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Voices from Taiji

Beyond our support of monitoring activities at the cove, OPS is encouraging activists on the ground who are working to raise awareness about the dolphin drive hunts in Japan, confront authorities, and oppose captive dolphin facilities.

In providing a platform for all courageous and committed activists working to end the dolphin drive hunts, OPS is profiling an interview with Ren Yabuki, a Japanese grassroots activist and director of Life Investigation Agency (LIA) to share his perspectives on seeking change within Japan.  The answers are provided in both English and Japanese.

If you would like to be profiled on our Voices from Taiji blog, please contact us at [email protected] so that we can share your important story and work.

Question: Can you tell us how or why you got involved in monitoring and protesting the dolphin drive hunts in Taiji?



Starting in 2010, I gradually began surveying dolphin, whale and seal slaughters. I started researching dolphins, specifically the Dall’s porpoises and small cetaceans that are targeted in Tsukinbo spear hunting in the Tohoku region, and then in 2017 I also started working in Taiji.

Question: How long have you known about the drive hunts and how did you find out about them?


太地のイルカ追い込み猟については、ドキュメンタリー映画「The Cove」を見ていたので知っていましたし、フェロー諸島の追い込み猟についてもEIA(Environmental Investigation Agency)からの発信で同じ時期から知っています。


I had known about Taiji’s drive hunts from the documentary film, The Cove, and I had also known about the hunting in the Faroe Islands around same time from the EIA (Environmental Investigation Agency). Regarding Taiji’s drive hunts, I think I know a fair amount about the issue from being active in Taiji every season since 2017.

Question: What is the greatest challenge that you are facing on the ground in Taiji?



Field costs and the lack of manpower are the most serious challenges.

Question: Do you think the drive hunts will ever end?




I think the drive hunts will end when there are no more people buying tickets to visit aquariums and dolphinariums.

In Japan, there is also “Sarumawashi,” street shows in which monkeys are exploited and made to perform tricks. This show is said to have started more than 1200 years ago, but it has yet to be ended. Since Japan is an island nation, change can be very slow and many people are reluctant or unwilling to accept new things.

Question: What are the main reasons the drive hunts continue?



The key players are the hunters and the people who buy tickets to enter the aquarium. As long as there are hunters who want to capture dolphins, there are also politicians who support them. As long as there are people who buy tickets to aquariums, the aquariums will continue to buy dolphins. Supply and demand are equal drivers.

Question: How do you personally feel about the dolphin drive hunts?



Humans are not part of the global food chain. Dolphin hunting, as well as the capture and killing of wild animals, regardless of the reason, should not be done at all. Wild animals are “the earth itself,” and this cycle of life and death is repeated only in the food chain of the natural world. When humans, who are not part of this chain, slaughter wild animals, we are not only killing the animals themselves, but we are also attacking and destroying the ecosystem.

Question: How do you maintain hope in the midst of such a brutal assault on dolphins? Is anything changing in Japan?



日本では今、Veganを選択する人も増えてきました。ようやく増えてきました。Life Investigation Agency(LIA)は2010年に設立されたNGO団体ですが日本人は少しずつ変化してきています。


This year, many Japanese people learned about the capture of dolphins for the aquarium trade. Many Japanese people also learned about the reality of how dolphins that are not selected for captivity are slaughtered for meat.

In Japan, there are more people that are choosing to go vegan. More people are finally choosing to go vegan. Life Investigation Agency (LIA) is an NGO that was established in 2010, but the impact in Japan is growing little by little.

This is my hope, as well as my motivation.

Question: Do you think that people who visit dolphinariums would stop doing so if they learned about these hunts?





Within the people who go to aquariums, there are generally two types of people.

The first are those who do not know about the issues surrounding dolphin captivity, and the background of how the dolphins were brought there. It is very important to inform the people who do not know the facts; when they know the facts and background, they will stop buying tickets. Increasing the number of such people is the first step, and I think focusing on this aspect is very important.

On the other hand, there are those who know about captivity issues, and the background of how the dolphins were brought there, but still pay the admission fee to enter the aquarium for their own entertainment. These people are what psychologists call “cognitive dissonance,” people who are aware of their own inconsistencies, but deliberately refuse to change. These people are the cause of many problems, aside from dolphin and whale issues.

However, as the world changes and most importantly as the generations change, these people will change to new values. Eventually there will be no more aquariums, no more zoos, no more captivity of wild animals, and of course no more dolphin shows. However, if we just wait for the world to change, many wild animals will go extinct due to the lack of ethics of the current generation of human beings. The ecosystem will collapse, and the earth could be destroyed. We need to work hard and in a result-oriented manner to help quickly bring social change.

Question: What are a few things our supporters can do to support Japanese activists in Taiji?




Securing funds to cover equipment and field costs is vital.

LIA is currently unable to purchase necessary equipment. Fundraising is likely to be a challenge for many organizations around the world, but in Japan it is especially difficult because Japan does not have a culture of donations and many Japanese spend money only for themselves. Because of this, it is difficult for Japanese organizations to develop activists who can work on problem reform in a more professional manner. If we can secure funding, we can also secure personnel.

In Japanese work cultures, the off-day system typically consists of one or two days off each week, repeated every other week. [And on top of that] there are only three vacation days per year, which is very different from off-time and vacation time in other countries. Under such a system, it is difficult to dedicate time to activism. This problem can be solved if there is enough funding for activism, so that more people can devote themselves to activism. This would also bring more opportunities to train younger activists.

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