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What If They Opened A Dolphin Theme Park, And Nobody Came?

Demonstrators at a rally in Tokyo on August 31 protest against the start of Japan's annual dolphin hunt in Taiji.
Demonstrators at a rally in Tokyo on August 31 protest against the start of Japan's annual dolphin hunt in Taiji.

Earlier this month, plans for a new marine theme park were announced for the town of Taiji, Japan. Sometime within the next five years, if the plans come to fruition, tourists will be able to observe and swim with dolphins and small whales. Then, while still in the park, they can eat dolphin and whale meat, all the time knowing that their park fees support the slaughter of dolphins.

You may recognize the name Taiji and know of its annual dolphin hunt from the 2009 movie The Cove. I've still not been able to bring myself to watch the film, but am grateful that it, and its Academy Award for Best Documentary, has brought a global eye to the cruel practices that terrify these animals before violently ending their lives.

When I write about animal welfare, I try to understand at least some points of view that diverge from mine. I won't ever hunt a deer for food, or ever again eat a chicken. I do understand there are reasons why other people, not only here in the United States but in other countries, may decide to do one or both of those things.

The proposed Taiji marine park, like the cove hunting itself, falls into a different category.

Can anyone effectively defend this park? Will Japanese people or foreign tourists really pay money to admire these amazing animals in the morning and consume them in the afternoon? Who among us would pay to underwrite what goes on at the killing cove?

There's a limit, isn't there, a point at which all of us, by collective will, insist that something morally indefensible just can't be allowed to happen? It would send a clear message to supporters of the slaughter if, should the Taiji plans go through, no one at all comes to the park.

Barbara's most recent book is How Animals Grieve. You can up with what she is thinking on Twitter: @bjkingape

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