Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Dedicated Japanese Policeman and a Media-Friendly Lecture at Wakayama University

By Ric O’Barry
Campaign Director
Save Japan Dolphins Campaign
International Marine Mammal Project

Wakayama City, Japan, June 10: This blog is dedicated to the memory of one of the finest police officers I've ever had contact with in Japan. Sadly, I got the news from his son during a routine courtesy call at the local police office that I usually make before going down to nearby Taiji that he had died two days ago.

Officer Toshiyuki Yamamoto was with the Shingu Police Department in Wakayama prefecture and would sometimes meet me at the Katsuura train station, close to Taiji, where during routine meetings I would discuss my agenda with him before monitoring the dolphin drive hunts. He liked to call me the “samurai dolphin man.” During our conversations he was always polite and treated me with the utmost respect. He was sympathetic with my feelings towards the dolphin hunts and the related health issues and was always objective when interacting with the Taiji dolphin hunters and me. Every time we reported the dolphin hunters for physically attacking us, he would go and give them hell and get them in line. He was great, and I'm really going to miss him. In his memory, my appearance today at Wakayama University was also dedicated to Officer Yamamoto. I opened my speech to the students there in honor of his professionalism and kindness extended toward me through the years.

I’ve said this repeatedly – the dolphin slaughter should not be blamed on Japan or the Japanese people. It is only a small number of dolphin hunters and bloated bureaucrats in the Japan Fisheries Agency who are responsible for continuing the dolphin hunts, despite widespread opposition when you tell the Japanese people the ugly truth about these annual slaughters. To overturn the hunts, we have to get the truth out and help the Japanese public take action with their own government.

Ric O'Barry talks with Wakayama University students in Wakayama City, Japan, following a recentscreening of The Cove documentary at the university. (June 10, 2010)

Photo credit: Miyuki Takamatsu

Our Save Japan Dolphins Team began our trip on Thursday, bound for Wakayama City to address students at Wakayama University. They had already seen The Cove documentary at the university and were eager to discuss the multi-faceted issues of the dolphin slaughter, including the serious health concerns faced by consumers of toxic dolphin meat and the issues fueling the captive dolphin industry. I received a very good reception from more than 250 students who attended the symposium, which, as a bonus, was also covered by Japan's most prominent print and broadcast media such as NHK-TV, Fuji-TV, TBS-TV and all of the highest circulating dailies; the Yomiuri Shinbun, Asahi Shinbun and Mainichi Shinbun.

Our Save Japan Dolphins Team and I have been meeting with media for YEARS about the dolphin slaughter in Japan, but now the Japanese media is coming to us!
Although security was tight at the venue, a black van with a loudspeaker mounted on its roof was seen parked nearby the university, but police monitored the vehicle and no incidents from nationalist groups, which loudly support the dolphin slaughter, occurred. (Of course, before The Cove came out, one never heard a peep from nationalist groups in Japan about the dolphin slaughter!)

The discussions between the students and I went very well with some students saying that although they didn't necessarily agree with all areas of the film, it was important to raise the awareness of the different issues involved. I urged students, who questioned whether there were high mercury levels in dolphin meat, to go to Taiji, buy the meat and have it tested themselves. I mentioned that some of the toxic dolphin meat is processed into pet food and fertilizer, and that studies made in the Faroe Islands show toxic effects to consumers of dolphins and pilot whales there. The media representatives were given a translated version of The Japan Times article

Tomorrow, I head back to Tokyo for further interviews.

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