Tuesday, 2 September 2014
Taiji Dolphin Hunt
Sadly, just yesterday, the annual slaughter of dolphins and small whales began in a small cove in Japan called Taiji. It is also occurring right up and down the coast of Japan. I rise today to condemn these practices.
Drive hunts for dolphins and small whales emerged as a practice in 17th century Japan. It emerged in medieval Japan at a time when they were beginning to isolate themselves from trade and diplomatic relations with the rest of the world. In this context, it made sense for them to seek as many sources of protein as possible to sustain their population. But it is no longer the 17th century. Japan is no longer isolated from trade or diplomatic relations with the rest of the world. Japan is no longer short of a supply of protein to feed its population, and the consumption of whale and dolphin meat is no longer popular in Japan. Slaughtering dolphins was a cruel and medieval practice then and it is a cruel, medieval and totally unnecessary practice now. Tradition is not a sufficient excuse to continue this barbaric practice. Australia and most traditional whaling nations have given up whaling, instead protecting cetaceans.
In a dolphin drive hunt, fishing boats gather in a large ring and bang on metal rods that penetrate into the water. This wall of noise sends the dolphins into a distressed panic. The dolphins are then driven into a small cove away from surveillance. The area is netted off. The dolphins are then left overnight to calm themselves. Until recently, the dolphins were killed by either being stabbed with spears or having their throats slit. The Japanese government recently discovered that this was unpopular and unsightly, and realised it was a cruel practice. Now, however, the dolphins are killed by driving a metal stake into the space between their spine and their head. To stem the bleeding and stopped the ocean turning blood-red, a wooden plug is then hammered into the space where the metal stake was. A veterinary study of this practice found that this did not kill the dolphins quickly and that dolphins would suffer extreme and extended levels of distress and pain. The vets essentially said that in no abattoir on the planet would you be allowed to slaughter a cow like this.
These are wild and intelligent creatures: striped dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, Risso's dolphins and southern short-finned pilot whales are all taken using this cruel practice. Why are dolphins and whales taken? The ones they do not slaughter are sold as live dolphins to dolphinariums around the world, where they attract significant revenue. These magnificent creatures are kept in terrible conditions in captivity in godforsaken parts of the world; the rest are brutally slaughtered for meat nobody wants to eat.
Australia used to be a leader in cetacean preservation. As in the US, dolphins in Australia are protected under our laws—but under this current government we have recently chosen to put trade deals above whale conservation.
I would like to thank all the individuals across the world who have campaigned to try to prevent the slaughter of dolphins at Taiji. Australia needs to take a more prominent, leading global role in cetacean conservation. The International Whaling Commission currently only deals with large whales. This needs to change. It needs to stop differentiating on the basis of size and start looking after all of our cetaceans. It needs to start including the protection of dolphins in its charter.
Australia should not give up on being a global leader in marine conservation, in which we have a proud track record. It should instead speak up on this issue. It should condemn the slaughter of dolphins, as I do, and it should use its position on the International Whaling Commission to end this medieval practice.