The annual dolphin hunt in Japan – taking place, and in the news, at the moment – should be seen in context with what happens in our own country.
Aotearoa New Zealand is a pleasant land. High country tussocks dotted with sheep, lowland pastures sprinkled with cattle, farmers with gumboots and utes and dogs and checked shirts, from the wide-open skies and the golden winds of Central Otago to the vast flat paddocks of the Waikato, an image easily believed, and easily packaged, at home and abroad.
But this land hides a secret. Each year millions of cattle and sheep are raised to be eaten, sent to plates in homes and restaurants across the globe. There are few protests and certainly no international outcry.
Let us, then, leave the Japanese alone. In a tiny cove in the tiny coastal town of Taiji on an anonymous part of Japan’s south coast fisherman kill, mainly for food, several thousand dolphins a year. Actually, no. Not all year – only during a carefully observed window. Whilst trawlermen on high seas drag indiscriminately for fish in vast nets, these Japanese fisherman herd the dolphins into the bay and each one is individually taken from the water. The young, we’re told, are frequently set free. There is no unnecessary suffering, no mechanised farming, no environmental damage.
The problem is that, to us, dolphins are cute. Sure, lambs, calves and chickens are cute, but they soon grow into sheep, cows and chickens. And they are something we take for granted, and taste for granted.
Because the other problem is that we in the West don’t eat dolphin, so for us seeing them killed for food is something we simply don’t understand. And if we don’t understand something, all too often we disagree with it. Fishing is too visible a method of food production for our delicate stomachs – there’s no taking an animal off to an abattoir and then to the meat processing plant, all happening behind closed doors. Modern diners do not really appreciate seeing how food arrives from farm to table.
Of course, I am not defending the killing of dolphins, just examining why we get so upset by it. But we must also realise that farming, fishing and killing for food is a messy, but necessary, business no matter where it takes place.
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Article written by Ben Egerton