Friday, October 8, 2010
Breakthrough interview with Mr. Sugimori, the head of the Taiji Hunters Union
I do hope you all read Elora's blog today and everyday.
Interviewing Mr. Sugimori never goes as planned. Today was the third time in a year. He knows me...perhaps I am the only western dolphin activist to ever engage him in conversation.
The plan was for Elora to interview Sugimori and for Yoshiko and I to help translate.
Sugimori seemed stressed. He has developed an eye tick since we last spoke. He has lost his caution too. He had never before let himself or his comments be filmed. This time he jogged out of the Hunters Union yelling to get out of his parking lot. The man called “Private Space” joined him.
I thought at the time he was yelling at me, but as soon as Elora left, his tone changed. Elora's blogs are making the rounds of Japanese media…I think Sugimori is afraid of the charming blonde haired eloquent 16 year-old high school student, Elora West.
I think he has reason to be afraid. Elora's writing and photos bring a powerful message to people all over the world. There has never been anything like it with the Taiji dolphin issues. She is the Joan of Arc for the Dolphin Movement. Follow her--Save the Dolphins!
After Elora got great video shots of the normally cautious Sugimori sputtering guttural frustration, she left to stand vigil with Scott, Jackie, John and Patricia.
I thought Sugimori was open to discussion. He definitely didn't want to let me or Yoshiko leave. He kept asking questions to engage us in conversation.
1. Don't you know that hunting dolphins is guaranteed by the national Japanese government? Don’t you know we have a right to do our jobs?
2. Why did you come here with that terrible Sea Shepherd group?
3. Can't you be independent from Sea Shepherd? We would take you seriously if…
4. Why do you talk about dolphins and not chickens? And what about kangaroos?
I tried to answer his questions but he didn’t seem to be listening. He just kept asking questions, the same questions. He was not yelling but he wasn’t really trying to discuss.
Then an actual threat to my livelihood: If you continue to fight against us, I will call your school principal, Steven, I know you teach in an Osaka high school. He wasn’t smiling when he said this. When I heard him, I wasn’t smiling either.
In retrospect, I realize that Sugimori was just trying, consciously or unconsciously, to dominate the conversation, bait me, and intimidate me.
It wasn't until I started asking compromise-based questions that his tone changed. We had a breakthrough.
Much debate has gone on behind the scenes. Basically, if we can get some form of agreement with the union, some lessening of the horror, we can start to unravel the mess that is the dolphin hunt and capture.
I asked Sugimori three lines of questions: mercury, baby dolphins, and money.
1. Can't we at least label the meat for mercury?
His demeanor changed. He actually answered the question: “if there were a mercury threat, the government would not let us sell the meat.” Wow. They don’t acknowledge the toxicity.
Would you like pregnant woman to eat the meat?
He sidestepped the question: the meat isn’t eaten very often.
So there is mercury in the meat?
If there is, it isn’t significant. The official tests showed low risk in Taiji.
This line of questioning…the mercury issue…started to come into clarity. This in itself is a breakthrough. With clarity we can more easily discuss the issue with solid scientific data.
--I believe, based on the research that I have read, that dolphin meat has mercury and other contaminates and that these chemicals are harmful to humans.
--The Dolphin Hunters believe that the meat is safe to eat.
2. Can’t we at least save the baby dolphins and the pregnant females?
This question seemed to take Sugimori off guard.
He stuttered…mmm…don’t you eat baby cows (veal).
I answered. It’s wrong to eat baby animals that have had no chance to live and it is inhumane to kill pregnant animals. No modern society kills females while pregnant. It would be an extermination policy.
Sugimori looked over at Private Space and asked: The babies are saved, right? …not killed… Private Space shrugged.
I continued: when the dolphins are run in from the open sea, don’t some babies get lost or run over with the boats? Don’t some pregnant females abort out of fear?
Sugimori and Private Space had no reply.
I started with the next line of questions realizing that BABY DOLPHINS is point to start a fresh dialog for compromise. With focused vision, I believe we can get the union to discuss ways that babies might be saved.
3. Finally: Money
If the union continued to corral dolphins for the aquarium trade but stop the hunt, how much money would they need to make up?
Sugimori hesitated seriously. I think he did not want me to discuss this answer.
I told him the answer: calculating approximately 2000 dolphins,: the Taiji annual kill limit, times approximately 300 US dollars per dead dolphin, the government supported price, equals 600,000 USD. There must be a way to make up this amount in an alternative way like dolphin watching tours. Let’s try a sample month with an organized watching tour and a real no kill policy. If in one month, you can get 1000 people at 100USD per person, we would match the current income.
Isn’t it worth a try? Let’s use this opportunity to discuss our views and to find solutions.
TDAG is committed to finding solutions to end the hunt. Thank you for joining. Thank you for sharing:-)