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Can it be justified by culture or tradition?

Modern Boat
There's nothing traditional about modern drive hunting. Here we see a Taiji fishing boat with high-tech electronics including radar and GPS clearly visible. The sophisticated fish finding equipment isn't visible, but we can assure you it's there.

The standard defence of dolphin hunting offered by its supporters is that whaling (including of dolphins) is a traditional practice dating back hundreds of years, and an important part of Japanese culture.

That an activity has occurred for centuries does not, of course, mean that it should necessarily be continued. Many historical practices have been discontinued and are considered inhumane by today’s standards.

But even if tradition were a good reason to continue inhumane practices, it would not mean drive hunting of dolphins should continue.

It's true that whaling dates back over 1,000 years in some areas of Japan, but its historical nature was very different to that of today's drive hunts. In times past, subsistence fishermen using non-powered vessels caught a very small number of whales. These early whalers, who disagreed with the indiscriminate killing of whales, actually opposed the introduction of modern motorised whaling from Norway in the 1860s.

Regular dolphin drive hunts capturing thousands of dolphins and whales date back only to 1969. To make a complete mockery of the claim that these modern hunts are ancient tradition, the high-tech speedboats used in Taiji are equipped with GPS, radar and the latest fish finding sonar.

Moreover, the purpose of today’s drive hunts is the supply of a relatively new industry – the dolphin entertainment industry - which did not develop until the 1960s.

One could also ask: If drive hunting is a proud Japanese tradition, why does Taiji go to such lengths to cover it up? (to read more about this, please see The cover-up).

In short, the claim that drive hunting is ancient tradition is ludicrous. We should take it no more seriously than we do another of Japan’s claims about whaling - that its commercial fleet off the coast of Antarctica captures whales for “scientific research”.

Research, Japanese style
A "research" ship fitted with a harpoon on display in Taiji.
Read next article: Why is it bad?

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