JAPAN: A Vote With a Porpoise

LEXIE TUCKER WRITES – Zoos and aquariums have seemingly always been under fire by animal rights activists and others who believe that putting animals on display is cruel.  To help ease tensions, the Japanese Association of Zoos and Aquariums (JAZA) voted to stay part of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) on May 20 and also promised to stop purchasing dolphins caught in the annual Taiji hunt.

According to The Japan Times, the media’s overall attitude towards the issue has been one of “grudging acceptance.” Ever since the release of Louie Psihoyos’ Academy Award-winning documentary “The Cove,” a movie that depicts the slaughter of nearly 2,000 dolphins and porpoises that occurs every year in Wakayama prefecture, some felt that they were being attacked unfairly for a local custom.

The Asahi Shimbun and Mainichi Shimbun ran opinion pieces regarding the recent vote, both stating that Japan needs to do more to convince the rest of the world that the dolphin hunts are not inhumane and that WAZA needs to be more considerate of the ‘tradition’ behind the practice.

JAZA’s decision to comply with WAZA’s wishes regarding the dolphins comes after they were suspended in April “for violating [WAZA’s] code of ethics on animal welfare.”  Japanese media reported that a large portion of the 89 zoos and 63 aquariums belonging to JAZA voted to stay a part of the global zoo organization.  If they had voted against, they would be expelled from the association and find it very difficult to obtain rare animal species from zoos and aquariums overseas through a global database.

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