Courtney Vail, one of the authors of this newly published paper detailing the extreme nature of the killing methods used in the Taiji dolphin drives, explains in more detail how off the charts the killing methods really are:
But what hasn’t changed is the desire of the fishermen to keep the activities in the cove hidden from public view. If culture and tradition, why such secrecy and shame? Albert Schweitzer, in a call to unveil the cruel activities in the name of tradition everywhere, stated “The thinking (person) must oppose all cruel customs, no matter how deeply rooted in tradition and surrounded by a halo. When we have a choice, we must avoid bringing torment and injury into the life of another.” What is deplorable is the disparity between how dolphins and other animals are treated, even within Japan. The current techniques employed in the drive hunts violate even current animal welfare regulations within Japan where domesticated animals are afforded protection under their equivalent of the Animal Welfare Act. These guidelines intended to minimize pain, suffering, fear, and “agony” are outlined for species such as horses, cattle, sheep, pigs, dogs, and other animals under human care or management. Dolphins and whales are not protected by this law, nor are they afforded protection under the wildlife protection and hunting laws. Instead, dolphins and whales fall under the jurisdiction of the Fisheries Agency under the Department of Agriculture, which affords them little protection. This is in sharp contrast to the protection for dolphins and whales in legislation in other parts of the world where the slaughter of whales and dolphin is strictly prohibited and even their harassment incurs penalties.
Even Japan’s stranding guidelines, issued by the very same agency (Japan Fisheries Agency) responsible for issuing quotas for the dolphin hunts across Japan, cite the necessity of involving a veterinarian in the humane euthanasia or slaughter of a stranded dolphin, and only under extreme circumstances where the individual animal is not likely to survive. Here, the stranding manual suggests that the spinal incision method, similar to killing method in the drive hunts (without the utilization of the wooden plug), ‘gives psychological damage to observers’ and that spectators should be eliminated from the site, and drugs used instead to “execute” small cetaceans such as dolphins. In the drive hunts, dozens are killed at a time, dragged to the shoreline by their tailstocks after an exhausting round up at sea. Under many commercial slaughter regulations, and even compassionate euthanasia standards, it is required that animals should not be in close proximity when killed to avoid the distress associated with the sight, sounds, and smells of slaughter. For example, in the US and UK, the regulations and guidelines governing the humane treatment and slaughter of animals prohibit the killing of an animal in the presence of other animals. From a scientific, humane, and ethical perspective, the treatment of dolphins in these drive hunts sharply contradict current animal welfare standards employed in most modern and technologically advanced societies.
There has been some hard pushback on the paper, because it could be interpreted to be arguing that if the Taiji fishermen simply used accepted livestock slaughter practices then the drive hunts would be okay. While I think the pushback makes a legitimate criticism of the report, there is a benefit to detailing how completely abhorrent–and completely distinct from the slaughter of ANY animal– the Taiji killing methods are. Yes, every discussion about the Taiji dolphin drive should make crystal clear that it should end, without qualification, and that the entire concept of herding and killing dolphins is inhumane and immoral, period. But to the extent that the report shocks people with a deeper understanding of the unusual and extreme cruelty involved, I think it helps build revulsion and opposition to the very idea of the Taiji dolphin drives, regardless of whether the fishermen ever tried to adopt more accepted livestock slaughter practices. That is important.