The Washington Post has a story in today’s paper titled Intelligence Of Dolphins Cited in Fight Against Hunt that discusses the fight marine scientists are launching against dolphin hunting as part of Japan’s annual “Dolphin drive.” According to the Wikipedia entry on the subject:
When a pod of dolphins has been spotted, they’re driven into a bay with boats by the fishermen while banging on metal rods hanging in the water to scare them. When the dolphins are in the bay, it is quickly closed off with nets so the dolphins cannot escape. The dolphins are not always caught and killed immediately, but sometimes left to calm down over night. If so, the dolphins are caught one by one and killed the following day. The killing of the animals used to be done by slitting their throats which resulted in a long and painful death for the dolphin, but the Japanese government banned this method and now dolphins may officially only be killed by driving a metal pin into the neck of the dolphin, which causes them to die within seconds.
The picture accompanying the Post article is particularly horrific, showing hunters in a boat surrounded by blood red waters.
Critics of the hunt call it “inhumane” because “according to a growing body of research, are not just intelligent but sophisticatedly self-aware.” Unfortunately, victims of other types of hunting around the world are rarely afforded the same respect. While I agree that dolphin hunting is terrible and needs to be stopped, linking inhumane treatment with intelligence perpetuates the idea that only “smart” animals rated against some arbitrary scale derived by us are worthy of saving.
An interesting quote later in the articles comes from Takumi Fukuda, the fisheries attache at the Japanese Embassy in Washington, a defender of the event:
It is “quite natural . . . no one wants to expose the killing scene to the public, like no meat company wants to release pictures from the killing scene in their slaughterhouses,” Fukuda said. “We should understand that all animal killing scenes contain certain cruelty.”
He added that there is a growing awareness among fishermen of a need for more humane methods.
“We understand and think it is necessary to shorten the time until the dolphin dies, so we have been trying to shorten the times,” he said.
That last bit sounds an awful lot like the welfare argument being used in the factory farm reform movement. People fighting for an end to the dolphin hunt won’t settle for “more humane methods,” will they? Should we?