Where our research led
Our research, relationships and on-ground work in Taiji led us to the conclusion that change in foreign communities who undertake small locally-led operations can only be driven from within. Forced change through harassment, manipulation and 'shame' campaigns in places like Taiji and other small fishing villages across Japan have only bridged the gap between any viable solution to the hunts and have unfortunately strengthened the community's resolve to continue, despite any economic losses or decline in demand for cetacean products, or within the captive industry.
Many local people have told us that hunting in Taiji was naturally dying out before the town received such wide-spread attention, as it did in many other parts of the country over the past few decades (e.g. Futo, etc.). Since 2009 the resolve of the Isana Union (whaling union) and the town to continue the hunts is stronger than ever before. If foreign environmentalists want to ensure the protection of cetaceans and other species and minimise the suffering of what many perceive as inhumane industries, communities need to be approached with respect from day one. Environmental solutions in areas where trust has been irreparably damaged need to be driven from within to re-build relationships and mutual respect in order to move forward.
We believe that if foreign groups are truly passionate in creating positive change in Taiji for dolphins and porpoises being targeted for meat and the captive industry they should re-examine their tactics. Through re-directing funding and efforts toward groups in Japan who can rebuild the shattered relationships, lack of trust and strengthened resolve among locals to continue the industry at all costs, they can inspire a shift in practice that appeals to the wider community and ensures that long-term health of the environment and local prosperity are accounted for. When the people of Taiji and greater Japan decide to cease hunting cetaceans and end the captive trade it will be due to locally led initiatives driven through understanding and respect.
We will continue working with Japanese organisations and the local people of Taiji to support these initiatives and a transition to more humane and sustainable practices that benefit the animals and the communities who rely on the ocean for survival.
Photography © Karl Goodsell