Dolphin Meat for Lunch? by Pearl Punperk

Taiji is a city of Japan that is infamous for the biggest supply of dolphins. It is just a small town of an estimated population of 3,225. The important sources of income of the people of Taiji come from dolphin hunting, a dolphin museum, an aquarium, and any other field relating to dolphin hunting. According to Wikipedia, There are only one elementary school and one junior high school in this town. How would schools relate to dolphin hunting? The answer lies here in Taiji.

Every year in September, the fishermen of Taiji gather to do dolphin hunting. As many as 23,000 dolphins have been slaughtered every year. Many of them are captured and deported to marine parks around the globe to be trained for live shows. Those that were killed will be cut in pieces and ended up in supermarkets and aquariums for sale. The aquarium visitors can literally taste dolphin meat while watching live show. But the consumers of the high-priced meat might not know that the meat actually contains a toxic chemical that would destroy their health gradually. Japanese government and the fishery agency are fighting all their might to keep the ritual going in opposed to animal rights  organizations and many countries’ opinion. In the documentary The Cove, many activists gathered to produce the film that shows the issue of dolphin hunting in Japan.

Japan government has been subsidizing the fishermen to keep the hunting going on. The mayor of Taiji even went further trying to establish whales and dolphin meat in school lunch all over the country. If the mayor succeeds, we might see an epidemic like Minamata disease happens again. The mercury poisoning once were an epidemic in Japan’s history. It was called Minamata disease which happened in Minamata, the city that housed a small fishing industry and a big company named Chisso that dumped the chemical in the sea. The disease tormented thousands of people of Minamata and the surrounded cities. The government has known the effects of mercury poisoning from the history, but they do not try to fix the problem. Moreover, it tries to destroy its younger generation by introducing dolphin meat to school lunch. Even I cannot imagine myself eating dolphin meat at lunch, what can those grade school students, who had no choice, do?

According to Professor Tetsuya Endo of University of Hokkaido, the recommend total level of mercury in seafood in Japan is 0.4 parts per million. But dolphin meat that was purchased from Taiji contains 2000 ppm of mercury. Minamata disease could happen again if schools all over Japan include the dolphin meat in school lunch.

Thankfully, two Taiji council members decided to take an action against the mayor’s will. As town council members and also parents, Hisato Ryono and Junichiro Yamashita could not bear to see the terrible results that the mayor’s proposal had foreshadowed. They risked their career for the action. Eventually, dolphin meat has been removed from the school lunch program in Taiji by the district action of these council members.

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