Tears for the Rising Sun

Commentary by Paul Watson
Founder and President of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

How can three American women deliver an urgent message to the government of Japan?

The message is an important one for the government to listen to, and it concerns a very serious situation-the deliberate poisoning of Japanese children. The Japanese Minister of Health, Yoichi Masuzoe, is especially difficult to reach-certainly if you are a Westerner, and most certainly if you are a woman. You see, according to Yanagisawa-sama, women should be staying at home and functioning as baby producing machines for the good of the future economy of Japan. Not only should women not be in the work place, they most certainly should not be protesting in front of his office pointing out atrocities in Japan.

But that is what Sea Shepherd activists Allison Lance and Danielle Thompson, along with Sea Shepherd Director Persia White are doing. Their message is simple and direct. Japanese school children are being forced to eat mercury-contaminated dolphin meat in their school lunch programs, and this must stop. It should come as no surprise that this is happening.  After all, something needs to be done with the tons of meat taken from the 22,000 dolphins cruelly slaughtered on Japanese beaches every year. Poisoned dolphin meat cannot be sold to foreigners or people intelligent enough to know that mercury is a heavy metal that will Swiss cheese your brain and cause genetic defects.

But Mayor Kazutaka Sangen of Taiji, Japan could care less about the effects of mercury and methyl-mercury on the brain. Sangen-sama is building a specially designed slaughterhouse just for dolphins. He wants to kill more of them, he needs a market for the flesh, and the government seems to be quite willing to buy his dolphin meat for the school lunch programs as a very cheap source of protein for growing children. Yes, protein for strong muscles, with mercury thrown in for a weakened brain. Maybe that is what the government wants-weak brained labourers and future dolphin killers. Who knows? What we do know for certain is that deliberately feeding poisoned meat to children in Japan is seemingly okay with the government. They are doing nothing and do not wish to know anything about it.

The Japanese media is even more adamant about not wishing to investigate the horror of screaming, bleeding dolphins on beaches and the spectre of sponge-brained children growing up to give birth to genetically distorted freaks. It is somewhat pathetic that in the land of the Samurai, three gaijin women must come like saints to serve the needs of the Japanese children, and to plea for the lives of innocent dolphins. After all, that is what the word samurai means-to serve.

These women are in Japan to save lives-the lives of dolphins and the lives of children-where they strive to expose their most urgent message to a society that is obsessed with profit and armoured in apathy. It is their giri-their obligation and responsibility-to defend the dolphins and the children. Allison and Danielle are displaying the images of slain dolphins in the public forum on the streets of Tokyo. They are busily handing out leaflets to reach Japanese citizens who are completely in the dark about both the dolphin slaughter on Japanese beaches and the toxic lunch programs provided to school children. The police are threatening them with arrest for protesting at the same time as the Japanese media are condemning the stifling of dissent on the streets of Rangoon in Myanmar.

Back in Taiji, Mayor Sangen is stifling dissent with threats of violence. Last month, two courageous Japanese Councilmen, Junichiro Yamashita and Hisato Ryono, spoke out publicly against the feeding of mercury-contaminated dolphin meat to children. Sangen-sama's threats quickly shut up Ryono-sama, who now refuses to mention the issue. Only Yamashita-sama remains with the courage to continue to condemn the dark schemes of Mayor Sangen, the dolphin butcher of Taiji.

Allison and Danielle have been protesting and leafleting at Shinjuku and Shibuya. They are now demanding a meeting with the Japanese Minister of Health. Sea Shepherd Director and actress Persia White, who stars in the hit comedy TV series Girlfriends, is traveling to Japan to support them and to present a stack of petitions to the Minister of Health. Persia has a strong fan base in Japan to help get this message out.

Children are being poisoned in Japan for profit. Dolphins are being speared, stabbed, clubbed, and drowned by the tens of thousands on Japanese beaches. Mayor Sangen's new death camp for dolphins, if known to the average Japanese citizen, would invoke the same revulsion it does for all of us who have seen the horrific evidence of the brutality, blood, and gore of the senseless slaughter of the gentlest and most intelligent creatures in the sea.

Almost half a million dolphins have died in the annual dolphin death drives. The bays run red with the hot blood of these screaming creatures as Japanese fishermen slash, stab, spear, and club the animals to death. Witnessing the slaughter and watching innocent children being fed poison is reminiscent of another era, a time that many of us thought had long past-the time of the Rape of Nanking, comfort women, medical experiments on humans, the Bataan death march-a time when Japanese ruthlessness shocked and horrified the world. And now this! This unimaginable horror! Every bit as disturbing as the events of a generation ago. And yet just like in pre-war Japan, the media are complicit, the public apathetic, and the politicians compromised. Mayor Sangen's slaughterhouse providing poisoned meat to a generation of children is a war crime every bit as foul and loathsome as those insidious acts of Japanese war criminals of the past.

Aside from the courageous lone voice of Yamashita-sama, where is the indignation in Japan? Has everyone forgotten the obscene consequences of mercury poisoning in Minamata decades ago? Were the hellish ravishes of toxic mercury pollution of the bodies of the citizens of Minamata not enough to illustrate the total horror of this affliction? The facts are shockingly evident. The levels of mercury in the bodies of the dolphins being fed to the children of Taiji are as high as, and higher than, that of fish tested at the time of the Minamata crisis. The government and media did not act in Minamata until it was too late for the victims, and now the same pattern is being repeated. Apathy and official refusal to address the reality of the situation will doom these children as horribly as the thousands at Minamata were doomed.

The challenge is for these women to break through the shroud of apathy and send the truth echoing down the corridors of power in Japan that the slaughter of dolphins must be ended and the feeding of the toxic meat of these dolphins to innocent children must be brought to an end. Allison and Danielle have found the Japanese people they have petitioned on the streets of Tokyo to be genuinely concerned and also surprised to hear the message-a message denied to them by their own media and government. A few even cried when they saw the images that the media has denied them in their own nation.

How can three American women deliver this urgent message to the government of Japan? They will do so on the streets, directly to the people. They will knock on the formidable doors of power until the politicians listen. They will petition, leaflet, and protest, and they will distribute images of slaughtered dolphins dying in pools of their own blood, of school children sentenced to the ravages of toxic poisoning, and of laughing cruel fishermen plunging spears into the hearts of dolphins or slitting their throats-and all of this done under the banner of the Rising Sun.

Is this where Japan is heading in the 21st Century? Not if these women succeed in delivering their message. All of us who love and care for dolphins and children must support them, lend our voices to their efforts, and demand justice.  We must demand an end to the killing of the dolphins and an end to the deliberate poisoning of innocent children.