Rivers of blood

Some have complained that my post on the snake slaughter gave them nightmares. If that’s you, do not click on this next link! I’m usually fairly tough about seeing grisly gore, but this video of a dolphin harvest in Japan is extremely unsettling. A slaughterhouse is always going to be an ugly piece of work, but what’s on display there is also callous indifference to the suffering of the animals, and methods that increase stress and pain. This video shows animals in agony. Even if I were to accept the argument that they are “mere” animals being processed for food, there is no excuse for the brutality of the methods.


  1. says

    I have seen some of the japanese whaling videos. It’s horrific. What’s even sadder is the fact that they are protected in Australian waters as they migrate north to their breeding habitats, but once out of our little patch of ocean, the japanese government has a “permit” to kill whales for “research purposes.” That this whale meat is then sold onto the japanese market as a highly valued food product, seems more likely to be the design of such research.

  2. says

    Thanks for the link to my snake post PZ; I woke up this morning to find my stats went through the roof in addition to plenty of threats from irate Texans, hah.

    What disturbs me most about Japans whaling habits is that they claim it’s for scientific research (i.e. finding out where the whales are, how many there are, etc.) when really they’re just in it for the harvest meat to sell at markets. I attempted to contact the IWC about why Japan is allowed to keep harvesting whales (and indeed the next feud will be over their plans to harvest humpback whales), but I’ve gotten no reply and their website hasn’t been updated in a long time. It’s well known that cetaceans are among the smartest animals in existence and do feel pain, loss, etc. Could it be also be possible they have some idea of their own mortality, perhaps realizing that they’re dying when hit with a grenade-tipped harpoon? Even beyond ecology, I think the ethics of the situation should prevent any whaling whatsoever.

    Continuing with this topic of wasteful bloodshed, when wolves are no longer protected in Idaho within the next year residents will be allowed to hunt them for, get this, $9.75 per wolf (the same price for cougar and bear tags). What’s worse, the governor himself wants the population down to 100 wolves or 10 packs (I’ve heard elsewhere that “pack” is being defined as “mating pair”) and is looking forward to joining in the hunt himself.

  3. blf says

    One thing that has always bugged me about the “research” claims of Japan’s whaling: Where are the peer-reviewed results of that “research”?

    I suppose there could be some (albeit I rather doubt it, and certainly doubt that you’d need to kill so many animals every year), but I’ve never heard of anything being published. Presuming nothing, or nothing significant, has been published, then isn’t this similar to the creationists?

  4. TAW says

    Sickening. Disturbing to the highest degree.
    I didn’t like the narration though. Isn’t there ANYTHING we can ALL do (as in everyone who reads pharyngula) to stop roundups, dolphin slaughters, stupid wolf policies, etc?

  5. Ribozyme says

    I feel terribly sick after watching the video. The Japanese are still savages (as the Chinese had a chance to experience in WWII). The worse thing is their hipocrisy, with all the hassle they make about pet animals, who they even treat as children. This is going to sound very politically incorrect, and maybe PZ is going to suppress my comment, but after watching the video I’m thinking that maybe 2 A-bombs weren’t enough…

  6. says


    Where are the peer-reviewed results of that “research”?

    Apparently there are some peer reviewed papers, but not many:

    Prof Archer: Alright, that’s it. And from that whole pile of papers we’ve got a total of one, two, three, four papers that can be said to be peer reviewed, that have some relevance to developing or managing a whaling industry and also would require lethal sampling of whales to get that information. Just four papers.

    Nick Gales: So with the eighteen year program and sixty eight hundred whales divided by four papers – that means 1700 whales killed for each one of those four papers.

  7. Scott Belyea says

    This is going to sound very politically incorrect, and maybe PZ is going to suppress my comment, but after watching the video I’m thinking that maybe 2 A-bombs weren’t enough…

    Kill a few hundred thousand people in retaliation for cruelty to a few thousand dolphins? Hardly “politically incorrect” … I think “insane” is nearer the mark …

  8. says

    I first learn of this when I was in high school. They were showing a movie about the slaughter of dolphins and I couldn’t stand to watch it so I went to another classroom next to the classroom I was at that was showing the film and stayed there.

    It’s sickening to see this even to the day!

  9. Ribozyme says

    Oh, yeah, human superiority… If there are any animals we aren’t so justified to feel superior to, are the cetaceans.

    How about this response: kill a few tens (maybe more than a hundred) of thousands of Iraqis and Afghans in retaliation for the killing of 3,000 Americans. That changes everything, doesn’t it? And the American people supported it by a significant majority. The difference is that the Iraqis and Afghans didn’t kill the Americans.

    What I meant to say is that the Japanese didn’t learn the lesson from WWII, they still feel superior to other races (just interact any time with Japanese tourists) not to speak of other self aware species, and feel like they can ignore civilized international regulations. What the USA did to Japan in WWII, Japan asked for it.

  10. says

    When my son was young I tried to instill in him that every living thing had a right to live and we humans had no right to interfere. A few years back, I guess he was about 14 or so, I caught him trying to catch a spider that had gotten into our house so he could release it back outside. I asked him why he didn’t just step on it and he said that he could never bring himself to hurt any animal no matter what type of animal it was. It really touched me and to this day he is the same way. In order to stop what is going on with the Japanese whaling and dolphin slaughter the parents of generations to come, not just the Japanese, must see to it that their children are brought up with a similar mindset.

  11. TheBowerbird says

    What’s disturbing about Japanese culture as well is how being childish is celebrated. There’s this strange videogame/anime centric thing going on among the youth that seems to make them isolated, withdrawn, (such as the young males who live in their parents home – never coming out of their bedrooms to go outside) and which turns them into these odd daydreamers. A society that supports dolphin and whale slaughter is repugnant. Of course all Japanese are not to blame, but I sure see a strong market for cetacean products there. I’ve also read several articles recently about rising nationalism and levels of racism amongst their populace. Some good leader needs to arise in their country to wake the people up to the world around them : (

  12. says

    Where are the peer-reviewed results of that “research”?
    While I’m not defending “research whaling”, given that most Japanese research ends up in Japanese language journals, it seems unlikely that any Japanese papers published about whale stocks would be easily found in scholar.google.com.

  13. says

    I was able to find a page with some abstracts at the defunct IWC website. A smattering of 1999 abstracts can be found here, most of them dealing with research gained from hunting whales or research about whether whale hunts would be sustainable. Overall it makes me think of pro-whaling countries salivating over the menu (it all looks so good, I don’t know where to start), little effort being put into any kind of research other than that related to hunting the whales.

  14. thwaite says

    There are researchers and managers who have addressed the issue of reducing cruelty in livestock rearing and slaughter, such as:

    Marian Stamp Dawkins: a long-time researcher since her 1980 book on ANIMAL SUFFERING: The Science of Animal Welfare.

    Temple Grandin: apparently responsible for design of about half the livestock slaughterhouses in the US. Popular books include ANIMALS IN TRANSLATION and THINKING IN PICTURES.


  15. says

    Those Japanese are sadistic, emotionless barbarians.

    Can’t they just raise and slaughter cattle (+- decently)?

  16. Niobe says

    The Japanese lack any sense of conservation as far as the ocean is concerned. Anyone who’s ever seen the Japanese dive knows what I’m talking about.

  17. Geral says

    God thats horrific.

    Why can’t they spare them the agony of being sliced alive and give them a bullet to the head? Its far quicker and more merciful.

  18. Tom says

    I wonder how many of the commenters will go off and have a nice tuna sandwich for lunch or perhaps a nice lamb steak for dinner? But that’s ok isn’t it? Tuna and lambs are not as intelligent as dolphins and besides, we kill them so nicely.

  19. Don says

    Some disturbing comments crawling out of the woodwork here.

    High visibility, emotive nastiness on show , but get some mote-beam perspective before we get into the serious racism on display.

    The Japanese are still savages…

    maybe 2 A-bombs weren’t enough…

    The Japanese lack any sense of conservation…

    What the USA did to Japan in WWII, Japan asked for it.

    Those Japanese are sadistic, emotionless barbarians.

    Look at your neighbours, check what’s on the end of your fork. Bad situation; needs to be challenged, doesn’t need that shit.

  20. Netbrian says

    Actually, the market for whale products is shrinking in Japan, and not a lot of people want to buy it (there was a famous effort to foist it upon schools). It’s mostly kept alive so the whale hunters can be given money, and because they don’t want to see like they’re backing down.

  21. says

    Correct. Please stop the stupid comments about killing the Japanese in retribution…that would be even worse than what they’re doing here.

  22. Inky says

    … *ANGRY*

    I’ve been to cow and pig slaughterhouses, which was disturbing enough, but at least those animals had their brains blown up so that they were no longer conscious when they were bled.

    The callousness is appalling. It makes my blood boil.

    *deep breath*

    Now, on the other hand, all this racial talk against the Japanese doesn’t elevate anyone’s position.

    Frankly, I think it would be instructive for *everyone* in this country to visit a slaughterhouse, or to visit an industrial farm.

    Additionally, with many global fisheries collapsing worldwide,we should be more mindful of our seafood choices. Killing dolphins is as emotionally gripping as clubbing baby seals or killing puppies, but each of us, collectively, wreck more havoc with our food choices, and our quest (and sometimes necessary need) for cheap food.

    check out:

    There’s a downloadable seafood wallet watch card, and if you feel like distributing cards out on a larger scale, you can get packs of the cards from them for free if you contact them.

  23. Cat of Many Faces says

    Holy crap i’m going to be sick!

    I have nothing against the raising and harvesting of animals, but you DO NOT LET THEM SUFFER. When it is time for the slaughter, you use a quick kill method. You do not carve them up while they are alive!

    Wow, I can’t believe they do that.

    and could that catch method be any nastier? i mean if you can gather them all between ships, use a net and get them out of the water quickly, then use some sort of quick kill.

    I honestly wonder if there is a belief that killing the dolphins this way makes them taste better? I can’t think of any other excuse (not that that’d be a good enough reason) for such an inefficient and painful method to doing all of this.

  24. Inky says

    Yeah, that dragging behind the trunk gave me really unpleasant associations with rural Texas.

  25. Dianne says

    Even if I were to accept the argument that they are “mere” animals

    Which they’re not…They’re animals that can pass the rouge test., like humans, some other great apes, and elephants. Making this, IMHO, particularly disgusting. But would all the anti-Japanese posters please just go off and play with their ivory sculptures and eat their tuna and cut the crap about the Japanese being “savages”?

    I’ve been to cow and pig slaughterhouses, which was disturbing enough, but at least those animals had their brains blown up so that they were no longer conscious when they were bled.

    It’s my understanding that the stunning process fails a significant fraction of the time. And certainly the traditional way to kill a pig is to haul it up by its hind legs and cut its throat. Not very nice either. Hate to sound like a PETA advocate here, but eating mammals is just not nice and no one’s harvesting traditions can stand much scrutiny.

  26. William Blake's Pencil says

    Barbaric, evil, and unnecessary. How humans behave toward animals is just as indicative of the state of the human species as how humans behave towards each other. Neither looks too promising these days.

    So what can be done to mitigate (or better still, end) this behaviour? Boycott? Organisation? Action? What? Is this an isolated incident (even so, not excusable), old footage, something that’s been sworn off forever? Because if not, that’s all Japanese goods off the purchasing roles for me. For a start. I already refuse to buy anything that I’ve seen advertised on Fox News – one more name on the list won’t be hard.

  27. plunge says

    I’ve never really heard a decent argument as to why people like Peter Singer and other animal rights activists are wrong in their arguments as to why things like this are clearly and unambiguously morally wrong. Everything just boils down to “morality? You take that shit SERIOUSLY? Pffff. Morality only applies when it’s convenient for our society.”

  28. Inky says

    It’s my understanding that the stunning process fails a significant fraction of the time. And certainly the traditional way to kill a pig is to haul it up by its hind legs and cut its throat.

    Yes, stunning can fail, though I think it has more to do with proper training techniques and the integrity of individual slaughterhouses. I came across: January 2005 Terrestrial Animal Health Standards Commission Report, which provides guidelines for slaughterhouses, including preslaughter handling and stunning methods. I think the cow slaugherhouse I visited in Michigan years ago used a captive bolt with a pneumatic function that basically scrambled the brain upon bolt penetration. Still disturbing to see, but from the cows that I watched (very closely, I might add!), it seemed to be effective in eliminating consciousness, at least such that cows were not struggling or otherwise mobile when they were hoisted up. I did see a few with hind leg twitches, but I seem to remember these cows with tongues limply hanging out.

    Good slaughterhouses have an incentive in ensuring that the animals are properly handled because both cows and pigs (and, presumably, other animals but I don’t remember talking about them in my animal science classes) will exhibit poor meat quality when stressed, and will therefore cost the slaughterhouse money in reduced profits.

    … that being said, everything depends on the management and personnel, and yes, slaughterhouse atrocities occur. Personally, I wish I could know where animals have been slaughtered, in addition to whether they were free-range or whatnot, so that slaughterhouses will have more pressure to maintain proper animal welfare practices consistently, rather than when randomly inspected. (I don’t remember who inspects them; maybe USDA?)

  29. says

    Next you should post a link to one of those farmland holocaust videos… you know, the ones with those thresher machines that slaughter thousands of defenseless plants?

  30. Colugo says

    I think one issue is that they culturally regard dolphins as mere “fish,” while we – especially since the pioneering dolphin common work of a few decades ago – think of them as almost pseudo-hominids. To them, this is no more cruel than eating live octopi or live flayed fish preparations. Similarly, dogs are viewed as food in some Asian cultures, rather than as potential family members.

    Animal welfarist sensibilities are relatively recent historically and largely originated in the West (yes, I know, there are historical and civilizational exceptions); it’s no coincidence that a lot of the most notorious practices – from bear gall bladder milking to dolphin slaughter to skinning dogs alive to to destruction of endangered species for TCM – occurs in Far Eastern societies. It’s possible that before long aninal welfarist sensibilities will also be commonplace in the Far East (and Middle East, Africa etc.) These things take time; New Mexico just banned cockfighting.

    UK Independent

    “The fishermen, who consider dolphins just big fish, like tuna, are bewildered that anyone would find this cruel, and describe the protesters as extremists. “If you walked into an American slaughterhouse for cows, it wouldn’t look very pretty either,” says one, who identifies himself only as Kawasaki. “The killing is done in the open here, so it looks worse than it is.” Most of the fishermen are descended from families that have been killing and eating the contents of the sea around Taiji for generations, and reject arguments that dolphins are “special”. Says Kawasaki: “They’re food, like dogs for the Chinese and Koreans.””

  31. y'ello says

    “Next you should post a link to one of those farmland holocaust videos… you know, the ones with those thresher machines that slaughter thousands of defenseless plants?”

    And not just the plants Aaron.An organic farmer I knew ran over rabbits,pheasants,even deer bedded down in the crops that didn’t hear or bolt from the threshers until it was too late.He said it only got worst once he switched to organic because the animal population exploded.He said it was a normal part of the harvest in his area.

  32. Andy O says

    It’s so easy to put every Japanese person under “The Japanese”. The fact is that there are certainly some educated Japanese, as nobody reasonable (though many unreasonable do) says Americans are barbarians because of what goes on in Texas with the snakes, or the wolves in other states, or even Creationism.

    Where I come from, it is still well-accepted the “art” (or sometimes -gasp!- sport) of bull-fighting. It is horrendous, maybe in the same vein as in here with the dolphins. That doesn’t make me a barbarian and certainly not the possibly thousands other educated people (I hate to say it, but if someone accepts bull-fighting in this day and age, they’re simply stupid ignorants) that also think it’s mindlessly arrogant and cruel.

    Seemingly paradoxically, the ones who most ardently support this are mid-to-high economic class people, supposedly better educated. They claim it’s art and always (if you didn’t guess already) their argument is that it’s a rich cultural tradition. Boy, doesn’t it stink the same as Church apologists?

    Their other “argument” that they’re always very quickly to point out is that if you eat meat, then you’re a hypocrite. I try not to buy meat, but that’s not the point. They think intention doesn’t matter when talking about morals? Apparently, for them killing is the same, always, regardless of the perpetrator being a rapist and murderer of a child, or someone killing for self-defense. Here, it smells like creationist propaganda, only cheaply and lowly pointing out the “faults” of your opponent, but never coming up with any argument at all.

  33. Adrienne says

    Apparently it’s also common in some parts of Korea to kill cats by boiling them alive. The boiled cat matter is then ground and reduced into a “medicinal” paste for arthritis. Apparently the more the cats suffer while being put to death, the more potent the resulting cure is supposed to be.

    It may be politically incorrect to say it out loud, but animal rights are largely a white middle-to-upper-middle class Western thing, just like environmentalism. We have enough leisure time and the extra money to be concerned about these things and to be able to buy “cruelty free tuna” and “organic produce” and the like. But a lot of other cultures/classes just don’t care, especially those who are too busy trying to eke out basic survival.

  34. MysticOlly says

    I currently live and work in Japan. On the North Island of Hokkaido.

    The Japanese, like pretty much all people, have a whole range of personality types, religious and political views. The schools I teach in are full of students who do regular presentations on environmental issues, animal rights (cruelty to pets etc.). They seem to me to be pretty much the same as kids back in England.

    There is a powerful nationalistic political community. The yakuza who are fairly extensive and often run/control fishing and farming businesses(definitely in East Hokkaido) are invariably nationalistic and right-wing. However these are still a fraction of a generally extremely gentle and kind people.

    There are nutters and the Japanese are probably over-tolerant of their racist and often immoral statements.
    BUT I am appalled that anyone would take fragment of a society and generalise to all of them. I mean all atheists aren’t Pol Pot, and all Christians aren’t David Koresh.

    Grow up.


  35. Ribozyme says

    I knew that eventually PZ would protest about our radical opinions on the Japanese (Comment #21). Let’s not act like the IDists, that put words in our mouths. I didn´t say “bomb the Japanese”, what I said is that the Japanese didn’t learn from what their actions brought over them in WWII.

    I know that the Japanese look down on people that aren’t Japanese because I had the misfortune of living in the same house as several Japanese visitors. They treat you as if you were their servant. They are very polite only to other Japanese. As for the vigency of their WWII actions, not long ago there was general international criticism of the Japanese prime minister honoring military leaders involved in the Rape of Nanking. The Japanese government never even aknowledged the criticism. Check this for brutality:

    From Wikipedia:

    « The Nanking Massacre, commonly known as “The Rape of Nanking,” was a war crime incident committed by the Japanese military carried out by Japanese troops under the command of 3rd Divison General Shin Makoto in and around Nanjing (then known in English as Nanking), China, after it fell to the Imperial Japanese Army on December 13, 1937. The duration of the massacre is not clearly defined, although the violence lasted well into the next six weeks, until early February 1938.

    During the occupation of Nanjing, the Japanese army committed numerous atrocities, such as rape, looting, arson and the execution of prisoners of war and civilians. Although the executions began under the pretext of eliminating Chinese soldiers disguised as civilians, a large number of innocent men were intentionally identified as enemy combatants and killed, or simply killed in any event as the massacre gathered momentum. A large number of women and children were also killed, as rape and murder became more widespread.

    Nations outside Japan generally agree that the non-combatant death toll was 300,000. This number was first promulgated in January of 1938 by Harold Timperly, a journalist in China during the Japanese invasion. It has been corroborated by contemporary eyewitnesses and recent excavations. This number includes massacres in the neighboring regions outside the city walls of Nanking for the duration of the Japanese occupation

    The International Military Tribunal for the Far East stated that 20,000 (and perhaps up to 80,000) women were raped–their ages ranging from infants to the elderly (as old as 80). Rapes were often performed in public during the day, sometimes in front of spouses or family members. A large number of them were systematized in a process where soldiers would search door-to-door for young girls, with many women taken captive and gang raped. The women were then killed immediately after the rape, often by mutilation. According to some testimonies, other women were forced into military prostitution as comfort women. There are even stories of Japanese troops forcing families to commit acts of incest.[9] Sons were forced to rape their mothers, fathers were forced to rape daughters. One pregnant woman who was gang-raped by Japanese soldiers gave birth only a few hours later; the baby was perfectly healthy (Robert B. Edgerton, Warriors of the Rising Sun). Monks who had declared a life of celibacy were forced to rape women for the amusement of the Japanese.[9] Chinese men were forced to have sex with corpses. Any resistance would be met with summary executions. While the rape peaked immediately following the fall of the city, it continued for the duration of the Japanese occupation. »

    Come on, PZ! Don´t let political correctness keep you from aknowledging the facts.

  36. Adrienne says

    Re: the Japanese not learning from history…can any nation brag about having learned lessons from history? I certainly don’t think the US of today, can. Heck, most of the American public still thinks Saddam Hussein was behind the 911 attacks.

  37. Ribozyme says

    It is also true that the Japanese lack a sense of environmental conservation (Comment #16). Here in Mexico it’s a common problem that Japanese fishing ships invade our territorial waters, whether its fishing season or not, to take away as much of the edible species as possible, squid being one of their main targets.

  38. MysticOlly says



    The only time I have met US Marines was in a club in Hanoi where they got very drunk and started fights with almost everyone and spent the evening shouting racists and sexist comments to the other patrons.

    However I am not being ‘politically correct’ by assuming that not all American soldiers are drunken assholes.

  39. Jason says

    I’ve never really heard a decent argument as to why people like Peter Singer and other animal rights activists are wrong in their arguments as to why things like this are clearly and unambiguously morally wrong.

    Me neither. That’s not surprising, really, since Singer makes such a good argument that our current treatment of animals is despicable and fundamentally inconsistent with our basic moral values. He’s often considered to be the most influential living philosopher, largely on the basis of his book Animal Liberation.

  40. says

    Some examples of know-it-all snobbishness I’ve seen here are almost as disgusting as the video itself.

    “…I’ve also read several articles recently about rising nationalism and levels of racism amongst their populace. Some good leader needs to arise in their country to wake the people up to the world around them : (…”

    Oh, so you’ve READ an article or two and now you are convinced that the evil, dolphin killing, nationalist anime-regime in Japan needs to be toppled? Kinda like Saddam? This would make more sense coming from the neo-cons.

  41. Andy O says

    Ribozime, I’m sorry you had a bad experience, but you have no grounds to think all or even most Japanese people are the same. The examples you posted can be said of ANY culture on earth, for crying out loud. Japan is a free country now, and very different. The flow of information is there for the ones who choose to be educated.

    I’m sure, as another poster with first-hand experience said, that more educated Japanese people do have basically the same moral outrage at those issues that you seem to have too.

  42. Adrienne says

    There are some elements of truth in what Ribozyme says re: pervasive Japanese racism. There’s a book by a white Jewish American who tried to become a citizen of Japan about the racism he experienced while living there. Japan is also a much more homogeneous society racially speaking, so unlike in the US, the Japanese in Japan don’t usually live among people from other cultures. It’s also true that Japan, despite its low incidence of rapes in comparison to the US, is also not a particularly “woman friendly” culture either.

    The Japanese basically tend to think they have the best society/way of life on Earth. But many civilizations and cultures feel that way. I would argue that Americans can be pretty damn snobby too. The ancient Greeks and Egyptians too thought they were the best specimens of civilization, and that everyone else was a barbarian.

    Bottom line: every culture has its faults.

  43. Dianne says

    Japan is also a much more homogeneous society racially speaking, so unlike in the US, the Japanese in Japan don’t usually live among people from other cultures.

    Have you ever spent any time in an exotic land called “Iowa”? I lived there for several years and found areas, especially outside relatively cultured Iowa City, where people had, literally, never seen a person who was not white and American born. A friend of mine from Germany who spent a year in Iowa as a student had people ask him if they had electricity in Germany. In short, the US can be pretty insular too.

  44. Leni says

    Ribozyme… all I can do is shake my head at you. And then tell you what a total stupid little jackass I think you are.

    You think the Japanese were the first and last to commit atrocities in war? Or in not war?

    Grow the fuck up.

  45. autumn says

    Punishing a nation for the acts of a few of its citizens is kind of silly, but in this case the government is being just as obtuse as the jackasses doing the killing, insisting that this be allowed to happen, and making up asinine excuses as to some imagined scientific benifit to continue it. The only real soloution is to arm volunteer ships with RPGs and assault weapons to destroy the whaling fleet.
    Before I hear from the “violence is never the answer” folks, remember that only violence ended slavery, only violence defeated the Nazi, and only violence has given the modern American worker the rights we cherish.
    And, no, a human life is not as valuable as a cetacean life, if only because of the economics of population. The Earth could stand to lose a few billion humans, it would be positively good for the biosphere, while the loss of a few hundred cetaceans is disastrous.

  46. jomega says

    Really, kids, I completely fail to see what the big deal is here. You dumbass city folk who think that food is just somthing that just naturally comes comes in neat little styrofoam trays for your enjoyment need to get out of your cubicles and learn about the hard, dirty, bloody WORK it takes to put food on your table! Western attitudes towards where food comes from have become mind-bogglingly ignorant in recent years. Admittedly, dolphins are supposedly smart as animals go, but then so are pigs (moreso than dogs in any case),and I don’t know many who’d willingly give up their bacon. The question we all should be asking is “So, how’s it TASTE?” This is Japan we’re talking about, however, so I’m rather apprehenive of the answer. Natto, anyone?

  47. says

    It is shocking and sickening, although it should be added that this isn’t happening “in small towns across Japan”, and from what I have heard living here it is limited to a handful (if that) of towns in Japan.

    Doesn’t make it any more acceptable, but just thought I’d pass comment.

  48. Pelerin says

    The video is all new levels of shocking and nauseating, to be sure. However, I am equally appalled at the responses I’ve seen from people.

    A dominant part of the definition of prejudice is defining the population by the actions of a few. The actions seen in this video do represent fishermen, but that does not mean we can assume the actions of anybody else. Furthermore, it is completely abhorrent to cast aspersions on the entire Japanese nation, based on this one video. That is straight racism, and does not belong anywhere near this blog.

  49. CalGeorge says

    Admittedly, dolphins are supposedly smart as animals go, but then so are pigs (moreso than dogs in any case),and I don’t know many who’d willingly give up their bacon. The question we all should be asking is “So, how’s it TASTE?”

    I don’t eat fish because of overfishing and I don’t eat beef or chicken because of the way cattle and chickens are treated.

    There is nothing wrong with having compassion, and feeling empathy, for fellow creatures on this planet.

    I did give up bacon (which I loved to eat!) because I don’t support treating animals as nothing more than bloody pieces of MEAT. They are not just flesh for our comsumption.

  50. says

    I usually agree dead-on with the comments on this blog, but it seems people left their brains on the doorstep when they clicked on the link.

    As an American living in Japan, I get a certain viewpoint that others seem to miss. I thought the days when my great-grandmother painted out the eyes on the priceless japanese vase our family has was over. But I guess not. Every one of you who goes on about Japanese being no better than animals, how the Chinese experienced the same obviously have never experienced modern Japan. Would you like to be classified as one of the fruitcakes PZ regularly comments on, who make ridiculous claims about dinosaurs walking with Adam? I think not. So don’t paint an entire population as inhuman because you saw somebody do something bad. It’s the kind of pile-on hogwash Bob Altemeyer talks about in “The Authoritarians.” As he says, it doesn’t just extend to right-wingers.

    That being said, the video was a travesty, something I could only catch glimpses of without losing my breakfast. I’d heard of this before, but it’s not something that goes on “in small towns across Japan”, as another commenter already mentioned. It’s localized to a few specific places. The English-speaking media is up in arms every time the whaling fleet goes out. I try to discuss this occasionally with Japanese, and everyone near my age (late 20s) and younger is appalled. I’ve seen ‘whale’ bacon listed in a few restaurants, and though I’m tempted to try it just for the adventure (I’ve a standing rule to eat any animal I come across), I haven’t been able to bring myself to do it.

    This is something that Japanese could definitely get serious about preventing, but efforts need to be made to get in touch with the population and inform them of what’s going on. Just showing that video would be enough to put people off it. Unfortunately, the governmental juggernaut is unlikely to heed calls to cease whaling. A special to the Japan Times reported last year that in fact much of the whale meat that is processed is put into pet food because consumers refuse to eat it. So it’s not that Japanese people are brutes.

    Please try to remember this.

  51. Dianne says

    animal rights are largely a white middle-to-upper-middle class Western thing,

    Eastern inventions: Buddhism. Hinduism.
    Western inventions: Veal. Corn fed beef (ever heard of “feedlot bloat”?) Keeping chickens in tiny, crowded cages.
    Common to both: Whaling. (Norway, anyone?)

  52. Dianne says

    I apologize to Prof Myers and everyone else here if I’m transgressing in this comment, but…I call for Ribozyme’s disemvowelment on the grounds of sustained racism.

  53. plunge says

    Geez, I come back figuring there would be some real debate about the moral status of animals, and I find instead a debate on the moral status of the Japanese. Sheesh. Japanese society, like a lot of societies has lots of outstanding problems, from racism (from a quiet little caste system to the triangle of racial hatred between the Chinese Koreans and Japanese), sexism, and so forth. But it’s no worse particularly than most modern societies, and its better than a lot of them.

  54. Ribozyme says

    Re Adrienne,Comment #36, in Spanish speaking countries we have a saying: “Mal de muchos, consuelo de tontos”, which could be roughly translated as “the evil (or distress) of many, is a consolation for the fool”. As I already mentioned, the USA isn’t without blame. But if you expect perfection from someone to criticize evil actions (and, why not, evil people) we would all be forced to accept even the worst of evils without complaining. Under that criterion, not even Gandhi would have been allowed to criticize the British domination of his homeland.

  55. Ribozyme says

    My experience with the rudeness of Japanese tourists is not unique to me (that would be anecdotal evidence, wouldn’t it?). I came to that conclusion after talking with many people who have traveled abroad and have faced the exact same attitude. Yes, American tourists are, in the majority, quite obnoxious (complaining of such things as why not everybody speaks English, or why there aren’t so many consumer products as in American malls and super markets), but in that they are second to the Japanese. I haven’t seen Americans bumping people from other countries aside so they can take a better look or better picture of some tourist attraction.

    If I’m being called racist for describing them as racist and rude to other people, who they usually consider inferior (and there’s plenty of evidence that they consider the Chinese and Koreans inferior, even though they are the people they physically resemble the most… What can people from other races expect? What can OTHER SPECIES expect?), my hands are tied. After all, the boy that said that the Emperor was naked, was called “an innocent” (an euphemism for “an idiot”) by the people that clung to the accepted (if not based on the facts) ideas or social forms, such as political correctness.

    Can we expect a society that developed with a moral system very different from the Western one to willingly accept it? The Western moral system was shoved down Japan’s throat by the Allies after it lost WWII, but that doesn’t mean they have thoroughly (or willfully) assimilated it, in the same way that we can’t reallistically expect to force (by war or other means) Muslim countries to become liberal democracies. That takes time, but it doesn’t mean that in the meantime we can’t point to their moral failures.

    Finally, some people said that we can’t judge a country by the acts of some of its people. But, as I mentioned in a previous post (a subject that ALL the people criticizing me chose to ignore), not very long ago, the government ELECTED BY THE JAPANESE PEOPLE, decided to honor the military that participated in the China invasion. I didn’t hear of any multitudinary protests in Japan due to this, as we don’t hear of any Japanese multitudinary protests for the killing of dolphins, which would show us how very opposed the majority are to it. Nor do we see any monuments built by the Japanese to honor and mourn the raped and killed Chinese, like the one you can see in downtown Berlin to commemorate the Holocaust. The honoring of the military would be like the German chancelor honoring the leaders of the blitzkrieg… How would the bleeding hearts, who want to stomp on me for calling the Japanese imperfect, react to such an action from the German government?

  56. TheBowerbird says

    Nemo, what I was trying to say is that some kind of a cultural shift needs to happen in Japan. Issues such as environmental awareness, personal responsibility, and a broader less nationalistic view would do well to be introduced by some sort of political figure.

  57. Dianne says

    Issues such as environmental awareness, personal responsibility, and a broader less nationalistic view would do well to be introduced by some sort of political figure.

    Indeed. But coming from a person from a country that refuses to decrease its contribution to global warming (despite being second only to Dubai in carbon production), has started two aggressive wars in the last 6 years, and re-elected Bush and Cheney, in which most people can’t speak any foriegn language and can rarely identify their own country muchless any other on a map…well, does the word “hypocrisy” mean anything to you? It’s as though the country that had more nuclear weapons than the rest of the world combined spent its time nagging other countries about how immoral they were for wanting nukes themselves and then harassing and threatening them over very poorly documented claims of their having nuclear programs. Or whining about imaginary WMD while dropping fuel-air bombs on population centers or…oh, wait, that’s all familiar too. Well, if the US does it it must be good, right?

  58. says

    This stream of comments just shows to go you that some readers of scienceblogs are little different than the average Joe. You don’t have to scratch very deep to find the xenophobia. Damn those bloodthirsty Japs. Or the idiocy: “But what about the plant Holocaust!”

    Since this is a blog about science, scientifically, what’s wrong with slaughtering dolphins? Is the ecosystem going to collapse? Or with whaling in general?

    In a real-world sense, killing dolphins, like bull fighting, has an immediate benefit for some people. People get fed or entertained. Many within the biomed and ag animal science community justify any harm done to an animal with the claimed potential benefit to humans. In this case, the benefit isn’t even potential.

    The real story here seems to be one of human psychology. It is the video — the visual images — that finally get people to take notice. Like Abu Ghraib Prison, until we could see the photos, no amount of writing seemed sufficient to make us really understand.

    The potential power of video to wake people up is precisely why Canada made filming the seal slaughter illegal; it’s why animal labs work so hard to keep images out of the press; it’s why people have to go undercover to get video of slaughter houses and animal labs.

    Here’s a very recent case in point: 628 Pieces of Primate Research Garbage

    As far as what can be done to fix the problem underlying the dolphin video, we should act locally to call attention to and solve the problem of cruelty in our own communities first.

  59. MysticOlly says

    RE #59 and Japan honouring past war leaders.

    The Yasukini Shrine (where all Japan’s war dead from the last 150 years are enshrined, including 14 Class A War criminals (judged by the Tokyo Tribunals after WW2) is NOT just a open-shut case. There is considerable debate in the Japanese media about the issue of war-time culpability.

    At the schools I teach, about two-thirds of the staff will not sing the National Anthem at the various school ceremonies because it is associated with Japan’s war time behaviour.

    Japan isn’t particuarly a country that goes for mass street-protest, boycotts etc.

    I also personally think they are too tolerant of hate-speech that comes regularly from the Nationalists.

    But to counter the ‘savages’ claim. I opened my newspaper this morning to see the headline.

    “Fisherman killed attempting to rescue injured whale”

    And no, he wasn’t trying to eat it. Apparently the Japanese do have human feelings.


  60. andyo says

    I find this apalling.

    In a real-world sense, killing dolphins, like bull fighting, has an immediate benefit for some people. People get fed or entertained. Many within the biomed and ag animal science community justify any harm done to an animal with the claimed potential benefit to humans. In this case, the benefit isn’t even potential.

    Well, science education has a lot to do with these issues. Every time a scientific discovery is made, it shows us a truer picture of the world, and that framework is the best to build our ethical and moral bases.

    We know, by science, that we aren’t special, we are just a sort of lucky species in a lucky planet. I you don’t even see what the difference is in bullfighting and curing disease, even potentially, there’s something wrong with you.

  61. says


    You wrote: “I[f] you don’t even see what the difference is in bullfighting and curing disease, even potentially, there’s something wrong with you.”

    I might misunderstand your comment, but I think you’ve made an unwarranted leap. You seem to be assuming that research with animals will cure disease. This is more of a faith-based claim than a scientific one. See for instance: Perel P, et al. Comparison of treatment effects between animal experiments and clinical trials: systematic review. BMJ. 2007 Jan 27;334(7586):197.

    Curing disease is a good thing and (in my book) bull fighting is a bad thing. But appealing to the good is a ploy used by many (all?) shisters, and when such appeals are made, it behooves us to look carefully at the claims and any evidence pro or con.

    What I find apalling is the fact that a major university and flagship NIH lab can destroy 600+ videotapes spanning almost two decades of research — to keep them out of the public eye — and the scientific community says ho-hum.

    If radical animal rights activists had somehow broken into the lab and destroyed these tapes, the news would be swamping the blogs and we’d be hearing about all the lost cures… integrity in science? What a sad joke.

  62. says

    I agree completely with Pelerin (post #51) and Jeremy (post #53). This is shocking, but don’t judge an entire nation on something that very few people in the country do. Most Japanese people are pretty shocked at this as they don’t know it is occurring, and they are even more shocked when they realise a lot of people think this is happening everywhere, or “in small towns in Japan” as some else said.

    Let’s try to keep to the subject and leave the comments bordering on racism at the door. This isn’t the time to bring out the “I hate Japan” monologue… it’s the time to show constructive ideas on how to deal with this issue.

  63. andyo says

    Rick Bogle,

    That’s why I included “even potential” in there. In any case, I was not making a comment specifically of animal treatment in labs. I think it should be very closely regulated, if you are wondering what my opinion is.

    But to compare it to bullfighting is just ludicrous. The other poster just blatantly assumes that intent and motivation has nothing to do with morality. The end also matters, but it rarely justifies the means. It’s the same “reasoning” that bullfighting fans throw at their critics.

  64. says

    I think a lot of people posting here think they can defend racist actions with accusations of racism. Two wrongs don’t equal a right, and all that rot. Not to mention, just because some people in a culture are jerks doesn’t mean the rest of them are.

    As for the Yasukuni Shrine thing, it’s the same problem that we in America have with religion. For whatever reason, you can’t get elected in the USA unless you claim to hold some sort of religion. Equivalent to Japan: you can’t get elected unless you get the right-wing nationalists to support you by pledging to support Yasukuni. Things change slower than we’d like, but hurrying it is liable to create consequences we may not like to face.

    Incidentally, I mentioned this to a Japanese friend of mine, who was horrified and professed to have never heard of this before. She asked me to send her the link so she can send it to friends. Who knows, maybe a movement will start now.

    PS – my views are posted on my website.

    “I’ve a standing rule to eat any animal I come across.


    And no, CalGeorge, not literally! ;)