The Japanese government has been telling the world that the Taiji dolphin hunt is all a matter of tradition. Even local villagers claim that the hunt is a “critical part of their economy and a scared cultural tradition,” as ABC News reports.

However, according to the Earth Island Institute, Taiji’s large-scale dolphin drive began just 45 years ago in 1969.

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“This claim of ‘Japanese tradition’ is nonsense,” stated Ric O’Barry, director of Earth Island’s Dolphin Project, in a press release. “The dolphin drive hunts, according to the town’s own written history, says a couple of drive hunts occurred in 1936 and 1944, but the current series of hunts only began in 1969.”

Unfortunately, despite this information, the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA), which includes the Japan Association of Zoos and Aquariums that the Taiji Whale Museum is a part of, is still not taking action against the hunts even though the association spoke out against it at one point.

In fact, Sakae Hemmi, of the Elsa Nature Conservancy of Japan, sent a letter a few weeks ago to Dr. Gerald Dick, the executive director of WAZA, and in response, he stated, “As you know, in some Japanese communities, these drives have been part of the culture for centuries.”

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Hemmi then jumped at the chance to debunk this myth in a reply letter:

The history of dolphin hunting in Taiji is short. According to The History of Taiji, edited and published by Taiji town in 1979, the first recorded dolphin drive was in 1933, with subsequent hunts occurring in 1936 and 1944. It was not until 1969 that dolphin drives have been conducted on a large scale. The history of the dolphin drives spans not so-called 400 years, but a mere 45. Furthermore, in 1969, the main goal of the dolphin drive was to capture pilot whales as prized showpieces for the Taiji Whale Museum. In other words, the dolphin drive was purely for profit, having nothing to do with cultural history.

Elsa Nature Conservancy and two other grassroots Japanese environmental groups are urging WAZA to acknowledge that JAZA members have violated WAZA’s “Code of Ethics” by “using the brutal hunts to catch dolphins for display, thereby subsidizing the slaughter of dolphins for meat,” and to take action and eject JAZA members from the international association.

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As O’Berry aptly observes, “What kind of ethics condemns the dolphin hunts while taking advantage of them to help the Taiji dolphin hunters round up and slaughter hundreds of dolphins every year?”

Join Elsa Nature Conservancy and the Earth Island Institute in calling on WAZA to expel JAZA members from the association by going to WAZA’s online contact form and sending a polite yet informed email about the Taiji dolphin hunt.

Image source: Ric O’Berry’s Dolphin Project / Facebook