Japan dolphin hunters bitter as 'The Cove' wins Oscar

08. Mär 2010


Den originalen Beitrag (auch mit einem Bild von Hans Peter Roth mit seinem Buch DIE BUCHT in der Bucht von Taiji) finden Sie hier


Japan dolphin hunters bitter as 'The Cove' wins Oscar

TAIJI, Japan — Dolphin hunters in a Japanese fishing town on Monday defended their annual cull after "The Cove", a hard-hitting film about the slaughter, won the Academy Award for best documentary.

Every year, fishermen in Taiji herd about 2,000 dolphins into a secluded bay, select several dozen for sale to aquariums and marine parks and harpoon the rest for meat, a practice long deplored by animal rights activists.

The team that shot "The Cove" over several years often worked clandestinely and at night to elude local authorities and angry fishermen, setting up disguised cameras underwater and in forested hills around the rocky cove.

Individual fishermen in Taiji routinely decline to speak to foreign media, but they have the support of many local people in the town of 3,700 who defend hunting dolphins, porpoises and small whales as a centuries-old tradition.

Town mayor Kazutaka Sangen and the local fisheries cooperative said in identical statements released on Monday: "We feel regret that the film features elements that are false and not based on scientific facts."

"Hunting of cetaceans in Taiji is being carried out appropriately under the fisheries laws and with the permission of Wakayama prefecture, and there is nothing illegal about it," both statements said.

Many people feel the same way in the southwestern town, which celebrates dolphins and whales with several sculptures and murals and a museum.

"I feel sorry for the fishermen who hunt dolphins as part of their work," said petrol station attendant Takehisa Kobata, 47. "To me, the film seems to be pure entertainment and is not seriously describing the lives here."

Akio Usagawa, 65, director of the Taiji Community Centre, said that "the reputation of the Academy Awards is in tatters" and fumed that the film portrays local fishermen "like mafia."

"They shot angry fishermen, but it's natural that the fishermen get angry if they are disturbed when they're doing their job," he said.

"The Cove," directed by National Geographic photographer Louie Psihoyos, shows angry confrontation between residents and activist Ric O'Barry, who in the 1960s trained dolphins for the US hit television show "Flipper."

The film also highlights the health threat posed by high levels of mercury found in dolphin meat, which used to be served in local school lunches.

Local assemblyman Hisato Ryono, who years ago raised the alarm about the health threat to children, was interviewed in the documentary but now opposes "The Cove," arguing that it emotively distorts the issue.

"This is an unfair film, using clandestine shooting that the fishermen didn't want... I'm concerned about the image of the town of Taiji and Japan as a whole in the future after the film won the Academy Award."

One of the activists behind "The Cove", the co-author of the book on the film, Hans Peter Roth, was back in town on Monday.

"I tried to talk to residents, but couldn't," he told AFP, adding that he thought dolphin-watching trips, rather than hunts, could boost tourism.

"I'm here to find a win-win situation for everybody. That means for the fishermen and for the local economy -- and of course for the dolphins."

He added: "Not all cultural traditions are good. Speaking about culture, it was at one time a culture or tradition in Switzerland that women did not have the right to vote. And it's obviously not a good tradition."

"Westerners equally treat animals badly," said Roth, who added that as a journalist in Switzerland he had filmed the slaughter of cows and pigs.

In Hollywood, Psihoyos denied his movie was an example of "Japan-bashing" and said: "Our hope is the Japanese people will see this film and decide themselves whether animals should be used for meat and for entertainment."

O'Barry added: "We like the Japanese people and there's no Japan bashing from this film. The Japanese people have a right to know.

"This film will do what the Japanese media failed to do, and that is inform the people so they can make up their own mind about what they want to do. We're not telling the Japanese people what to do."