Japanese Language Blog

Whaling and Dolphin Hunting in Japan Posted by on May 14, 2010 in Culture

The Cove is a film documenting the dolphin hunting industry in Japan. The film has won many awards, including the Academy Award for Best Documentary Film. Basically, the film focuses on the dolphin hunting industry in Taiji (太地), Japan. If you were apathetic about the whaling and dolphin hunting industry, this film may change your mind. The film presents an unapologetic picture of the dolphin industry. Not to give the film away, but some of the scenes are gruesome.

The Cove is not a preachy film about why we shouldn’t kill dolphins. At times, the scenes are so beautiful you forget that this is a documentary. These days, it seems that the dolphin activist movement is getting more attention than it ever has. Even celebrities like Hayden Panettiere have taken up the anti-dolphin-hunting cause. The film may be misleading though. Viewers may get the impression that Japan is the only whaling and dolphin hunting nation, which isn’t true. However, out of all the nations, Japan makes a considerable profit from the whaling and hunting industry.

It’s hard to argue that whaling and dolphin hunting is morally justified, especially when you see the footage of how the whales and dolphins are hunted. On the flip side, the residents of Taiji make their living off the sale of whales and dolphins. There is a market for consuming whale and dolphin meat in Japan. Some people argue that the whaling and dolphin industry is merely providing the meat. The real criminals, they argue, are the people who cause this industry to flourish. There are others who make a different argument in favor of whaling. They argue that the issue is cultural, rather than having to do with animal rights.

This argument may have a legitimate point. In some countries, whales are viewed as a source of food. In other countries, the idea of whale meat is revolting. It should be pointed out that whaling in Canada by the Inuit Indians is permitted. Although the Inuits are premitted from hunting over a certain amount, it seems that the Canandian government is reluctant to enforce this limit. If the Canadian government goes after the Inuits for whaling, the government may look like imperialists encroaching upon Inuit customs. Therefore, the question is, what is whaling? Is it a part of the cultural heritage of Japan? Or is it an animal rights issue?

Tags: ,
Keep learning Japanese with us!

Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Try it Free Find it at your Library
Share this:
Pin it


  1. Michelle:

    Were you watching the same documentary I was? Because it sounds like half of the time you weren’t paying attention. The documentary makes quite clear that Japan is not the only place in the world that partakes in this kind of activity. There is clear reference to killing of whales and dolphins in other areas of the world but the purpose of the documentary was to focus specifically on Japan due to the extremity of the situation and the mass attempted cover up by Japanese authorities. Furthermore, the people in Taiji, Japan are getting mercury poisoning from eating the dolphin meat. So how can that be beneficial for them? Them making a profit from killing innocent animals and the Japanese being widely exposed to mercury poisoning is your idea of playing the devils advocate? And although the program was not put in place, the Japanese government was trying to force children to eat the dolphin meat for their lunches.

    I don’t believe in whale/dolphin killing of any kind but there is a vast difference between the sacred traditions of Inuits in Canada who believe in living off the land and have limited rights to how much they can hunt verses the mass slaughter of dolphins in Japan for hundreds of thousands of dollars in profit. An attempted comparison between these two situations is laughable.