Written by Laura Bridgeman, a blogger for the Earth Island Journal
As our bus pulled into the parking lot across from “The Cove”, which many of you have seen in the in the Oscar-winning documentary bearing that name, we immediately knew that our efforts had been a success. The normally sleepy Japanese town of Taiji had been transformed into a media circus – which is precisely what we, at Ric O’Barry’s Save Japan Dolphins, had hoped for.
Cheers erupted from our bus, filled with volunteers from around the world, as the police escorted us one by one into their bus to fill out paperwork and to examine our passports. The media, kept at bay by yet more policemen, vied anxiously for a shot of Ric and a glimpse of controversy.
September 1 was Japan Dolphins Day – an international day of remembrance for dolphins that have been, and will be, violently killed in the town of Taiji. The day was being observed by people all across the world. Here in Taji, about two dozen of us from nine countries had gathered to pray for the souls of the dolphins that were to die this year and for the people of Japan who had lost their lives in the tragedies of the March earthquake and tsunami,
This is what needs to happen, I thought as our group made our way from the parking lot to the beach in the rain, PEACE signs in tow and giving interviews along the way. The only way to halt these hunts once and for all is by raising awareness within Japan. Indeed, when Japanese people discover the atrocities that go on in Taiji, they are nearly always shocked and appalled.
Save Japan Dolphins Project works to end dolphin slaughter and exploitation in many ways. We put pressure on United States-based companies as well as those around the world that support or engage in dolphin captivity, as these are the companies that ultimately fund the drive hunts like those in Taiji. We raise awareness among consumers the world over to reduce demand for captive dolphins. We shed light on the dangers of consuming mercury-contaminated dolphin flesh – a fact that dolphin hunters, together with the Japanese government, conceal from their unsuspecting public. We rehabilitate and release captive individuals, giving them a second lease on life. These are all extremely worthwhile pursuits – ones in which we have enjoyed many degrees of success.
The peaceful event in Taiji was yet another facet of our overall campaign.
When we reached the pebbled shore of the cove, I let the waves wash over my feet for a moment. I shuddered to think of the blood spilled here each year and that the waters would turn red again shortly. We gathered into a circle, held hands, and observed a moment of silence in remembrance for the Japanese people and the dolphins. The waves and with the click and flash of the media’s cameras, were the only sounds to be heard.
Later that evening, our volunteers headed back to Osaka and went downtown for dinner. As we were leaving the restaurant after a delicious Japanese meal, we were approached by two locals who recognized us from the evening news (as truly dedicated volunteers, we were still wearing our matching dolphin project t-shirts!). The two, a mother and a daughter, told us that they had been unaware of the dolphin killing in Taiji, and that they were happy we were there. The daughter loved dolphins and she did not want to see them hurt.
It is times like this when I feel that, together, we can truly make a difference. It’s high time that we human beings begin to treat our fellow earthlings with more respect – this extends past dolphins and applies to all forms of life. The US has a long way to go, just like Japan does. But if we work together, we can effect change.
Let us begin by freeing the dolphins.
This post was reprinted from the Earth Island Journal, with permission.
Photo from lowjumpingfrog via flickr creative commons