For hundreds of years people in my country took part in a barbaric tradition known as fox-hunting. It was not a sport practised by the majority, nor the elitist few but by groups of people – including the royal family – who saw no wrong in what they were doing. They regarded it as vermin control.
To the outsider, the mechanics of fox-hunting seem to have changed very little over the centuries. The hunters ride horses and the hounds run in a pack to hunt down their quarry. Hunt followers travel on foot or by a wheeled conveyance, depending on the century. Those are the bare bones of a fox hunt.
The equipment (for want of a better word) barely altered. Horses are horses, you can breed them to be a bit faster, or more skilled at jumping hedges or have greater endurance, but you can not breed in an engine or some other method of propulsion. 1 horse power is all you are ever going to get. The same applies to the fox hounds. Specifically bred to hunt and kill foxes they are a refined breed, in exactly the same way as a border collie or a labrador. You can breed in certain traits positive to the job you want it to do, but that is where it ends.
Whilst I have never agreed with fox-hunting, I respect the fact that the struggle of man and dogs vs. fox, whilst unequal, was consistently unequal. The hunters kept to the tradition of using horse and hound. No new-fangled equipment and no pollution to the environment.
For me, tradition is about adhering to the “old ways”, respecting the past and giving it a place in the present.
Which is why I find the drive hunts so deeply disturbing. This is not respecting the past and it is not how I see tradition. If you must herd a defenseless pod of pilot whales into a shallow cove then use the equipment that your ancestors used. Drive hunting began centuries ago. They didn’t have engines then. It was muscle-power. Whole pods would not be decimated with alarming regularity if the 12 banger boats of Taiji were propelled by oars. Engines have no place in this “tradition” any more than riding a motorbike to the hounds. Taiji ancestors would not have been able to drive their prey into the killing cove using the motorised propellers on their boats to harass and injure the already terrified dolphins, they had none.
Tradition should be iron-clad. The goal-posts virtually immoveable. The only reasons I can see for traditions to change is if it incurs unnecessary suffering, as agreed upon by the majority of the populace. You cannot suddenly add in a whole new aspect of it. Drive hunting cetaceans and then selecting some for a lifetime of captivity is NOT a tradition. It is greed. Pure and simple.