Monday, November 16, 2009

Tokyo Press Conference Confronts Japan’s Food Safety Minister With Toxic Dolphin Meat

“Japan Minister Mizuho Fukushima at a Tokyo Press Conference.”
Photo by Boyd Harnell.

Journalist Boyd Harnell, who has covered the killing of dolphins in Japan for the Japan Times, recently confronted Japan’s new Food Safety Minister Fukushima, with the support of Sky TV’s Pio d’Emilia, with detailed evidence, some supplied by the Save Japan Dolphins Coalition, on the poisoning of dolphin and whale meat on sale in Japanese supermarkets.

The Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan (FCCJ) held a press conference Wednesday, November 11th, to welcome Japanese politician Mizuho Fukushima, the new minister of food safety and general affairs, social affairs, and gender equality. Mainstream Japanese and foreign journalists with the print and broadcast media fielded questions related to her new position, including an interview by reporter Harnell related to the serious health issues revolving around the ongoing sale of highly toxic, mercury-tainted dolphin meat at retail outlets in Japan.

Mr. Harnell told Fukushima that the Japan Health Ministry has so far failed to mandate warnings on the labels of small cetacean meat, adding that mislabeling of dolphin meat as being whale meat was endemic throughout Japan. He also told Fukushima that two Taiji government officials condemned dolphin meat as toxic waste after they had conducted certified lab tests showing Taiji dolphin meat to be extremely high in mercury and methyl mercury
and said it had been formerly served at government-sponsored Taiji lunches for school children.

Harnell went on to point out that top Japanese medical researchers, Dr. Shigeo Ekino and Dr. Tetsuya Endo, also condemned the sale of dolphin meat for human consumption. He mentioned the high levels of mercury found in 50 Taiji residents that tested at ten times the national average for this toxic substance. The Japan Times contributing correspondent turned over ten certified lab reports of dolphin meat showing ballistic levels of mercury along with in-depth studies made by environmental organizations and scientific reports detailing the various toxins found in Japan's coastal dolphins sold for food to Japanese consumers.

Harnell asked if she would ban the sale of dolphin meat forever. Fukushima said she was aware of the high levels of mercury in Japan's dolphins and said she would address the issue and investigate studies made by scientists and environmental groups.

Ric O’Barry, Campaign Director for the Save Japan Dolphins Coalition, stated: “Boyd Harnell’s efforts to bring the story of dolphin meat poisoning to the attention of Japanese officials has been outstanding. We really owe him and other brave journalists a great deal for challenging the media blackout in Japan over stories about dolphins and whales. Dolphin meat should not be eaten by anyone, and Japan must ban the slaughter of dolphins and whales to protect public health and preserve their ocean heritage.”

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The Save Japan Dolphins Coalition to stop dolphin and whale slaughter and stop dolphin trafficking consists of Elsa Nature Conservancy of Japan, the International Marine Mammal Project of Earth Island Institute, In Defense of Animals, Animal Welfare Institute, OceanCare of Switzerland, and Campaign Whale of the UK.

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