indonesian hunts dolphins -> pic.twitter.com/LSPgkm3N81
@CarolineKennedy Any words?
raglan
The dolphin meat is likely radioactive.....
MiamiFloridaUSA
Information on what's driving dolphin killing in Japan: ****www.msnbc.com/newsnation/watch/hundreds-of-dolphins-hunted-in-japan-123614275922
MiamiFloridaUSA
It's sad that the Japanese can't take criticism. Here are some facts: Many Americans don't eat animals or animal products. It's pure hyperbole for anyone to claim that killing dolphins is a matter of life and death for the Japanese. It's foolish for anyone to support dolphin killing in the name of tradition. Some traditions should be eliminated because they're cruel, like slavery and dolphin killing. The Japanese should ask themselves how many people are boycotting travel to Japan or boycotting Japanese products because they kill dolphins.
ngsw
Imaging the panic and mental torture on those dolphins seeing and hearing the pains oh their folks being killed, I would rather be the one first to be killed if I were one of the dolphins in the herd. How cruel? The dolphins are second in intelligence behind human.
helen.tamsemmens
This horror is definitely NOT Japanese tradition. My Japanese friends cringe at such lie.
"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. Since 1969 a close relationship began building between the drive hunt and aquaria as financial activities."
Japanese politicians should not lie to their own people, saying that it is tradition. Shintoism which respects nature and the spirit in all things including whales and dolphins IS Japanese tradition. Buddhism which calls for compassion toward all sentient beings IS Japanese tradition.
Follow your real traditions, Japan! My Japanese friends are all kind and naturally oppose this!
stephanie.neimiller
One additional note, the vast majority of Japanese people don't even know this is happening, due to control of the media. For example, the downloadable version of "The Cove" CANNOT be downloaded within Japan. It is blocked. Furthermore, the presence of high mercury levels contained in the dolphin meat is also not public knowledge. This important piece of information is not told to the Japanese people and denied heavily, but is well documented and tracked by one of Japan's leading scientists. In fact it is also documented that most dolphin meat sits and rots. So come on Officials in Japan - stop the madness and stop lying. Next you're going to talk to us about your "research" project in Antartica that calls for killing whales in the protected area.
stephanie.neimiller
It's NOT about tradition. Japan Fisheries Union and their spokes people seem to want to rewrite history to suit their greedy needs. Let's try and set the record straight. News reports from 1980 document that the dolphin hunt that we see in Taiji actually began in the late 1970s in the town of Iki. At that time, the fishermen believed that dolphins were hurting their fisheries, and hunted them to exterminate them as pests, or as the Japanese fishermen themselves called them, the “gangsters of the sea.” The dolphins were not seen as a food source and were, in fact, ground up for use as fertilizer. When this new dolphin hunting was discovered, the public outcry from around the world that was visited upon this new “dolphin hunting” practice resulted in its being ended. From The Evening Independent, February 28 1980: ****news.google.com/newspapers?id=VGhQAAAAIBAJ&sjid=uVgDAAAAIBAJ&pg=3419%2C3370188&hl=en From the Montreal Gazette, March 3, 1980: ****news.google.com/newspapers?id=X50xAAAAIBAJ&sjid=pqQFAAAAIBAJ&pg=2007,1881513&dq=dolphin&hl=enIt is unclear precisely when the Taiji hunt began, but while the method is similar to that in Iki, the motivation is entirely different, with primary revenue coming from selling dolphins to aquarium and dolphins-as-entertainment industry, with much less revenue from selling dolphin meat to local butchers, who either sell it locally or distribute it in commerce, including markets outside of Japan, often mislabeling it as whale meat
mmakdad
small typo - it's "net uyoku" with only one o not two

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