Taiji is known as the birthplace of whaling in Japan, and any visitor can see the history oozing from every crack and crevice of this tiny fishing village. Any country, and any town, has a right to be proud of their culture and honor their forefathers that came before them. Growing as a country and as human beings existing together is something that requires change and educated decisions. While sometimes those decisions are not always wise, we must embrace them and learn from our mistakes for culture is something of which a nation should never be ashamed.
While claims that dolphin hunting has been a part of Taiji culture for the past 400 years are true to a certain extent, it is more accurate to say that the popularity of dolphin hunting has grown just in the past 40 years, due to the invention of drive hunting with banger boats and the captive dolphin industry. However, to claim that this annual massacre of sentient beings by the thousands is culture and tradition is absolutely ludicrous. When the act being performed is younger than those carrying it out, it is not culture and it is not history. Having been on the ground in Taiji for nearly three months, and another three weeks before that, I have personally witnessed just how far this village will go to hide the blood and guts that accompany a slaughter of this grand scale. If this is their heritage, why are they so ashamed that they must hide it? If this truly is an ancient Japanese tradition, then why do only a small number of Japanese people know of this so-called cultural tradition?
The propaganda spread far and wide by the Japanese media about the slaughter and our role in documenting its hopeful end is biased to say the least, portraying Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and the Cove Guardians as racist and hateful. People across this island nation with no prior knowledge of the Taiji dolphin slaughter are deliberately misled by their government and the media into believing that the Cove Guardians are here to cause trouble to increase the donations made to Sea Shepherd, which is quite the contrary as this effort is more of an expense than an avenue to raise funds. The Cove Guardians are steadily raising awareness and increasingly getting more support. However, it's costly maintaining an official representative in Japan for six months, and we very much appreciate the people who understand the need for this campaign and have so generously supported our Cove Guardians. We depend on donations from people to support our actions, but not all Sea Shepherd campaigns raise enough money to pay for themselves. Circumstances dictate that our strategy in Taiji is monitoring the situation for the time being. Not exciting but a necessary part of our overall strategy for the dolphins.
The fact that the dolphin drive hunts are a dirty secret kept under wraps by the hierarchy of Japan is not only my opinion, it is supported by the numerous Japanese people who have come to the Cove seeking the truth about Sea Shepherd for themselves. These people travel for hours, sometimes days, to see the well-known Cove Guardians with their own eyes. The ironic part of it all is that most of the Japanese people who visit Taiji, end up as friends and supporters of Sea Shepherd disproving the media propaganda arranged by the country's government.
Studies have shown that the majority of the Japanese population is unaware of the mass genocide that is happening in their own country. It is also a proven fact that the Japanese government is downright deceiving the public by selling dolphin meat with misleading information by labeling it as whale meat. Even worse, dolphin meat contains extremely high levels of mercury, which is essentially poisoning the people who consume it including school children and pregnant mothers. We all know that each country's government has its downfalls and shameful secrets, but the Japanese public has a right to know what their children are eating for lunch in school, and they have a right to know that what they are eating is poisoning them, and will ultimately cause defects in future generations.
A new segment published by TV Asahi 5 that aired on February 5th, was a prime example of the propaganda that is ruthlessly fed to the general public of Japan. The words spoken by the Cove Guardians were twisted against them to favor the slaughter, and the footage was edited in such a fashion that the Cove Guardian quotes were taken out of context. The reporter, a woman from Osaka named Yajima, came to the Cove after hearing about the slaughter because she wanted to taste dolphin meat. She was pro-hunting from the beginning, and had her mind set on portraying the Cove Guardians as extreme activists that were making money from activities such as swimming in the Cove, harassing the fishermen, and disrupting the peace.
Yajima followed the Cove Guardians everywhere we went, and was even caught by members of Save Japan Dolphins hiding in the bushes, on the illegal side of a barricade, filming them while they filmed the slaughter. She even tried to scare us by saying she had filmed us crossing a barricade, which was a false statement as we act in accordance with the law, and claimed that she was going to show the footage to the police, which of course didn't happen. But when we informed her of our footage of her crossing the barricade, she became nervous and quickly changed the subject. Yajima has proven herself time and again to be a subjective, manipulative reporter that will do whatever it takes, including lying and blackmailing, to get a story that she can twist in order to trick her fellow people into believing. This is only one example of media propaganda at its finest.
Yajima's TV Asahi segment was titled "Racists in Taiji," but failed to include any supporting evidence of such a strong title. It also failed to depict the Cove Guardians in an accurate and positive light by including information such as us learning the Japanese language and even practicing it with the policemen at the Cove, showing that we have many Japanese friends and that we are adored and welcomed by many locals, and that I quite often express how much I enjoy Japan and its hospitable people in my Cove Guardian updates.
Off the record, Yajima admitted to us that she used to be an animal researcher and watching dolphins die in Taiji does make her sad, although she believes that the fishermen have every right to perform their job unhindered by anyone. If I were in her shoes and I was in a position where I have an obligation to put aside my personal feelings and report the truth to my country, to the world, but yet I was ambivalent towards something that made me sad, I would feel ashamed, guilty, and deceitful, and I would not be able to look at myself in the mirror. How this woman sleeps at night is beyond me. How she is able to swallow her sadness, her duty to report the unbiased truth, and to film herself eating raw dolphin meat is something that I cannot ever comprehend.
With the knowledge of this propaganda circulating throughout Japan, I wonder what the best solution is or even if there is a solution. Media is a powerful ally, and an even more powerful enemy. I believe that the truth will eventually prevail. And as long as the Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians maintain their course of following Japanese law while exposing what's happening in the Cove, then eventually something will break, and this horrific act of inhumanity not only towards another sentient living being, but also towards the people who are inadvertently poisoned, will come to an end.