REVIEWS: Sakae Hemmi
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 1999:
A Report on the 1996 Dolphin Catch-Quota Violation
at Futo Fishing Harbor, Shizuoka Prefecture
Wild Orca Capture: Right or Wrong?
both by Sakae Hemmi
Elsa Nature Conservancy (POB 2, Tsukuba-Gakuen Post Office,
Tsukuba, Ibaraki 305-8691, Japan.) No prices listed.
A Report on the 1996 Dolphin
Catch-Quota Violation at Futo Fishing
Harbor, Shizuoka Prefecture, initially published
in Japanese, now translated, details
how in October 1996 the Elsa Nature
Conservancy forced the Futo Fishing
Cooperative to release more than 100 dolphins
who were captured in excess of a “drive
fishery” kill quota, and a week later obliged
two aquariums to release six psuedorcas who
had been taken from the excess for exhibition.
“The protest movement against the
dolphin capture was the first of its kind,”
author Sakei Hemmi explains. Previous
opposition to drive fisheries came from foreign
activists, notably filmmaker Hardin
Jones, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society
founder Paul Watson, and Steve Sipman,
who invented the name “Animal Liberation
Front” in connection with releasing two dolphins
from a Hawaiian laboratory in 1976.
“In this case, however,” Hemmi
writes, “Japanese citizens took the lead.”
Hemmi herself opposes all whaling
and whale-catching, questions that eating
whales is really part of Japanese culture, and
readily reminds readers that Japan continues
to kill more than 22,000 small whales per
year in coastal waters.
She omits, however, any but passing
mention of Japanese “research” whaling,
which in 1998 included killing at least 440
minke whales within the nominally protected
Southern Oceans Whale Sanctuary.
Wiithin a year of the Futo incident,
the indigenous Japanese anti-whaling movement,
Hemmi included, had become almost
wholly preoccupied––like much of the U.S.
“save the whales” movement––with opposition
to keeping whales in captivity.
Hemmi’s 1998 volume, Wild Orca
Capture: Right or Wrong? details the influence
and involvement of the U.S.-based
Cetacean Freedom Network in making the
capture of five orcas for exhibition briefly an
international cause celebre, but Hemmi’s
perspective is interestingly different. CFN
electronic bulletin board postings gave the
impression that the central protest event was
U.S. activist Ben White’s threat to stage a
hunger strike at Taiji. The hunger strike
never occurred, however, because the orcas
had already been dispersed to aquariums
before White got there. White then claimed
he had been sabotaged by the Sea Shepherds,
who had posted a reward of $20,000 for anyone
who could secure the orcas’ release.
Neither White nor the Sea
Shepherds rate even a word from Hemmi.
She documents instead much activity within
Japan by Japanese citizens, mostly never previously
mentioned, to our knowledge, by
anyone else writing or speaking in English.
Founded in 1976, and now among
the oldest animal protection organizations in
Japan, the Elsa Nature Conservancy “always
looks for the blind spots of the conservation
movement, things everyone has forgotten
about, and has campaigned for protection of
animals who are going extinct unnoticed,”
according to its mission statement.
Yet Hemmi herself seems blind to
proportion. Beside the scale of Japanese
whale-killing, the orca captures were trivia.
Moreover, the growth of the U.S. whale and
dolphin exhibition industry, from 1938 to
recent years, closely paralleled the growth of
anti-whaling activism. The public cared little
about whales and dolphins until live exhibition
permitted direct acquaintance. The same
phenomenon may be occuring in Japan; the
protests of October 1996 may paradoxically
have been produced at least as much by the
rise of a Japanese exhibition industry as by
the work of longtime committed activists.
ANIMAL PEOPLE suspects the
Japanese whaling industry knows that. ANIMAL
PEOPLE suspects––as outlined in
“Fixing for a battle of Leviathans,” page one,
September 1998––that at least one covert
operative for the whalers was instrumental in
forming the Cetacean Freedom Network,
back in 1995, and that the whaling industry
would like nothing better than for all activists
to focus on freeing Willy/Keiko et al w h i l e
the 1986 International Whaling Commission
covenant against high seas whaling is dismantled
The less the American, European,
and Japanese people have the opportunity to
look living whales in the eye, the less
whalers need fear the growth of empathy for
the animals they want to kill.