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Two Councilmen From Japanese Whaling Town Break Silence

26/07/2007 00:00:00 August 2007. Two town council members from the Japanese whaling town of Taiji have come out publicly against the feeding of dolphin meat contaminated with mercury to children in Japan’s school lunch programs. It is the first time that Japanese elected officials have broken the unwritten rule against criticizing whaling and the consumption of whale meat that prevails across the country.

Independent council members Junichiro Yamashita and Hisato Ryono will hold a news conference on to announce laboratory test results of samples taken from dolphin meat purchased at local supermarkets. The meat was found to contain more than 10 times the government's limit for both mercury and methyl mercury.
Fishermen have driven a pod of dolphins into the killing cove and cut off their escape with nets. ( Photo by Helene O’Barry courtesy Save Japan Dolphins)
Dolphin hunt
The news conference comes as the annual dolphin drive hunt begins in Taiji. Conservationists around the world oppose the hunt, the largest kill of dolphins anywhere in the world, which takes place over six months beginning in September.

Yamashita said, ‘We're not against traditional whaling, but we heard claims that pilot whales are poisoned with mercury, and we discovered that some of this meat from the drive fisheries was fed to kids in school lunches.’

The assemblymen described the dolphin meat as ‘toxic waste’ and are attempting to persuade other elected officials in Taiji and surrounding towns to take it off school lunch menus.

New dolphin processing plant to be built
Although the supermarkets immediately removed dolphin meat from their shelves after they were informed of the test results, the town of Taiji is moving ahead with plans to build a new dolphin processing facility while expanding the dolphin meat lunch programs to surrounding school districts.

At Taiji, dolphins are hunted for meat and also captured live for sale to marine parks and aquariums, fetching much higher prices for the Taiji fishers than dolphins killed for meat.

The dolphins are driven onto Japanese beaches and bays, stabbed with spears and knives, then left to bleed to death or drown entangled in nets. Some of the dolphins are taken alive, pulled out of the water by ropes tied around their tails to be sold to marine parks.

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