5 Things White Animal Advocates Need to Know About “The Cove” on Japan Dolphins Day


One foot of my organizing is placed squarely in the anti-captivity movement. As such, I’ve sat through years of witnessing the great advocacy being done by folks like Paul Watson, Ric O’Barry and Peggy Oki in shedding light on the Japanese Dolphin slaughter – the largest slaughter of cetaceans in the world.

Each year I watch impressed by the lengths advocates go to get the message out in a creative and non-combative ways. Each year I am also disgusted by the endless barrage of racist and xenophobic comments by white animal advocates.

Today is Japan Dolphins Day – an internationally recognized day of awareness raising around the start of the “The Cove” slaughter in Taiji, Japan. Mid day and I am already witnessing the good and the bad. I wanted to write something quickly for folks to share to hopefully re-position some people and how they think on this issue.

1. Dolphin Slaughter Does Not Make Japan “Backwards” or “Barbaric” – The Japanese Dolphin slaughter industry is carried out by very few individuals and without the knowledge or the consent of the majority of the Japanese population. Furthermore, it exists because the demand for captive dolphins exists globally. Projecting this practice onto the Japanese people is false and refuses to acknowledge the real reasons why it exists. White advocates who present this logic may feel righteous in that their countries do not slaughter or consume dolphin meat – but that has more to do with the geographic location of dolphins than anything else. There are very few Governments in this world, or populations, who have taken a strong stand against the slaughter and/or captivity of dolphins – and less than a handful of those countries are in the “West.”

2. Collectively Punishing the Japanese Population is Racist and Counter Productive – Many in the “West” have argued that Japan as a whole should suffer because its Government protects this practice. It is common place to hear animal advocates talk of natural disasters in Japan as “karma” and to call for more retributive measures for “the Japs.” This logic is flawed and dangerous. Many in the “West” do not realize how serious these kinds of threats are and the implications of them – our Governments have collectively punished populations around the world for being ruled by Dictators. People have starved to death – in droves – simply because we in the “West” do not agree with a practice or Government which may or may not even represent the wishes of the people. This type of thinking needs to end immediately. Focus should always remain on the decision makers and those who actually profit from this industry (read: the captive animal industry) – never on collective punishment of the Japanese people.

3. No One Slaughters Other Animal Species on the Size and Scale of Western Nations – Although many dolphin advocates draw an arbitrary line between marine mammals and domesticated farm animals there can be no moral high ground for “Western” nations who clearly have no regard for other sentient life. This typically is used as a response by the Japanese Government to protect this industry – those in the “West” should be working towards removing this excuse from their lips.

4. The people of Japan will be the ones who end the Dolphin Slaughter – Although it may be hard to believe, the slaughter of Dolphins in Japan will not be stopped by someone in the “West” furiously typing on Twitter or Facebook. It will be stopped by the people of Japan themselves. Advocates in that country are growing and taking action against their own Government. Advocates in the “West” need to recognize their advocacy and amplify their voices. They need to ally themselves to advocates in Japan – many who are also fighting a massive battle against the Nuclear industry. This is exactly why we have to keep pressure on stakeholders here at home – and support the voices of those from with the country who are taking a stand.

5. If Someone Calls Your Behavior or Ideas Racist – You Have the Power to Change – Many advocates shut down when they are called out. Don’t. Your behavior and ideas are a barrier to moving forward an issue you claim to care deeply about. Pause, reflect, and move forward. This is a crucial time for people in the “West” to understand what role they need to play in pushing for change. If you care as much as you say you do – step back and try and understand what is being said/asked of you and take the time to educate yourself (instead of forcing others to do it for you).

I hope for many “blue days” this year and for a lot less of the above. Everyone has a positive role to play in making this practice history. I hope folks in the “West” will get on board and channel their support into playing a productive and ally role to those advocating in Japan.

Edit: “West” placed in brackets as it is a European concept with colonial lineage that assumes “discovery” and the geo political primacy of (Settler) Colonialism.


7 responses to “5 Things White Animal Advocates Need to Know About “The Cove” on Japan Dolphins Day

  1. This is AWESOME!!!
    Thank you, thank you , thank you for writing this, and for writing it so beautifully.
    You have NO idea how vindicated I feel right now.
    Kudos on brilliant authoring.

  2. Well put. Thank you. I have long said that it is only the people of Japan that can end the dolphin drives. We need to support them and help them where needed. I applaud the courage of the Japanese people bearing witness in Taiji and making their voices heard.

  3. I see two major problems here. First is that point 2 is an argument used by oppressors in an attempt to avoid resistance against oppression. For example, it is used to Israelis to oppose the BDS movement i.e. http://original.antiwar.com/justin/2013/05/09/boycott-israel/

    The other problem is you don’t deal with the elephant in the room – ya, sure I might agree that Western nations slaughter morally considerable beings on a far vaster scale than this dolphin killing. Even in Japan, I’d be surprised if there were not far more chickens killed every month, or even every day, than dolphins are killed per year. But this is only relevant to people who already agree that a large scope of non-human animals are equally or roughly equally morally considerable. One of the reasons there is such a fuss over dolphin killings has to do with the idea that dolphins are “close” to humans, and while I don’t think those similarities are morally relevant, many people feel that way, and this simply has to be thematized as a central argument when dealing with the global focus on the lives of these dolphins.

  4. Hey Tristan,

    I don’t believe the BDS call is a call to collectively punish the people of Israel. I believe folks that claim it is do so because they wish to access the political capital of victimization against a campaign that rightfully does “Focus … on the decision makers.”

    As for the second point, the focus and intent of the article was making advocates aware of the fact that privilege shapes how they act/interact as animal advocates. I think the point you make is valid and obviously there are layers of speciesism to peel away – but that’s another topic.

  5. Your comment illustrates Dylan’s point. You are conflating “Israelis” with the state of Israel. Do you want to be implicated by actions of the Harper government? Because I certainly don’t. Like Israel, Canada is officially a democracy, but one in which a majority of us didn’t vote for the current government.

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