Aquatic Mammals: Cute or Tasty?

December 7, 2007 at 1:50 pm

To the ire of the international community, this month a Japanese boat set out on their yearly hunt in the Antarctic Ocean for the world’s largest mammal. And for the first time in nearly 50 years their expedition will include the cherished humpback. The trip has garnered so much criticism that a chain of European aquariums has decided to remove Japanese goods from its stores. Others are sure to follow.

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Another protest took place last month in Taiji, Japan, this time against the slaughter of dolphins. The group, which included pro surfers and two actresses including “Heroes” star Hayden Panettiere, paddled their surfboards right up to the fishermen in mid-slaughter. Of course the hunters, not caught up on their TiVo queue, seemed to care less who these people were and vehemently denied their appeal by the raising of their pitchforks.

The Japan Fisheries Agency defended both whale and dolphin hunting as long-held tradition, with organized whaling beginning sometime in the 1600s. Ironically, it’s said that industrial whaling only really took off during post-WWII occupation days. The U.S. government encouraged the practice as a source of food.

Naturally, the local whaling towns have taken a prideful stance against all those who invade their territory unannounced and harp on emotional issues they sympathize little with. After all, whaling is all they know.

Personally, I’m on the fence about this issue. As an animal lover, I feel for those highly intelligent mammals destined only to become somebody’s four-course sake accompaniment. At the same time, I applaud the hunters for not folding under international pressure. For a good portion of the 20th century Japan was considered one of world’s most dangerous nations. That status ended once U.S. occupational forces took over. But alongside defeat came down the nation’s psyche and any semblance of cultural backbone. You see it today in the way many Japanese bow down to international influence whether it by welcoming in the umpteenth McDonalds chain or with the hesitation to salute your own national flag. It’s become so much of a concern that in a hundred years you wonder what Japanese traditions will remain. Japan = Pokemon?! Just maybe.

So good luck to the fishermen for fighting for what they believe in. Mammal meat may be gross, but if that’s your thing then stick to it.

Himawari

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Entry filed under: Japanese Business, Japanese Culture, Japanese Politics.

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