Saturday, February 12, 2011

Whales, Dolphins,Tuna and Sharks - How Does Japan Change?

As I sat down this morning to read the Huff Post I can across this article "Shark fishing in Japan – a messy, blood-spattered business" detailing a commercial shark processing center at Kesennuma.

I have never heard of the place, and the images feature a graphic expose of commercial animal processing.

Nothing more.

In the U.S. and Europe animal processing has long since been sanitized behind industrial fortresses that bring whole animals in one end and spit out boxes of product out the other.

Westerners are, simply put, largely divorced from our food chain.

Japan's food processing is still in many ways very Asian, where the public is invited to see or admire freshness, and purity of product. Unlike western values that feature stamped on dates, Asian cultures like to see and be engaged with their food sources. It's how they do food.

It's a cultural difference that Japan is being overwhelmingly attacked for. Their public display of food and food processing exploited by dozens of western based conservation groups.

I am struck by the efforts of so many conservation groups who are rabid in their individual assessment of Japans and China's food chain. Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and it's loon fringe being the worst of the lot, having their own reality television show with regular on screen quotes by western "vegans" who alternately decry whale harvests while demonising Japan in the process.

For Japan, reeling from multi-pronged attacks on tuna, sharks, whales, and dolphins, not to mention five or six species of fish, I find myself asking "where does Japan go from here?".

The ugly issues with all of this Japan focus on food, and one not being discussed, is that this entire effort is an overwhelming western effort. These are western faces demanding Japanese people change what they eat.


For any conservation effort to be successful you need the ability to reverse positions and see your conservation opponents view. Right now Japan is under siege by a western generated cacophony of what might be viewed as culinary imperialism. A lot of how Japan harvests food is repugnant to western eyes long since divorced from the blood and gore.

A quick look, and by no means an in depth one, over the last two months of western media hits against Japan reveals a disorganized patchwork of many conservation agendas:

Shark fishing in Japan – a messy, blood-spattered business

New video reveals dolphin hunt just as brutal as ever

Birch Bay resident sets sail to stop dolphin slaughter

Whale wars: Boat claims ram attempt

Food giant Princes accused of selling endangered tuna on the High Street

It's quite a storm of protest and one I fear will just have Japan hunker down and play turtle without getting any concessions to sustainable harvests, which at the end of the day would be a big win.

Without a doubt there are some serious issues with species loss and rampant over harvest of animals - worldwide. But this focus on Asians by westerners, I fear, will ultimately backfire under a counter, and western conservation driven, nationalistic blow back.

How long can westerners keep up their demands on what Asians can and cannot put into their mouths?

How long will the Japanese stand for this growing patchwork of food based conservation agendas and increasingly shrill conservation noise?

How does Japan change, when it seems every week a new food source is identified and a new western conservation group, using in-your-face conservation tactics and media hits gleaned from other groups, goes on the attack?

I am all for conservation, but is not time that individual groups look up from their pet projects in Japan and Asia to take a larger view of how this growing group effort to conserve wildlife is being perceived in Asia?

We all want to see change but this recent trend to "Jump on Japan" does not leave any room for compromise, nor does it allow Japan and Japanese people to assess their own inalienable rights to choose what they consider a food source or not.

Another look at this issue from Da Shark.

Another look with RTSea Blog.

Patric Douglas CEO

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