Sea Shepherd in Taiji

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    FTV visits the town of Taiji in Wakayama prefecture to report on the latest tensions between animal rights activists and dolphin hunters:

    They visit Taiji during the Taichiura Whale Festival, an annual event in which the residents of the small town honor the animals that they hunt for food. Visitors are amused by the presence of a cute whale mascot, and by local children pulling whale-shaped parade floats. Whale meat is also grilled and eaten.

    The people of Taiji has hunted and eaten whales and dolphins for hundreds of years. They’re animals that can be eaten, not much different from pigs or cows. Many locals see dolphin and whale hunting as a part of their local culture that should be preserved and respected.

    Not everyone at the festival supports Taiji’s culture of eating sea mammals. Outsiders in black shirts are trolling around the premises of the festival, filming everything. They are members of Sea Shepherd, a radical animal rights group that has become infamous in Japan for its use of violence to obstruct the activities of Japan’s whaling fleet.

    Members of Sea Shepherd, led by Scott West, have been visiting Taiji every day since the September start of its dolphin hunting season. Their presence is getting a lot of attention this year because the Taiji dolphin hunt is now known all across the world because of the popularity of “The Cove.” Although their organization regularly violates the law when ramming Japanese ships on the high seas, West has declared that Sea Shepherd has promised not to violate any laws inside Japan. West and his team check the activities of Taiji’s fishermen each day, posting reports on their “Cove Guardians” blog about whether or not dolphins have been killed. (FTV’s narrator notes that they film the fishermen “without permission.”)

    A dolphin hunt occurs on one of the days that FTV is in town to report on West’s activities. FTV has no problem with showing viewers clips of dead dolphins being dragged onto fishing boats. It presents the footage alongside paintings and photos that show the long history of dolphin hunts in Taiji. It is noted that Taiji’s dolphin hunt is not illegal and occurs with the permission of prefectural authorities.

    A lot of focus is placed on how all of the Sea Shepherd members appear to be vegetarians. FTV follows them around a super market and their report seems to get a lot of amusement out of asking West’s daughter if she will eat meat or fish. One member tries to buy some cup ramen thinking that it is okay for vegetarians, but the FTV reporter helpfully points out that the package says it contains fish.

    only we are allowed to film people without permission

    Mr. West eventually grows tired of having a Japanese news crew following him around. He gets angry and tells them that they are should go away because they are being “rude.” The reporter responds by asking why its wrong for him to film Sea Shepherd members, when West apparently thinks it is okay for Sea Shepherd to follow around Japanese fishermen and film them without permission. Instead of answering that question, West declares that he won’t speak to them anymore.

    On November 2nd, the mayor of Taiji met with the Sea Shepherd members. FTV’s cameras were not allowed to film the meeting, which lasted two hours. When the mayor left the building, he seemed irritated by the presence of so many reporters and refused to comment on what had happened.

    Scott West is eager to speak to the media after the meeting. He tells reporters that dolphins and whales are not fish, so they should not be considered a fishery resource. One of the reporters points out that Americans eat pigs, which are also mammals. West responds with a statement that falsely implies that the dolphins being hunted are endangered. A follow-up question about whether the number of dolphins is a deciding factor leads West to make a bizarre statement that equates the eating of dolphin meat to human cannibalism. He further confuses them by saying that he is a vegetarian for health reasons, not because he is an animal rights activist.

    FTV was later able to get a 1-on-1 interview with the mayor of Taiji. The mayor said that Sea Shepherd’s views were the complete opposite of his own. He tells them that whaling is a crucial part of Taiji’s history and local culture. The people of Taiji obey the laws of Japan when carrying out their hunt (as opposed to Sea Shepherd, which has a reputation for law-breaking).

    The anchors in the FTV news room have no sympathy for the actions of Sea Shepherd. Yuko Ando finds Sea Shepherds to be childish and hypocritical, and wonders why Sea Shepherd is focusing on Japan instead of something like the Kangaroo hunts in Australia. They introduce a graph that shows how Sea Shepherd’s increased focus on Japanese whale and dolphin hunting has been very profitable. It is projected that Sea Shepherd may raise nearly 10 times more money this year than it did in 2004. If they want to keep making boatloads of money, they will probably need to continue attacking the Japanese.

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