Sunday, 30 December 2012

Taiji, a town in trouble

If you saw the most recent livestream from Taiji where we took you on a walking tour of the town (link) you may have noticed something peculiar; we didn't feature any people from the town. Indeed, we went to great efforts to make sure we did not deliberately film anyone who was not there as a Cove Guardian.

Welcome to Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture, Japan

There were a number of reasons for this:

Firstly, straightforward courtesy. It is true that the dolphin killers themselves as well as their close associates treat us with absolute disdain but they number fewer than 50 in total out of a town population of around 3,500, a Prefecture population of around 1 million and a Country population of more than 127 million. So we are only talking about the tiniest of tiny minorities and everyone else in the town either pretends not to see us or else is friendly and polite towards us. We are happy to be polite and courteous in return as long as nobody expects us to compromise on our principles. We will not.

I am not naive enough to think that there will be any genuine friendships springing up in the near future but at least we have the basis for dialogue whenever the townspeople become sick enough of the killers in their midst to seek a new future for their town. Taiji has so much obvious potential if only it can stop the slaughter whilst also turning its back on capture for the despicable captive dolphin industry, aquatic circuses testimony to misery beyond human endurance and beyond dolphin dignity.

Secondly, we have been specifically asked not to photograph people directly without their permission by the Police who watch our every move.  Killers going about the business of killing are fair game for any camera that can see them - and wow do they ever go to extreme lengths to avoid that happening! - but general pics which others (not Cove Guardians) might use out of context to spread the "wrong" message are not.

Thirdly, there are simply not enough ordinary people around to take pictures of.

Taiji is in real danger of turning into a ghost town and that has nothing to do with Sea Shepherd's presence, it is to do with the nefarious business this town has been engaged in for the last 35 years or so, a timeline coinciding with the explosion of "Seaworld type" resorts in the USA and around the World. Please do not try and tell me that 35 years activity represents a generations-long tradition that has to be preserved at all costs, it is not.

Those people we do see are mostly old, many of them working well beyond sensible retirement age adding to the obvious signs that, apart from the very few extremely wealthy dolphin traders, this town is in desperate economic trouble. Towns in desperate economic trouble do not hang onto their young people. A vicious circle kicks in whereby the brightest and best escape to a better world elsewhere making it even less likely that the original problems can be solved from within and ensuring that the next year's school-leavers also follow in their big brothers and sisters' footsteps, leaving Taiji never to return.

No wonder; there is hardly any employment in this town not directly connected with the 2 dolphinariums neither of which would ever pass the welfare standards we take for granted in the UK.

Of course, we no longer have any dolphinariums in the UK for exactly that reason - it is simply not possible to construct an aquatic prison which successfully replicates the limitless world of freedom outside those prison walls. Human prisons offer their inmates greater social interaction, mental and physical stimulation than any dolphinarium could conceivably offer one of its inmates. Remembering also that these inmates were not guilty of any crime, they were simply unlucky enough to swim too close to Taiji where men in search of easy profit were waiting to pounce.

Employment for Taiji's young hopefuls in whaling is not an option, nor is membership of the fishermens' union which has exclusive rights to hunt dolphins unless they had the good fortune (for want of a better description) to be born into one of the controlling families who govern that vile pastime.

So for 35 years the ruling elite of this town has gambled its entire future success on an unlimited supply of live dolphins to a constantly expanding, worldwide, captive dolphin industry. And the currency they used for that gamble was a future for their youngsters.

If they had not attempted to hedge their bets with massive scale dolphin slaughter as a by-product, they might have got away with it, but as soon as the World became aware of that happening here the original gamble started to look shaky. As soon as volunteers from all over the World started to arrive here to protest the dolphin hunt, exposing both slaughter and captive trade  that gamble looked shakier still. Now that the word is spreading throughout Japan about the cruelty involved in both the gamble must surely be lost.

And the word is starting to spread throughout Japan.

School leavers from Taiji may be too deferential to their parents to openly criticise their choices but it is clear that they are "voting with their feet" and choosing to pursue a future which does not involve staying in this town to suffer the taint of greed and the symptoms of slaughter as their parents are. They are adding significantly to Japanese awareness of this issue from wherever they find themselves that isn't Taiji.

Even the police who follow our every move must be feeding back to their own friends and families (none of whom are from Taiji) just what is happening here. They are none of them stupid. They are all excellent judges of character and I have no doubt whatsoever that every one of them can tell the difference between right and wrong. The incredible embarrassment they must experience defending obvious wrong in the full glare of disapproving World opinion can only be another black mark against this town of shame.

I have commented in other blogs about how wonderful I have found the rest of Japan to be and how comfortable I am becoming around Japanese people. I have no doubt whatsoever that Taiji's problems can be solved by Japanese people when the dolphin drive hunts stop. I have even less doubt that Taiji's problems can never be solved by anyone - Japanese or not - unless the drive hunts do stop. Stop for good.

Thank you for reading.