Flipper is tasty

Looks like I might have something new to order on the next trip to Tsukiji:

Occurring annually from September to April, the dolphin hunts are regulated by the Japanese government and conducted by groups of fishermen who herd hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dolphins and small cetaceans into shallow bays by banging on partially submerged rods that create a sonic barrier. The dolphins are then corralled into nets and dispatched in a brutal manner: speared, hooked, hoisted into the air by their tails, and finally eviscerated alive. The methods, say researchers, result in a long and painful death for these intelligent marine mammals.

The Japanese government has made the unsupported claim that the animals compete with local fishermen for limited supplies of fish and that the drives are in fact a means of pest control. Also, the “Act for Dolphins” consortium maintains that, in spite of the fact that the hunting of dolphins and use of their meat has waned in popularity, the government is actually encouraging the public to consume more dolphin meat; in addition to human consumption, dolphin meat is also used as pet food and fertilizer.

I know I’m supposed to be outraged, because dolphins are “intelligent” (read: cute), but that doesn’t stop me from wanting to take a nice bite out of some iruka sashimi.

12 thoughts on “Flipper is tasty”

  1. I just noticed a whale restaurant in Kyoto relatively near my apartment for the first time last night. I may have to try it some time. I fully expect it to be as unappetizing as most people say, but can I really afford not to try it once?

  2. MF: the whale in most restaurants sucks salty chocolate balls because it’s been on ice for weeks. Next time you’re in Tokyo, we’ll do Shibuya’s “Kujiraya” for the real deal.

    The above article has made the unsupported claim that dolphins are intelligent marine mammals. Why we give a shit about a few fucking porpoises when no one blinks about the hundreds of millions of chickens, pigs, cows, lamb, and for those of you who care, even horses… oh yeah, that’s right, they’re cute. Somehow when it’s a dolphin everyone shits a brick. Fuckers.

    Yeah, dolphine as Tsukiji is sounding really tasty right now.

  3. I think the ‘intelligent’ nature of whales etc. goes a little deeper than ‘they’re cute’. (In any case, some whales a ugly as fuck).

    The reason that environmentalists in the west care so much about this issue is the fact that the IWC whaling moratorium was their first, and still only, comprehensive ban on the exploitation of a hitherto valuable resource. Of course, it didn’t matter to them that governments in the west had long weened themselves off whale oil by the 1960s and found support for the moratorium politically expedient – they could claim to be green by essentially doing nothing but adding rhetorical support to the environmentalists on whaling. And it was easier to make such an issue broadly popular by inventing the notion whales were intelligent or cuter than other creatures – i.e by choosing a vague property that is hard to prove (or is simply a value judgment) and attributing it to whales.

    In other words whale ‘intelligence’ is not scientific fact and whale ‘cuteness’ was never a traditional western value judgment (and in any case when has that stopped us – lambs are cute). Both are politically manufactured aspects of western environmental identity.

    Some articles to read from the Japan side are Catilinac and Chan, (2005) Japan the West and the Whaling Issue, Japan Forum, 17(1), and Hirata, (2005). Why Japan Supports Whaling. Journal of International Wildlife Law & Policy, vol. 8

  4. Bryce, good points but noone has accused whales of being cute-that reference was to dolphins. I think it is pretty much indisputable that a: dolphins are on the whole way cuter than whales and b: dolphins are way more intelligent than cows, sheep, chickens, horses, pigs, yes even dogs. Years of study have shown that they have at least a rudimentary capability to understand language that is rare if not unique (ata least on this planet) outside of primates.

    The dolphin’s reputation is also helped by the fact that their size and disposition allows them to actually socialize with humans, and let’s not forget about the (document, not just apocryphal) cases of dolphins saving drowning humans. Basically, we like them for the same reasons we like dogs, and they are also more intelligent.

  5. I gotta agree about the freshness thing. That said, even the frozen meat tastes decent if prepared as a nice nikomi – it’s just a bit gamier/fishier than other dark meat in my opinion.

    Also, you might try kujira bacon if only for the experience. I had it in an omelette with avocado, onions, and tomatoes a couple years back and it was delish.

  6. MF, I have heard arguments that whales should not be culled because they are ‘cute’ nevertheless…

    “I think it is pretty much indisputable that a: dolphins are on the whole way cuter than whales”

    Aesthetic judgments are always disputable.

    “b: dolphins are way more intelligent than cows, sheep, chickens, horses, pigs, yes even dogs.”

    If you have some I’d like to see it. What I have read about dolphin intelligence is that their problem-solving ability is pretty poor. Sure, they hang around in packs and squeak at each other, but social behaviour is attributable to other animals that we eat.

    In any case, who cares? If we do define what we eat by its level of intelligence (and I’m not suggesting that we do – for me, food morality is generally all about aesthetics and is therefore culturally relative as long as there are no environmental sustainability issues involved) then we have to take into account that no animal comes close to our level of intelligence and its all pretty much fair game.

    I’ll be happy to discuss this further over some kujira bacon. I’ll be in Kyoto in Novemeber.

  7. Bryce: Maybe “intelligence” is too general, but dolphins certainly have an atypically high language ability, as least as far as we can comprehend. I’m not saying that we should or shouldn’t eat whatever- just listing things that might factor into the argument.

    I understand that congress wants to ban horsemeat now. I find that pretty ridiculous, personally. There isn’t anything about horses that you could use to justify a ban. On the other hand, I’ve had horse meat several times in two different countries, and while more than edible is not actually good enough to fight for.

    “Aesthetic judgments are always disputable.”
    True, to a point-but I think that something the size of a building simply cannot fit any possible definition of cute.

    Drop me an email about your visit to Kyoto plans.

  8. “I happened upon this fairly old but interesting article the other day:”

    Hmm. So dolphins can think of ways to get food, solve simple problems (usually related to getting their fins on food) and play games with their ‘owners’.

    When they figure out how to bake a souffle, master advanced calculus (or even long division) and understand the rules of rugby, I will be convinced of their intelligence.

Comments are closed.