“Political power grows from the barrel of a gun.”
– Mao Tse-Tung
I respect life, and I hate violence. Enough evil was done to me as a kid, however, by various parties, that I am left with a deep, fulminating core of rage that sometimes threatens to erupt and overwhelm me.
Every year, at this time, is one of those times. Why? Sept. 1 marks the start of the dolphin drive-hunt season in Japan, an excuse for a handful of Japanese fishermen to murder up to 20,000 dolphins and other small whales.
I use the term “murder” very deliberately. From my own experience, backed up by the latest science, I know that each one of those dolphins is as much a person as I am, or as are you who is reading this. They have names and personalities. They speak languages with dialects. They can use tools. They know their reflection in a mirror. They think, and feel, on the same level we do. They are capable of formulating and carrying out long-range plans, and more importantly, they know what love is.
And those two dozen or so Japanese fishermen slaughter the dolphins in cold blood, using a process so cruel and inhumane I won’t even try to describe it here. It wouldn’t fly, not even in the most backwards, backwoods slaughterhouse. It makes halal or kosher killing seem swift and merciful by comparison.
These murderous fishermen aren’t rogues or outlaws; they act with the complicity and full cooperation of the Japanese government, under the auspices of the Cetacean Research Institute, a pseudo-science body which remorselessly ignores the same up-to-date research that recently caused India to ban the keeping of all dolphins in captivity (see Mother India). They claim that the dolphins, with bigger and more sophisticated brains than the fishermen possess, are trash and call them “vermin of the sea.” Instead of managing their fish stocks wisely, they find it easier to overfish and then blame the dolphins for their problems, rationalizing a spectacle so savage and brutal that it must be hidden from public view at all costs.
The dolphins are butchered for their meat, which – surprise! – turns out to be loaded with heavy metals, PCB’s and other toxic contaminants, since these are near-apex level predators. One of the town councilmen who released this information to the public was run out of town and now drives a taxi in Tokyo.
And every year at this time, confronting this violent atrocity, I just feel this murderous rage rise up in me. It’s been four years since Louie Psihoyos and the Oceanic Preservation Society released The Cove, the Academy Award-winning documentary that revealed to the world what the fishermen of Taiji strive so desperately to keep hidden. It was a tremendous piece of environmental journalism that utilized the skills of highly trained divers and hidden cameras to document the horrors of the slaughter. And even though OPS sent a Japanese-language DVD of The Cove to every household in Taiji, the slaughter continues unabated.
This year, as they have for the past several years, since the events in Taiji came to light, protesters will gather on Sept. 1 outside Japanese embassies and consulates at more than 100 locations around the world. They will chant chants and wave placards and give interviews to the press, should any show up… and not a fucking thing will change. A mere handful of fishermen will be responsible for one of the most gruesome, painful and unnecessary animal slaughters on Earth, and to what profit?
Enter the oceanariums and marine life parks who pay big bucks, up to $150,000 per individual, for dolphins… blood dolphins, as former Flipper trainer Ric O’Barry rightly calls them. Without unethical trainers and organizations like IMATA (International Marine Animal Trainers’ Association) supporting them, the Taiji fishermen would soon go out of business, and the drive hunts would be over.
Which is why sometimes, I am sorry to admit, evil thoughts creep into my head, and I find myself thinking that the money Psihoyos and crew spent on shooting The Cove could have been better spent on a .50-caliber sniper’s rifle, and shooting a few fishermen instead. Like I said, it’s an evil thought that would rightly horrify Psihoyos, who is himself a vegan, but my point is, you wouldn’t have to shoot all the fishermen. Shoot one or two and the rest would get the message. They’re not stupid, you know!
I’m not kidding, here. You have to remember, to me, those dolphins dying in that cove are every bit as much “people” as you reading this now. If it wasn’t dolphins, but your tribe, race or species that was being “ethnically cleansed,” would you hesitate to defend yourself? Wouldn’t you heed a call to arms? Wouldn’t you fight back? Given that, why shouldn’t I? You may say that violence doesn’t solve anything, but that’s just bullshit. Righteous violence ended the Second World War, which is the reason I’m not writing this in German or Japanese. When they weren’t beating them with axe handles or soaking them with fire hoses, the bastions of southern segregation laughed at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his non-violent protests until Malcolm X stood up and proclaimed that the black race would attain its human rights “by any means necessary.” Then, faced with the thought of confronting angry, armed, unbowed blacks, the Civil Rights Movement suddenly took on a new respectability. Oh, I remember those times well! Violence and threats of violence usually get things done in a big fat hurry. Every mob boss knows that, and our country is about to exercise it again as foreign policy, target, Syria.
Of course, the dolphin-murdering fishermen of Taiji can sleep well at night, knowing that the widths of the Pacific Ocean and a rather large continent lie between them and me, but this is not true of the Japanese Consulate in Miami. Ever since I went there to videotape the 2005 day of protest, I have been unable to shake the fantasy that some day I will return with a gun, somehow slip past security and take some hostages. I think about things like blanking out the windows with spray paint so a police sniper wouldn’t be able to draw a bead on me, and how I would explain to a perfectly innocent Japanese clerical worker or petty government official that she or he had to die to draw attention to an undesirable situation in their homeland, do they mind? Wouldn’t they be honored to die for their country? And don’t think I couldn’t do it, either. I wouldn’t get any enjoyment out of it, which I guess marks me as a sociopath rather than a psychopath, but if I was to go without my anti-depressants for a few days, I could. (And I’m not afraid to die for a cause I believe in as strongly as this one.)
How much longer would the Japanese government endorse the Taiji slaughter if they knew that for every dolphin that dies, a Japanese government official would die?
But then the rational, compassionate side of my mind kicks in. That would be another “slaughter of the innocents,” wouldn’t it? Wasn’t that argument, “The end justifies the means,” the one that led Hitler to make Germany a better country – by killing six million Jews? Even today, the Japanese rationalize the horrific WWII rapes of thousands of Chinese and Korean women by saying their soldiers, facing death and battle, needed the sexual release.
No, I tell myself, the end does not justify the means in this case. But last night, my feelings of self-righteous rage were so strong that the struggle of my conflicting emotions left me sobbing. And every year it’s like this, and every year I get a little more disillusioned that the protests are going to achieve anything, and the rage grows a little stronger, and I find myself thinking compulsively about using violence against humans to stop the ongoing violence against dolphins.
Like I said, these are evil thoughts, and I know that. For the record, I do not own a gun, it’s doubtful my old truck would make it to Miami, and I know I do not have the necessary qualifications to pull off a stunt like taking hostages at a consulate. But every year that this bloody slaughter goes on, I cannot escape these thoughts, and I am afraid that someday, under some stress I cannot now imagine, my reason and my compassion will be submerged and I will snap and do something that I will later regret.
Somebody talk me out of this – please?
To find out what you can do legally to help the Taiji dolphins, click here.