When the Oscar-winning documentary The Cove was released in 2009, it was met with international outrage as people learned about the horrifying mass slaughter of dolphins in the small coastal town of Taiji, Japan.
While many had hoped the exposure would help end the brutal practice of rounding up and slaughtering these highly intelligent and social cetaceans, fishermen are still casting nets and killing dolphins and are believed to have rounded up the highest number of dolphins in years. Thanks to the tireless efforts of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s Cove Guardians, we could all watch this ongoing nightmare stream live.
The last roundup brought in more than 250 dolphins, including a rare albino calf and its mother, while fishermen and trainers worked together to tear families apart and decide who lives, who dies and who will be taken for captivity, all while the dolphins tried desperately to escape. The albino calf was reportedly the first to be snatched for captivity, and observers speculate that her grieving mother committed suicide after having her baby violently stolen from her.
In just the past few days of a drive that started in September, a total of 41 were killed and 52 were taken captive, who will be sold to aquariums and marine parks around the world. An estimated 135 were sent back to sea, but their advocates worry that many won’t survive with the stress of the ordeal, especially juveniles and calves who were sent back without their mothers.
As opposition continues to grow, this year some high profile figures have come out with statements condemning these brutal roundups. In a move that came as a surprise, Caroline Kennedy, U.S. Ambassador to Japan, took to Twitter to express her concern and state that the U.S. opposes dolphin drives.
Japanese artist and activist Yoko Ono also wrote an open letter to the fisherman of Taiji, posted on her website Imagine Peace, urging them to see the bigger picture and stop the hunt and actions that “will make the children of the world hate the Japanese” and “will be considered by the rest of the world as a sign of Japanese arrogance, ignorance, and love for an act of violence.”
Unfortunately, Japan continues to stand behind the drives. On Monday, officials responded to the criticism and hid behind the arguments that dolphin hunting is a tradition and conducted within the law. However, slaughter methods employed by fishermen – which involve shoving a metal spike into their blowhole to sever their spine – have been widely criticized for being grossly inhumane.
As it turns out, the hunts aren’t so much a tradition as not so much either. According to a press release from the Earth Island Institute, the claims being made by the Japanese government about the hunts being a cultural tradition have been proven to be untrue by the Taiji’s own written history.
“According to The History of Taiji, edited and published by Taiji town in 1979, the first recorded dolphin drive was in 1933, with subsequent hunts occurring in 1936 and 1944. It was not until 1969 that dolphin drives have been conducted on a large scale,” Sakae Hemmi of the Elsa Nature Conservancy in Japan wrote in an open letter to Dr. Gerald Dick, Executive Director of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA).
WAZA is being criticized for not taking action against the hunts and supporting the Japan Association of Zoos and Aquariums (JAZA), which brokers dolphins for captivity.
“WAZA and ALL its members should be condemning the dolphin hunts in no uncertain terms,” said Ric O’Barry, Director of Earth Island’s Dolphin Project. “If JAZA members continue to acquire dolphins from the drive hunts in Taiji, JAZA should be expelled from WAZA.”
Unfortunately, the demand for dolphins to be used in captivity in popular tourist destinations in Japan, the Middle East and the Caribbean, among other places, appears to be rising, which highlights the importance of avoiding facilities that keep dolphins and whales in captivity – it’s an industry that helps fuel this barbaric slaughter every year. Some believe that if it weren’t for the profits brought in from selling live dolphins, the hunts would have already ended.
Please sign and share the petition urging WAZA to enforce its Code of Ethics and expel JAZA, along with other organizations that source dolphins from drive hunts.
For more information on how to help stop the brutal slaughter of dolphins in Japan, visit the Cove Guardians and the Dolphin Project and read 5 Ways You Can Help Stop Slaughter of Dolphins in Taiji, Japan.
Photo credit: Thinkstock